This is a 4100’+/- ascent day. Cross Spray Lakes Road and hike Buller Pass trail for approximately 1 km crossing Buller Creek on a bridge. Before you leave the trail, take a compass reading on the right bottom corner of those west facing slabs. As soon as the north west facing slabs of Engadine come into view, descend the trail, cross Buller Creek to the south and ascend the steep forested slopes for approximately 1000’.
Once you have broken tree line and are at the base of the ridge, contour to the right ascending gullies and ledges to the actual northwest ridge. The first portion of the ridge goes fairly easily, keeping right for any obstacles. Eventually you come to an overhang of about 7 meters. It initially appears you have to lose considerable elevation on the south side to bypass this obstacle, but in reality, descend slabs for approximately 10 meters to find a step that allows you to downclimb the overhang wall. Regain the ridge and enjoy hands on scrambling until the next smaller overhang in which we jumped into deep snow on the north side.
Next you are faced with the crux of the climb in winter type conditions. We ascended 800’ of steep, wind swept and hardpack snow staying off the corniced edge to the false summit. With crampons, this ridge goes easy, without, it is a tedious climb. Once you gain the false summit, you will get a clear view of the summit to the east. Continue on through waist high snow and hardpack staying off of the north lined cornice. The summit cairn is typically windswept and makes for a good bearing. We had a weather summit, so our views were limited to Turner, Cone, Nestor, Bogart, Buller, and other immediate mountains as well as Spray Lakes Reservoir.
As fog and snow engulfed us, we descended the south ridge to an angled gully proceeding down the west face bowl. Glissading in low visibility down this bowl face requires caution as you traverse several bare slabs and minor drop offs. Continue down to the center avalanche gully and glissade through avalanche debris which loses elevation rapidly to tree line. Take your compass reading for the road and after you leave the log jam at the end of the avalanche path, drop into a drainage and follow it to the Spray Lakes Road. At times, you will be bushwhacking on the right side of this drainage to avoid deadfall. Once at the road, you have about a 20 minute walk back north to your vehicle.
Helmet, gaiters, bear spray, alpine ax, crampons (if early season), goggles for possible harsh winds and/or intermittent snow storms.