Press Release – NZ Alpine Team
Over the past two weeks, Kiwi teams climbed four new routes on Taulliraju (5830m), one of the hardest mountains in the Andes.
Taulliraju’s South Face towers imposingly over the Santa Cruz Valley in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru, with all previous ascents notorious for their difficulty and levels of commitment. New Zealand’s involvement with Taulliraju began in 1989 when Lionel Clay & Pete Sykes climbed a ‘cunning variation’ on the South Face, coming within shouting distance of the summit.
On the 27th May, 12 Kiwi and Australian climbers set off to Peru on the biggest climbing expedition to leave New Zealand in over 40 years. After a couple of weeks acclimatising on 5000-6000m mountains in the Paron Valley, the team went into the Santa Cruz Valley to attempt a number of unclimbed routes.
Rose Pearson (26) and Alastair McDowell (24), followed a day behind by a couple of their climbing mentors, Reg Measures and Steve Fortune, made the historic first ascent of the West Ridge of Taulliraju. Early New Zealand climber of Taulliraju, Lionel Clay noted: “a lot a really good climbers have looked at [the West Ridge] … over the years”, but despite multiple attempts by international parties, none had succeeded in climbing the challenging route.
Of the team’s success on the route, New Zealand Alpine Team Captain, Steve Fortune acknowledged the young pair’s pioneering efforts: “Rose and Alastair embraced the suffering and extreme perseverance required to spend 5 days climbing a new route with only 3 nights food. By plumbing the depths of their skills and mountain abilities, they’ve climbed a proud line which has stymied many strong, older parties.”
In addition to the first ascent of the West Ridge of Taulliraju, Queenstown climbers Ben Dare and Steve Skelton made the first ascent of East Rib on Taulliraju, a technical ice and rock climb. At the beginning of the trip, Kiwis Daniel Joll and Steve Fortune, along with Australian Matthew Scholes also climbed a new line on the South Face of Taulliraju, becoming the first New Zealanders and Australians to reach the summit of Taulliraju. In addition, as a warm up for their ascent of the West Ridge, Fortune, McDowell and Pearson also made a first ascent of the sub-peak, Taulliraju South.
This expedition of the New Zealand Alpine Team will be remembered for the superb mountaineering achievements on an international scale. Not only were four new routes climbed on Taulliraju, but three of these resulted in summits of the elusive peak, two of these were by entirely new routes, three new routes were climbed by Steve Fortune with a plethora of partners, and all of the aforementioned climbing was carried out in less than two weeks in pure alpine style.
With generous support from SportNZ’s Hillary Expedition Grant, the New Zealand Alpine Club, the Expedition Climber’s Club and Macpac, the New Zealand Alpine Team Expedition has seen potentially the youngest team to ever summit a new route on Taulliraju, the first female ascent of Taulliraju, and the first full traverse of Taulliraju, making this one of the most successful New Zealand mountaineering expeditions in recent history.