‘After this, no other place will seem as beautiful, no other place as wild, no other place as epic, no other place as challenging. All other climbing is now just training for the Darrans’
– Vertical Life Magazine.
James – We drove into the Darrans in a snow storm. The snow surged towards our eyes like stars streaking past at warp speed, stereo blaring out a fusion of 90’s hip hop and electronic beats. The beach trees swayed in the wind and rocked as the old hilux, fresh with a new ball joint shuddered down the road. After an hour or so of this, we had to pull over, and unravel our already knotted brains.
We arrived to a quiet hut and a dark night. Slowly my eyes adjusted to the darkness. The walls that surround homer hut carefully began to define themselves. To be honest at first I hadn’t realized we were walled in there, the skyline is just so ridiculously high that you don’t notice it in the dark. Stretching my neck, the proportions became apparent.
There are few if any places in the world quiet like the Darrans. Rain or Snow fall 200 days a year. No one can total the depths because the gauges have a habit of over flowing or simply floating away.
Mount Talbot looms above the hut at a mere 2,105 meters. But the hut is only perched at 760 meters, and so you are surrounded by thousand meter walls. To stare up at them in the middle of winter, with their snow plastered faces, improbable dribbles of grey ice, over hanging sections of rock and their improbably perched hanging glaciers is enough to scare anyone. And that’s before you even think about climbing there.
The sun reaches the hut for only an hour or two each day, and so a permanent frost surrounds the place, clinging to the polished river stones and boulders. Ample firewood awards a warm hut common room though, an oft needed shelter from the wild weather this place is famous for.
In the French alps, they say that the black crows are all the souls of those who have died in the mountains, lingering and watching. There are no crows in the Darrans, only Keas. I like to imagine that the Keas might be the Aussie and Kiwi climbers who have passed on. The Keas usually play with you all the time, picking up rocks and attacking your car, eating your food and even stealing peoples crampons. But here, the Keas sat, slow moving, watching.
Alpine Climbing is a necessary balance of fear and inspiration, and in the Darrens both run high.
11 Hours, Hut to Hut
This really is one of the best days out in New Zealand. Our rack consisted of two screws, a half set of nuts, a knifeblade, lost arrow and baby angel piton and a number one cammalot. It was sufficient for our abilities, gauge your own rack accordingly. The screws were useless in the conditions we encountered. We carried two snow stake for the glaciated sections of the route, but didn’t need them. There is the potential for excellent skiing on this route, in particular on the descent from traverse pass. Would be skiers would need to be very fit and prepared to boot pack and climb moderate mixed terrain with their skis on their back for 1600 meters of vert. They would be well rewarded for their efforts.