By Graham Zimmerman This last March Forest Woodward and I headed on assignment to the Southern Alps of New Zealand. We were there with our dear pals Kyle Dempster and Jewell Lund to take photos and shoot a film about how they manage to engage in the art of big mountain alpinism while maintaining a solid romantic relationship The trip started with walking through rainstorms to reach Mt Aspiring. Kyle and Jewell had been away from each other for a number of months while Kyle had been on an expedition to China. These two we’re clearly happy to be back in each others company as Forest and I ran around them taking photos and enjoying the stunning waterfalls surrounding us.
On a stormy late summer day we climbed the northwest ridge of Mt Aspiring, moving up and down the classic alpine terrain as the cloud swirled over the ridge line. To the North and South we could see mountains but looking to the West we knew that the land slipped down into the cloud covered Tasman Sea.
Next we traveled to the Darrens Mountains. Sitting on the Southwest corner of the South Island this range of granite peaks has nothing between it and the fury of the deep low pressure systems of the Southern Ocean. On a day that called for descent weather we went to climb a classic route named Labyrinth on the North Face of Barrier Knob.
The route started with fantastic face and crack climbing under cloudy skies. Here Kyle Dempster climbs through the first pitch.
As we climbed the route the clouds which earlier had been in the distance steadily grew closer until they were all around us. Here Jewell climbs through the clouds nearing the summit of Barrier Knob. By the time we reached the summit ridge of Barrier Knob after climbing it’s North Face it was getting dark as the fog continued to thicken. The descent which had been obvious in the morning was now a confusing jumble of steep slabs and precipitous cliffs.
We spent hours walking in circles trying to find the way off of the mountain but in the end had to crawl into a cave and spend the night out waiting for the sun to show us the way back to the valley below. After a pretty miserable night the sun finally did rise and we were able to make our way back down to safety.
After our time climbing the Darrens it was time to warm up. Forest and I traveled to the remote Copeland hot pools on the west coast of the South Island. With our work finished we took two days to wallow in the warm water surrounded by wild jungle. Our GZ Rock Out Speakers provided a perfect compliment while floating on a sleeping pad. Huge thanks to Goal Zero for supporting the film and making such fantastic equipment.