New Zealand's Hardest: Weather Spell, First Ascent, 8a+

‘Get up in the morning, get psyched, go to the rock and ‘be RAD’. That is all you need to climb in the Darran Mountains’ Derek said to us exultantly when we were about to drive down south. The next well indented advice came from JC: ‘Always choose the RADest option!’ when we met him at Homer hut in the ‘Darrans’. Kiwi’s are either barking mad or just very motivated, we guessed.

[rad {adj} ugs. für krass, bombig, irre] copy that!


We came to New Zealand to do something new for us­: a first ascent. Even better: a mulitpitch first ascent. So how about a trad multipitch first ascent in the Darrans: one of the wildest places in the southern hemisphere. No tracks, no good weather, no cell phone but heaps of potential for new routes on stunning rock. Middle Earth! RAD.

We picked a wall at the end of a valley called SINBAD WALL. Chris and I started hiking in from Milford Sound (sea level) up to 1100 meter (base of the cliff). We encountered proper bush-bashing, overhanging tussock grass walls in a beautiful rainforest. 10 hours later we met our friends Claudia from Canada and Karl “Merry” from New Zealand on our bivvy rock which would shelter us for the next 14 days. While we sweated, they flew in with our food and gear in a helicopter, 5 minutes of fun. Sweet as!


We arranged our 2-bedroom flat (open kitchen concept, bathroom with view), had a rainy day and started to scope the wall for a new line. We picked a line to the left of the only existing route there called ‘Shadowland’ (27/7c), which would potentially lead us through the proudest and most intimidating part of the wall.



The following day we climbed the first five pitches of the ‘Shadowland’ in order to traverse over, abseil down our new route and clean the first five pitches.... They are: P1: 21 (6b+), P2: “the Quarry Pitch” 25 (7a+): overhanging cracks, yeah! Chris spent a full day cleaning the loose blocks out of it with a crowbar.  AFTER I had lead that pitch (and filled my pants) we agreed on having one bolt at the (unprotectable) crux.  

P3 is the “the traversing pitch” 22 (6c) (4 Bolts), P4 “the corner pitch” 21 (6b+) (3 Bolts) and P5: “the lightning bolt variation” 23/25(2 Bolts). The difficulty is 25 (7a+) if you have my reach, 23 (6c+) with Chrissi’s reach :)


‘Hey, first ascents are easy and fun’ we thought, it was sunny; we had ropes from above…well things changed after that. We started off a sloping ledge to climb the second half of the route on lead. Just the next pitch took us two proper days to climb and bolt it: we hung of shit gear, skyhooks, nutkeys and attached ourselves with our teeth to the rock while we put an inevitable bolt in. When it was my turn to lead I felt sick with anxiety. We all moved bloody slow, fell, zipped out gear, pulled off holds but finally Merry ran it out to the next roof with good gear! This pitch is a stunning 27 (7c, 35m, 6 bolts); the so-called white-spot pitch as it has a massive white quartz feature at the end: 3 meter in diameter! As pumpy as good! 


Next pitch is pure trad: a tricky corner followed by a massive undercling traverse (15m, 24/7a) to a hanging belay 200 meter above the ground.

So far, so good. After that the rock turned out to be annoyingly compact (however it appeared featured from below…) The climbing is incredibly steep, a right tending arête: THE PROW (pitch 8, 200 meter above the ground). Merry bolted most of the pitch on hooks, tiny nuts and knifeblade pitons. He took good wipers, shaking hands with Chrissi at the belay! The holds are so small, sparse and far apart that we doubted it would be free climbable. This pitch became our mighty project that kept us in suspense for the rest of our mission! 


The last pitch (pitch 9) is amazing: 25 (7a+) on good gear, still steep, tricky and pumpy to the top of the route. Chris got so psyched on topping out that day that he climbed/aided the entire pitch in the dark to bolt the top anchors close after midnight! Imagine the delight in his eyes after coming down to my belay! Wild!

All in all it took us 12 days (9 days on the wall) to complete the route. We brought food for 10 days so as we tried to climb the route ground up on day 13 we were running on ridiculously low food…we climbed all the pitches but got shot down on the project. Bugger! And we HAD to hike out because we had just  200 gram of peanuts and 11 Gingernut Cookies left. The hike/abseil out via the canyon took us 14 hours: a torture! Back at the car we grabbed what we could find, you wouldn’t believe how good a few crackers and a Mars bar can feel!!! 


