Roaming A Ridge (Part One) – Rome Ridge

“On a Mish” #138 Roaming A Ridge (Part One). Rome Ridge. Arthurs Pass National Park. 2.9.2014. No two mountains are the same, and that also applies to the ridges which reach down from the summit back towards sea level. During my time exploring I have climbed, clambered and scrambled over some excellent steep ground on a quest to stand on top of a mountain, and some of those ridges have stood out over the others (some literally). One of my all time favourite adventures was in one of my all time favourite places, and that is Rome Ridge on Mt Rolleston in Arthurs Pass National Park…

Starting from the high elevation of Arthurs Pass Village provides a massive head start on the mountain, as most of the peaks throughout Aotearoa involve long and sometimes multi-day approaches even before the climbing begins. Well before the roads were built, the explorers / prospectors had pushed their way up most of the valleys to then claim the gold or first ascent of the almost endless peaks that lay silent and were only seen by the birds of Aotearoa.

The start of the track to Rome Ridge (Coral Track) is very unassuming and doesn’t really give away any of the epicness it leads to. Arthurs Pass (especially around the village) has a mix of very easy walks and tracks to mountaineering routes. Sometimes people unfortunately mix the two up and require rescuing after getting themselves into a situation they were unprepared for.

By 2014 I had been on several mountaineering courses, but still found sections of the ridge to be ‘interesting’ to say the least. There are some parts where the exposure really plays tricks with your head. The drops either side are huge in places and concentration needs to be set on high. It is this mix of excitement and self challenge that I crave and Rome Ridge has it all.

My first venture on Mt Rolleston’s Low Peak(2122m) was via the notorious Otria Slide (site of a few fatalities) and now I was back to tackle the mountain from another equally challenging angle. This was also part of my own quest to climb all of the tracks around Arthurs Pass that extend from the highway that cuts straight through the middle of the town.

I had read about Rome Ridge in one of my climbing guidebooks, and also stared at it from Temple Basin Ski Field, which is located on the opposite side of the valley. Seeing one of the most stunning ridges in the entire national park from the elevation of the ski field is something to get the adventure aspirations excited!

The temptation of climbing the knife edge arete became too much after my previous trip to the Otria Valley, so I packed my gear and headed for one of New Zealand’s best alpine villages. I was very lucky to be able to use a bach / crib in the village for a couple of days, so I got settled in and enjoyed a night listening to the many trains that pass through.

Early-ish the next day I was on the road heading for the small car park at the start of the Coral Track and as I began my mish I had no issues with finding the motivation to climb as the weather was perfect and I had a long unbroken ridge to follow…

The Bealey Valley from just above Coral Track

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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