Rome Ridge – Arthur’s Pass mega classic leading to Mt. Rolleston – no touring equipment is even required.
The climb is described in the Arthur’s Pass climbing guidebook by Graeme Kates (https://climbnz.org.nz/nz/si/main-divide-of-the-southern-alps/mt-rolleston/low-pk). This write-up aims to serve as an add-on for people who want to ski tour it.
An early start should take you to the little car park just at the base of Coral Track. Be quick or find yourself without a parking spot on a busy day. Coral Track is well formed and should be easy also with ski boots on. Once on the ridge, it is straight forward – you follow the ridge until it stops going up – and yes, this is the summit.
The couple of cruxes on the ridge may or may not pose a problem – depending on snow conditions. More snow generally makes the ridge significantly easier. Is it probably possible to skin some parts of the ridge, however making a transition from boot crampons to skis can take a while, and a few of those transitions will be required. We opted to just boot pack all the way up. In other words – if you decide to leave your skins at home it is probably fine.
Once the low peak of Mt. Rolleston is reached, you can decide if 1400m of boot packing was enough for you or not. If not, you can attempt high peak, which is visible just over the Crow Glacier.
We opted to just ski down. Skiing down, you start on the steep face of the mountain, but you should look for the entry to the Otira slide, which should be obtained easily. If you’re lucky, you should hit the slide around midday for some fantastic spring corn. If not, comfort yourself with the thought that it is still much better to ski down than boot-pack down.
Depending on the snow line, you might be able to ski all the way down to the Otira bridge. Once the snow ends, look for the cairns that will guide you down the valley. From the bridge on wards the track is well formed all the way down the Otira Valley carpark. At the carpark, use the power of the thumb to get back to the car (4km away), or alternatively walk back.
Write-up by Dan Freuhauf & Karl Greasley – September 2018