Taking climbers outside the comfort zone


Mountaineers contesting spots with the New Zealand Alpine Team were put through their paces in Queenstown last weekend.

The eight climbers endured some horrendous weather as they completed climbing challenges, mental assessments and cardio work.

All in their early 20s, they came from across NZ to compete for the team’s second intake of the three-year positions.

Mentor Steven Fortune says: “The idea was to put people outside their comfort zone and see how they reacted.

“We couldn’t go alpine climbing in a trial situation so it was about simulating those accumulated physical and mental stresses.

“Between four and six will be chosen. The idea is to pass knowledge on to the next generation.”

The applicants met for a debrief at Expedition Climbers Club president Ben Dare’s place in Frankton on Friday, packing for a weekend of mountaineering, including boots, rock gear, ice tools and rope, plus all their food.

They were then dropped in the wilderness near Queenstown to endure a wet night camping.

At 7am the next morning, they slogged up 500 vertical metres in the rain to Skyline, before being told to dump their packs, walk back down and then run up on the clock.

They then walked up another 500m to Ben Lomond saddle. The afternoon was spent ‘dry-tooling’ at the Den of Iniquity crag near Kelvin Heights.

They attempted M6s and an M8 climb with ice tools on rock and overhangs.

A walk to Jack’s Point followed for ropework challenges at another crag, including ‘prussiking’ and trad-anchor set-ups.

Then, at 10pm, they were dropped off for another night’s camping.

The next morning they walked up to the Main Wall at Wye Creek to spend the day climbing grade 16 to 20 climbs in intermittent heavy rain, hail and freezing wind.

Fortune says 15 applicants were shortlisted to nine, with one being tested in Australia next week.

“We learned with our peers rather than from the previous generation, so had to re-learn skills.

“Hopefully it’ll mean they can be better than us.”