After a week of recovery, food and more food we came back. We had a mission! Same game, different day: Alex and Chris hiking, Claudi and Merry flying. Well… one thing was different: the helicopter team brought shit loads of food including popcorn, chips and chocolate! We had left the static lines fixed up to the project ‘prow’ so we jumared up to work it. 


First day first shot, Merry unplugged a crucial hold. O-ha. So we had to think about a variation which Chris spotted right around the project; traversing out after the 3rd bolt just before the start of the proper crux. He bolted and worked it while Merry and I kept working the project. Countless wipers later I found a totally RAD solution with a heelhook, sophisticated self-folding and leg flagging. Eventually we had the route ready to send, kick-ass!!!


As we stumbled out the bivvy the next morning we wouldn’t believe our eyes: SNOW! A few centimeters of white surprise all over; accompanied by chilly temperatures. Different conditions: different solutions! We brought a sleeping bag for the belayer to warm up after climbing! We felt like proper bigwallers!

 On the 4th of April finally I climbed the crux, 35 meter long, grade 30 (8a+), 7 bolts, some gear. It snowed, my fingers were nom after 30 seconds of climbing but I held it together, crimped as hard as I could and clipped the chains. SEND!!! The crux is incredibly steep and bouldery, dynamic moves followed by heel-and toehooking, sharp crimps, pinches and a skin-eating sidepull. Right up my style ;)! Chrissi climbed the right variation the same day, 26 (7b+), 6 bolts. To keep it interesting, he pulled off a crucial hold first, swore, found another solution and squeezed the shit out of the sidepulls at the crux. Couple-SEND while it silently snowed! RADest!


I forgot to tell that by that time Merry and Claudi had been already picked up by the helicopter and flown back to comfyness and warmth. Fair enough! So it was our pleasure to finish the mission!

There were some things left to do. Name the route; bring down 200 meters of static rope. And finally (and maybe important): CLIMB ALL PITCHES IN ONE DAY.

On the 6th of April we got up early, got psyched and were RAD! It was freezing cold so we brought the sleeping bag,  started on pitch 5 as the upper part of the wall gets the sun first and free climbed every pitch!!!  I sent the crux-pitch 2nd try, so did Chris with his variation. we detached the static lines and abseiled down where we got our climbing ropes stuck fuxxing three times and touched the ground again at 3 in the morning. Epic day out!

The rest of the story is short: 600 meter of rope, static line and taglines untangled, bivvy cleaned, 3 hours of sleep and 11 hours of hiking to the Milford Sound fjord! Ben (the boat driver) from the local Kayak company called ‘Rosco’s’ picked us up just before the horrible Sandflies had eaten our tired bodies…

We spent 23 days (and 4 days of hiking in and out) in total in the Sinbad valley, jumared almost twice El Capitan (approximately 1,5 km), lost 20 kg of team-bodyweight, placed 28 bolts and 7 belays, called any annoying or cheering up Kea ‘Alfred’, ate 182 g of dirt, played 123 rounds of ‘500’ and broke the current German record of the Gingernut Game (14 pieces by Chris). To understand anything of that you have to watch our movie-clip. Coming soon!


Ahhh route name: We call it ‘Weather Spell’ and it is probably the steepest and hardest multipitch route in New Zealand up to date. Weather Spell because of the incredible summer we were allowed to spend here in New Zealand (it was actually the driest summer since the recording of the weather) and because of a poem from Herman Hesse which says “Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne, der uns beschützt und der uns hilft, zu leben.” And basically means: “It all starts with a magic spell that protects us and helps us to live”.

Go do something RAD. And read poems ;)


Thanks to our friends Derek and Erin, JC, Paul, Adidas Outdoor, DAV Expeditionsförderung München, DAV Bayreuth, DMM, La Sportiva, Sterling Rope, Deuter, Primus, Gequest Verlag, Brunton and our families for support!



Walk up Sinbad Gully: good DOC track on the left side of the river (3-4 hours).

Scramble up the slabs on the left side of the waterfalls until you reach a very steep, unclimbable section. Go left here into the bush below a big boulder block, and then climb straight up a steep spur through the bush until you get out of the forest. Always keep close to the right arête. From where you can already see Sinbad Wall traverse right just above a big scree field. Climb up and down a few times to avoid steep rocky bits on the traverse. Cross 3 rivers and find the bivvy block (helicopter landing place). All in all, app 9-10 h.

