Climbing Mt Marion, New Zealand

The North Face and Australian Geographic Outdoor would like to thank the many and varied explorers who submitted applications for The North Face Adventure Grant 2016. We wish you all the greatest success in your exploration. We are pleased to announce the recipients of The North Face Adventure Grant 2016, Stephen Skelton and Ben Dare. New Zealand residents and avid climbers and mountaineers, Stephen and Ben have set out a challenging expedition in the mountains of Peru. Read more about their expedition now. 

Alpine climbing near the equator; only in Peru. Donkeys, snow mushrooms, cactus and hanging icicles; only in Peru. Perfect granite, abnormally large flowers, long days and ‘settled’ weather patterns; only in Peru. First ascents of stellar unclimbed lines on some of the world’s most beautiful mountains; only in Peru.

We are planning an alpine climbing expedition to the Cordillera Blanca mountains with three objectives; to climb hard, direct new lines on three of the range’s most revered and difficult peaks. In 2014 we were nominated for a Piolet De Or for our 2014 ascent of the South Face of Mt Suter in the Darran Mountains, New Zealand. In 2016 we will be teaming up again for our Peru expedition. Together, we plan to set a new precedent for antipodean fast, light, single push alpine climbing; exploring new areas and mountain faces in search of the unknown.

While these objectives are not in Patagonia, the Karakoram or the Himalaya, we feel they are hard, committing and aesthetic lines on inspiring mountains. Each summit is around 6000m high and each route will be in excess of 700m long. We anticipate confronting climbing difficulties of around grade 22 rock, M7 mixed and WI5 at elevation. We understand our chosen untrodden paths may cover unexpected difficulties and challenges, and these challenges will push us into the depths of ourselves. – Stephen Skelton, Ben Dare

Combined, Stephen Skelton and Ben Dare have 25 years of climbing experience, each with different strengths; Steve being more comfortable on rock, and Ben on ice.

Often climbing solo, Ben has established modern day ice and mixed classics in Europe, South America and New Zealand. Ben brings to the duo, solid high altitude snow and ice experience and a drive to seek and ascend some of the world’s best, most aesthetic unclimbed lines.

A landscape architect by trade, Steve has dedicated his time outside of work to some serious climbing, having climbed in every continent but Europe and Antarctica. A self-proclaimed desert rat from Arizona he honed his alpine skills in New Zealand where he has been living on and off for 13 years. Steve is a trained journalist, lifetime climber and dedicated environmentalist. He speaks conversational Spanish and brings to the team a quiver of technical climbing skills, a strong climbing ethic and technical ability.

Steve and Ben have been climbing partners for 4 years. Together they have established new routes across New Zealand, including ice and mixed lines on Mount Aspiring, in the Darran Mountains and in the Remarkables. Most notably, the pair were nominated for a Piolet d’Or in 2015 for their successful first ascent of the South Face of Mt Suter; a futeristic, technical and committing 700m ice line in the Darran Mountains.

We look forward to following the expedition closely and sharing their trials and triumphs with the greater outdoor community. To keep up to date with the progress of Stephen Skelton and Ben Dare look out for updates through The North Face Facebook and Instagram

The North Face Adventure Grant is presented by Australian Geographic Outdoor. Find them on Facebook and Twitter

PHOTO: Establishing new routes on Mt Marian, New Zealand.