Fresh First Descent of Mt Cook/Aoraki’s Gnarly Caroline Face
**UPDATED WITH INTERVIEW** Daaaaammmmn son. There’s first descents, and then there’s big and bad-ass first descents. This one is the latter. Our homey Tom Grant outtta Chamonix and his buds Ben Briggs and Enrico Mosetti just claimed a first ski descent of Aoraki/Mt Cook’s ultra bad-ass Caroline Face in New Zealand. The face saw it’s first ascent in 1970, but the ski descent was so far untamed. The face, and the peak, have some unfortunate infamy in the ski community from 2013 when Magnus Kastengran fell to his death from the summit ridge while en route to attempt the Caroline Face with Andreas Fransson.
Just back down from an unforgettable adventure with @benbriggs1 and @sonilmose. First descent of Aoraki/Cook’s 2,000m Caroline face. One of the bigger unskied faces around, certainly the biggest thing I’ve ever skied, truly colossal in scale. The icing on the cake was skiing it in powder most of the way. 3 raps and despite all the seracs in the photo, it was good, clean skiing. Thanks to Ben and Enrico for being such solid partners and for everyone else who supported us. @johannatstalnacke for being such a lovely a supportive girlfriend and for the homemade energy bars that powdered is up, #scarpa_uk @blackcrows_skis @plum_officiel @we_are_sungod @jottnar @grivel @conceptchamonix
We quickly harassed Tom through social media with some unfairly deep questions given the platform of the interview and the time of day for him. But here it is…
DL: Tom we just read that you and your homies Ben Briggs and Enrico Mosetti from a successful first descent of the Caroline Face on Mt Aoraki/Cook. Damn son, bad-ass adventure. How was it?! That looks like a beefy and big face. How long is it?
Tom: The scale of the face blew us away. Immense. Route finding skiing the route on-site was one of the cruxes and we nailed it. The skiing is exposed but never super steep. Maybe 5.3 in euro grades. Like multiple col du plan faces. We made x3 raps. It was good quality skiing the whole way!
DL: You mentioned despite the serac riddled terrain it was actually a fairly flowy powder run. Are you kidding me? Did you guys absolutely nail the timing or how was it really? Give us a little run down on how it all went down?
Tom: Dude it was truly pow. Free ride. For real.
DL: What was the crux? There must have been something a little extra spicy in there.
Tom: The climb up was really tough, trenching in deep breakable crust and exposed knife edge ridges and some ice sections at top. We skied the face in an hour and half.
Some of the first turns of the season, high on the Caroline Face. It hasn’t all been glorious powder and new lines though. We have also been trying our hand at some hardcore Kiwi tramping. 📷 @sonilmose and with @benbriggs1 @blackcrows_skis @plum_officiel #scarpa_uk @conceptchamonix @we_are_sungod @jottnar
DL: We like to joke around at Doglotion but this line is no joke. We understand it’s the same face your fellow Chamonix skiers Andreas Fransson and Magnus Kastengren had lined up for a first descent before Kastengren’s fatal fall. And we’ve since lost Fransson to ski mountaineering as well. How do heavy circumstances like that weigh on you during an expedition like this? Or do they? Perhaps you find inspiration in it somehow?
DL: And Bonetti is no stranger to the sometimes fatal consequences of extreme ski expeditions from his attempt at Laila Peak in Pakistan. How did this expedition feel for him? Was it the first really big one he’s bitten off since?
DL: I won’t dwell on the risks and rewards, I’m simply blown away you guys pulled this off. Well done lads. What the hell are you going to do next? Enjoy a whole whopping week or two of off-season before heading back to Cham for more fun? Did this big an objective make you thirsty for big mountain action? Or satiate you enough to spend your next winter lapping mini golf laps at la Flegere?
Tom: I’m super motivated for more big lines but the Caroline Face is the sort of line you don’t want to tackle so often. I do think about not exposing myself to that big a face too often.
DL: Let’s wrap with any deep thoughts or words for advice you have for our fellow shred hounds out there looking to get more out of their ski mountaineering game?
Tom: I think people wanting to ski something that big need to build up to it and have their mountaineering skills pretty dialled.
DL: Thanks Tom, job well done and best of luck with the next adventure.
[Editor’s Note: No wonder Tom only had a few minutes for his answers, look what he did next…]
First descent of Malte Brun via the Zig Zag route on it’s south face 30/10/17. Multe Brun is a beautiful and prominent peak, steep on all sides and known for it’s climbing routes. The most technical line I’ve skied in NZ, it went with only one 20m rap. Thanks again to my all star team of @benbriggs1 and @sonilmose for an awesome trip. Photo @benbriggs1 #scarpa_uk @blackcrows_skis @plum_officiel @conceptchamonix @jottnar @we_are_sungod
Questing up a classic grade 4- climb in search of some fun skiing. Not entirely sure whether this line would go clean, we skied 600m with one 20m rap over this section. 96.6666666% skiing @benbriggs1 calculates, we’ll take that. Photo @sonilmose #maltebrunnotmatlebrun #firstdescent #scarpa_uk @blackcrows_skis @plum_officiel @conceptchamonix @we_are_sungod @jottnar