For anyone unfamiliar with the region, New Zealand is probably best known in recent times as Middle Earth. An association created when these dramatic islands famously became the cinematic depiction of Tolkien’s epic.
It is here that you will find the Remarkables Range, rising from the crystal blue waters of Lake Wakatipu on New Zealand’s mountainous South Island. Arriving in the area, if you harboured any questions as to why this range was thus named, these would be quickly answered by a simple glance upwards at the steeply jutting skyline.
Home to a popular ski field, the Remarkables also host some of the best and most accessible winter ice and mixed climbing in this rugged land. To sweeten the pot even more, the Remarkables also lie very close to an international airport, along with the thriving mountain hamlet of Queenstown. Given the aforementioned, it’s clear to see why the Remarks, as the range is known to locals, was chosen to host an annual Ice and Mixed Climbing Festival.
Hosted by The Expedition Climbers Club, which is itself an initiative of the New Zealand Alpine Team; the Remarkables Festival has been running as an annual event since 2012. The 2017 gathering was held in August and drew the largest attendance to date, with over 160 keen climbers descending on the craggy snow and rime covered buttresses.
The primary aim of the festival is to celebrate winter climbing and bring together a wide cross-section of climbers from New Zealand, Australia and beyond. Whilst various clinics offer less experienced climbers an opportunity to learn from and share a rope with New Zealand’s top winter alpine climbers. Each evening there are social events with, competitions, trade stands, food, locally brewed beer and guest speakers; all further serving to bring this small community closer together.
This was my first year attending the Remarkables Festival, but suffice to say it will not be my last. The climbing is world class and the warmth and hospitality shown by the organisers immense. Besides, any chance to scratch my way up a moderate route (on top-rope) whilst further along the cliff winter first-accents are being put up is undoubtedly rare.
Hats off and thank you to everyone who made the 2017 festival such a success. Registration is now open for the 2018 event and keep in mind the instruction clinics tend to book out early. For more information please visit their site;