Twin Stream Guide

Twin Stream climbing is found on an 800m high buttress of greywacke 20km south of Mount Cook Village. It lies hidden from the road, seven km up Twin Stream amongst a cirque of two and half thousand metre high mountains. The ninety routes are found on the lower few hundred metres of quartz veined slabs, cracks and flakes of greywacke. Most climbs are long multi-pitch traditionally protected routes augmented with bolts and bolted belays.

Twin 60 metre ropes are ideal, for the longest pitches take a rack of 14 extendable draws, up to 10 cams and large selection of nuts and RPs. Even on mostly bolted pitches take trad gear. Belays are usually bolted but take a few metres of 6mm cord or similar and perhaps a few maillons or old carabiners to rig abseils on belays where there are no lower offs or rings on the belay station bolts.

Most newcomers to the area struggle with the long walk in; the keas and katabatic winds that making camping noisy; and finding the correct routes amongst the massive buttress and gullies. This can all be ameliorated by flying in, sleeping in the bivy rocks, and hopefully, by using the photo topos in the new edition of the guide. It’s also a good idea after landing to take a walk up the south side scree slopes to get an idea of the huge scale of the place.

Another tip for a successful trip is to begin on routes like Moon Rise, Moon Struck, Willy Spaniard, Peanut Slab, El Niño/Central Buttress, Centrefire, Aftershock, and Hungry Heart where not only is the climbing excellent but the access, protection and descents are relatively straightforward.

It goes without saying that Twin Stream is a serious mountain crag with all that entails, including the ability to route find, mange loose rock, and self rescue or summon help in the event of an accident. There is patchy phone signal at points on the walk in.

 

DEVELOPMENT

Modern development of Twin Stream began in 1995 with the three pitch route Stealing a March by Andy Macfarlane and John McCartney. It was Andy MacFarlane and Murray Judge who became the two main driving forces of development over the following 6 years. Development has slowed in the last 15 years with only a few routes put up in this time, perhaps reflecting the changing nature of climbing. For those with the time and energy the potential for new routes remains huge, ranging from easy trad climbs to hard technical walls, often hundreds of metres long.

The skiing and winter climbing at Twin Stream is worthy of note. With a fly in and high drop-off excellent ski descents of Mount Dark and Kai Tarau can be had. Steep skiing is found in Shindig Gully and on surrounding couloirs. It is feasible to fly in and ski multiple lines and walk out in a day. Ice does form but not in such quantities as Bush Stream. In the right conditions though, there is much potential for ice and mixed routes.

 

ACCESS

Access is via the entrance to Twin Stream valley, a 20 minute drive south of Mount Cook Village on the Twizel to Mount Cook road. Flying in and walking out is highly recommended, thus avoiding the 4 hour walk-in that involves 800m gain on indistinct sheep tracks and river bed.

Fortunately, Glentanner Park Helicopter Line is situated a few hundred meters from the start of the walk and as of 2020, up to 5 can fly in for about $330. Ask to be dropped off at the Twin Stream camp site.

If you do decide to walk in, the track starts on the true right of the road bridge across Twin Stream. Occasional red/white markers and cairns mark the way which stays on the true right the whole way. Initially follow the river bed for 10 minutes then follow cairns onto the terrace. A vague track then ascends the left hand spur to reach the higher terrace. Follow sheep tracks and markers through the matagouri until reaching a large eroded gut after 90 minutes. Cross this and again follow markers and indistinct path for a further 30 minutes until cairns mark a 10m decent to the flat river bed. Then boulder hop for a further 1-2 hours, finally reaching the large flat camping area beneath the dramatic Central Buttress.

As an alternative, the river bed has been followed for the whole way thus avoiding the terraces.

The walk out, even if you lose the track, is much easier and takes two and half hours.

An excellent (although difficult to find) rock bivouac can be found at the far end of the meadow, 50m above the flats, on the true left, in the large rocks beneath Central Buttress. There is a flat balcony rock at the entrance.  It accommodates 2 comfortably, 3 at a push.  There are another two good bivys in the rocks below this, accomodating two in each. Aside from the advantage of not needing to carry a tent, it avoids the katabatic winds and keas that make camping less pleasant. There are multiple other less weather proof rock bivouacs that require a bivy bag.

If camping, the keas will attack unoccupied tents so gear needs to be stashed during the day. Keas are endangered so tolerate their brazenness and don’t feed them. It goes without saying, carry out all rubbish.

Below is a brief guide that can be used in addition to the current guide in the NZ Alpine Club Guide for Barron Saddle to Mount Brewster. A complete guide is in the pipeline. Excuse the childish annotations. Red crosses are a double bolt belay, red circle is a trad belay, green circles are best descent routes- you can rap of anything but these are generally the most straightforward way down. Additional bolts are not always marked - refer to the old guide. If you get up a few of these then you’ll be good to go. Other top picks are March Hare, Once We Were Wasters, Boy Germs, and Fibrillator. If its all too much just got for a nice walk instead.

HALF MOON SLABS

Moonrise, a common starter route is two pitches and relatively easy to find. Walk up to the bottom of the buttress and follow it left up scree slopes for about 30 minutes. It cannot be seen from the campsite. Walk off to the left or rap. Gives access to the massive slabs routes of Southerly Front.

