Incident Details

This page has details of the climb Nick and Tim did, as well as the Search and Rescue information.  Most of this came of the web page, which is the Arthurs Pass Mountaineering web page.

I have actually captured the information locally, as I cannot control the content of the other page.

Nick and Tim climbed the High Peak of Mt Rolleston in Arthurs pass via the Central Direct route.  Conditions were described as perfect.  They were climbing down, and came to a section which they were looking for a safe way around when the rock under Nick collapsed, and he fell.  The following section describes the Mountain and the climbs :

6.4 MT ROLLESTON (2275m)  approaches from the head of the Bealey River are reached by climbing the slope on the true left of the Bealey River adjacent the start of the "black" ravine (follow a creek initially).  Climb towards, and traverse the fault scarp that sidles west under the Goldney Ridge buttress to meet the huge scree / snow slope. Ascend the couloir that joins the Goldney Ridge between Low Peak and the first ridge buttress (prominent low point).

The climb to Low Peak (2212m) is relatively easy going on rock or snow from the ridge.

6.5 The High Peak (2275m)  can also be climbed by traversing the ridge from MT PHILISTINE (1967m), a very long climb generally on loose rock, with many obstacles. Most gendarmes can be turned on narrow ledges (catwalks).  Beware of cornices in winter to late spring.   Be prepared for a forced bivy should your start route to either summit be a "face" climb. Some ropework may be required. (Grade. 2)

6.6 OTIRA FACE  - For experienced parties, a diversity of routes may be taken up the 900m Otira Face to the Middle and High Peaks of MT ROLLESTON (2275m).  Some of the routes are very difficult, and more often than not, the rock can be quite rotten in zones as determined by the obvious synclined strata.

a) CENTRAL DIRECT  -  This route, on the right-hand side of the central gut is by far the most popular (not only because it tops out on High Peak).  Most of the climb takes place on the prominent buttress that appears to lead directly to High Peak.   The buttress is reached by climbing from the Otira Valley onto the permanent snow-field at its base, via either the loose "green" bluffs and ramps (adjacent the central gully), or better still the narrow couloir that joins the Philistine - Rolleston Ridge (a route in its own right).  Routes on the buttress are many and varied.  The rock is surprisingly solid, and the ensuing 500 metres is a climb to be relished. In contrast the next 200 metres is upon the stacked blocks and broken buttresses of the Philistine - Rolleston Ridge.  The final 50 metres is good solid rock and is easily climbed to High Peak. (Grade. 2+).

Image of the Mt Rolleston Climbing paths
The climb Nick and Tim did is shown as 6.6a.

This is the section of the Search and Rescue report documenting Nicks fall, and that of another climber 4 days before hand on the same face :

Mt Rolleston 11-04-01

A party of 2 climbers had successfully completed the Otira Face route (High Peak Direct), one climber fell whilst free-climbing towards an abseil sling (this sling was probably placed in icier conditions) situated on a ledge at the base of a rotten narrow couloir above the Crow Glacier (slightly to the west of High Peak). The climber fell some distance down the face and into a bergschrund at the base, he has died as a result of this fall. His partner spent Wednesday night on High Peak in deteriorating weather, before moving to Low Peak during Thursday in poor visibility. A ground search of the upper Otira Valley icefields took place on Thursday in very poor weather conditions (heavy rain, strong wind, fog). A helicopter search on Friday morning found the 2nd climber just below Low Peak on the upper Rome Ridge, a ground party located the climber in the bergschrund. Search and recovery by Christchurch Face Rescue Team, APRES, Mt Hutt Helicopters & NZ Police.

Mt Rolleston (Otira Face) 08-04-01

Mountaineer climbing solo on the Otira Face "Direct" route (ie. almost directly adjacent the central gully - right side) has fallen whilst ascending a particularly steep & slabby area of rock. The severity of the fall has taken him down the bluffs (undetermined distance), over an open bergschrund, and 50-60m further down a snowslope. The climber died as a result of severe head injuries sustained in the fall (he was wearing a helmet). Search and recovery by Christchurch Face Rescue Team, Airforce Iriquois Helicopter & NZ Police.

The following was added to the front  page of the Softrock page shortly after the Nicks fall. This will hopefully prevent anyone else losing their lives in similar circumstances.

  • Very sadly there have been 2 fatalities on Mt Rolleston this last week, in 2 separate accidents. The later was probably caused by unfamiliarity with the mountain and the consequent "attraction" of an abseil sling at the base of a rotten couloir off High Peak (Crow Gl. side). Strongly suggest all and sundry ignore this sling and its associated descent route (the sling was probably placed when the couloir contained ice).

And the following note in the High Peak access section :
Crow glacier and neve is in good condition, however bergschrund under Middle/High Peak Col is still opening slowly. Currently still crossable with absolute care and possibly a rope. DO NOT CONSIDER using the abseil sling west of High Peak, approach to it is absolutely dangerous.

This is a picture of climbers crossing a bergschrund under the High / Middle Peak, possibly the one Nick fell to :

A Bergschrund