Weather Spell:

9 Pitches, 270m, 30 (27 Variation), mixed bolts and trad, steep granite climbing along cracks, roofs, dihedrals, faces and arets. Bolted belays. P1: 20m, 18/21 – P2: 40m,25 – P3: 30m,22 – P4: 30m,21 – P5: 35m, 23/25 long reach, easier if you are tall! – P6: 35m, 27 – P7: 15m,24 – P8: 35m,30 or 26 variation – P9: 30m,25. Abseil down the route! Or Basejump!

-          2x60m ropes

-          10 quickdraws (some extendables)

-          Medium and big nuts (up to °9 red)

-          Double rack between DMM Dragon size 0(grey) to 4(yellow)

-          Single rack of smaller cams (3cu blue, Dragon 00, blue) and bigger Dragons 5(blue) and 6 (grey)

-          Tagline to pull yourself back in if you link the abseils from top of pitch 8 to top of pitch 6 and from top of pitch 4 and top of pitch 2. Both 60m abseils.


Hike out:

Abseil down the canyon: 5-6 abseils on bolts; looking down the canyon always on the right side of the wall. Expect to get wet feet

Descend down the creek at the south facing wall of the Sinbad until you get into the canyon. Only after a bit of down scrambling, the first rappel is on the right side (always looking down) of the big rock at a big obvious drop.

Rappel down 35m to the right across a water stream that comes from above. Look 5m to your left along a small ledge for the next rappel

Abseil 55m into the next basin.

Scramble down on the left side of the canyon to the next drop. Cross the stream (to the right) and climb onto a bloc with a hidden bolt behind it.

Rappel 15m, traverse a few meter to next bolt and rappel again for 20m.

A little bit of downclimbing on a big block in the middle of the canyon and squeezing along the left hand side of the canyon gets you over the next big pool onto a few big boulders.

Climb about 15m on the right side along a slightly upwards tending step to a small ledge. About 10m above that is a bomber nut with a red sling and carabiner which we left behind. We downclimbed a crack feature from the small ledge and lowered off our backpacks. (probably there is a bold somewhere as well, which we couldn’t find.)

Downclimb 2 boulderblocs. Cross the waterstream to the right side and traverse about 20 along a rail which opens into a ledge to the next bolt.

Rappel down over the waterfall to the next bloc in the next basin AND the basin below that. (don’t stop on the first level)

Climb out of the canyon on rails on the left side wall.

Walk down the scree to the head of the Sinbad Valley. Either maneuver through the waterfalls and slopes to get back to the big boulder (approach) or much faster but less obvious: Go 20m up back to the ridge into the steep forest spur. Traverse about 50m in and then head downwards. Eventually you get back on the track from the approach and back to the big boulder (Took us 10 mins with a bit of luck. Good luck ;)

Kommentar schreiben

Kommentare: 9
  • #1

    M & M (Montag, 22 April 2013 20:49)

    Tolle Tour, die Ihr da geknackt habt. Und super Bilder! Aber trotzdem schön, wenn Ihr wieder heimkommt.

  • #2

    Konstantin (Montag, 22 April 2013 23:10)

    Thumps up for Alfred!

    Was ein Projekt! Ich freue mich schon auf das Video.

  • #3

    Daniel (Dienstag, 23 April 2013 04:50)

    Ihr habt echt einen an der Klatsche :)

    Super Bericht, ich hab viel gelacht beim lesen. Bis vielleicht bald mal wieder in BT!

  • #4

    JC (Dienstag, 23 April 2013 06:47)


  • #5

    Moritz (Dienstag, 23 April 2013 22:27)

    Geile Tour, geiler Begehungsstil, geiler Bericht: RADes Team!

  • #6

    martin wilson (Donnerstag, 02 Mai 2013 01:33)

    Great to meet you guys at Homer. and well done with the route. Come again and bring all your friends, we need more routes in Fiordland!
    and thanks for the drill. it did 15 bolts on 1 battery. Come and do our new route on the wall opposite yours. I posted photos:

  • #7

    Gerald Krug (Mittwoch, 08 Mai 2013 16:07)

    Gratulation zur tollen route und willkommen wieder zu Haus!
    Schön, dass die Bohrmaschine gut durchgehalten hat!
    viele Grüße

  • #8

    Philipp (Mittwoch, 15 Mai 2013 03:33)

    Nice Alex! Da liest man also plötzlich im Newsletter von den alten Bekannten. Glückwunsch zum gelungenen Urlaub! ;-)

  • #9

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