A Moonrise 16,17 follow the line of bolts

B Moonstruck 17,17 two bolts at the top of the first pitch

C Titan 19

D Moonshine Buttress 16,15

LEFT OF CENTRAL BUTTRESS

A Stones Showers 14,17

B Peanut Slab 19 recognisable line of bolts

C Wily Spaniard 15,19,17 Lovely trad crack to trad anchor on ledge. Step right on to slab clipping two bolts, then up and up passing overhang on left. A long classic pitch. Left hand line on pitch 2 is My Evil Twin 20

D Right hand line is Central Buttress which goes all the way to the top of the buttress- 5 long pitches. See below.

Left of Central Buttress

CENTRAL BUTTRESS

El Niño and Central Buttress (the route) are a little confusing in the old guide. The line to the left is Once Were Wasters. Note the bivy rock blue spot.

A They both start at a horrific looking death block on the left of the arete, it actually feels pretty bomber when you’re standing on it. The initial gear looks bad but it is all there until the bolt on the arete. Get round the arete then for El Niño (16) go up just right of the arete on occasional bolts as marked. For the crux at 2/3 height there’s a sneaky bolt left around the arete on the next door route Rock Wren.

For Central Buttress (17) get round the arete and keep traversing horizontally to bolts. Essentially they both share the same second and third pitches up to the Terrace.

Pitch 2 is short, about 20m (14). Leave the right facing corner, up the slab a little boldly heading right around the little overhang. The next belay bolts are easily missed.

Then a long excellent pitch (15) to the terrace. Call it quits or continue up, the easiest line starts left of the arete, 50m grade (12), passing right under the overhang, then the last pitch (15) up and left up to the arete and to the tilted belay slab.

The abseil is tricky to find. It’s at the left end of the tilted slab. 2 bolts cunningly hidden on a scary looking small block with the abyss below. Second rap is at the right end of a ledge 50m down. This will take you down to the terrace where you can walk round to the El Niño line and rap that. Quite a long day out.

Central Butress. Bivy rock marked in blue.

SHINDIG GULLY

A stunning couloir with an impressive right hand wall. Walk down to the where the river leaves the camping flats, then head lookers right and up scree slopes. Be careful not to end up in the grotty gully right of Siberia wall, you’ve not gone far enough right if you end up in there. Takes 40 minutes. Keep going up and surmount the gully sized chockstone to access Aftershock and Centrefire, then a little further up to get to Hungry Heart, Fibrillator and Boy Germs.


A Aftershock 17,17,18. Looks gearless from the deck but there is plenty in horizontal breaks. Head up to the little alcove belay which is a difficult to spot from the deck. Continue up.

B something random- goes at a bold 21

C Centrefire 17,19, 20. Awesome second pitch. Start about 20m down from the Aftershock starting ledge.Either belay at a bolt below the first roof or better, go through the roof (well protected) and make a trad anchor in bomber cracks above. The second pitch goes up the obvious cracks. The gear is perfect. The third pitch is a diabolical single move of the belay. French free it/stand in a sling then easy to the top. Descend down Aftershock. Probably three abseils- not two.

Shindig Gully. A Aftershock C Centrefire

SHINDIG GULLY UPPER

A Fibrillator 22,19 bolted first pitch. The first pitch gets rated highly.

B Hungry Hearts. 16,15,15,15 first three pitches marked. Find Fibrillator then walk right. Spot a high single bolt on a fairly scungee wall with a left facing corner on the right. You should be able to see the second bolt from the deck.  Climb up, clip the first bolt, head right a metre or two, place gear then step left up onto an improbable looking hand traverse which is straightforward. (If you keep heading right from the first bolt you’ll end up on Boygerms- a full 50m trad pitch). Then easily up to the third pitch which is a cracker. Finish after 3 pitches on lunch time ledge or do the final 15 pitch. Best descent from the ledge is down Fibrillator - the first abseil is off a hole in the rock piece of tat and a bolt. You’ll know it when you see it. Use your prussiks. Descending Hungry Heart can snag ropes.

C Boygerms- well protected mega pitch. Climb the fist section of Hungry Hearts as described above then trad belay on the pedastal at about 8m to avoid rope drag.

Shindig Gully Upper

Photos below

The walk in- if possible don't do it. Fly in, walk out.

A-Moonrise B-Pulp Friction C-March Hare D-The Big Picture E-Peanut Slab F-Wily Spaniard G-Once Were Wasters H-El Nino I-Fibrillator J-Boygerms H-Centrefire I-Blade Runner

Pitch 4 El Niño (12)

The bivy

Pitch 1 Wily Spaniard (15)

Typical bolted belay. Bring tat and get creative.

The death block at the start of El Niño/Central Buttress

Blade Runner (22)

Skiing Shindig Gully

Taking Liberties. 600m grade 11. An interesting scramble with spectacular positions involving two pitches of easy but exposed climbing. Follow the terrace above Half Moon Slab, past the Southerly Front Slabs until the terrace ends. Avoid the chockstone gully and instead climb a 30m v-groove (8) to its left. This leads to a large central gully. Scramble easily up for about 200m. Where the gully steepens to a tower climb up and left, following a narrow terrace into an exposed position above a huge rotten gully. Climb through big chockstones regaining the tower (crux). Follow the cheval and ledges heading left before ascending the final tower. Abseil or down climb 30m to the top of Shindig Gully. Best descent is to walk to the road, heading east via peak 2155m, to the weather station and 4wd track. Descending the upper parts of Shindig Gully in summer does not look pleasant. E Cameron, March 2020.

Late winter conditions Wingers wall/Siberia