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About New Zealand

Mt. Cook, Mt. Tasman and Fox Glacier reflected in Lake Matheson. Credit: Andrew Turner,  Shot on 2011-12-14 Photo taken in , Mount Cook Village, Mackenzie District, New Zealand.(c) Andrew Turner, licensed under: CC BY 2.0.
Mt. Cook, Mt. Tasman and Fox Glacier reflected in Lake Matheson. Credit: Andrew Turner, Shot on 2011-12-14 Photo taken in , Mount Cook Village, Mackenzie District, New Zealand.(c) Andrew Turner, licensed under: CC BY 2.0.

Southern Alps on the South Island of New Zealand extends entire length of the Island and are known for their beauty and wild nature. The Southern Alps are a very young range, still actively being uplifted. This, combined with high precipitation on its western side and high erosion rates, results in very dynamic landscapes. The range is a collection of permanently snow and ice-clad summits, heavily crevassed glaciers and spires and ridges of shattered rock. These qualities make Southern Alps one of the best alpine climbing areas in the world.

  • North Island
  • Southern Alps Southern Alps on the South Island of New Zealand extends entire length of the Island and are known for their beauty and wild nature. The Southern Alps are a very young range, still actively being uplifted. This, combined with high precipitation on its western side and high erosion rates, results in very dynamic landscapes. The range is a collection of permanently snow and ice-clad summits, heavily crevassed glaciers and spires and ridges of shattered rock. These qualities make Southern Alps one of the best alpine climbing areas in the world.
  • Kaikoura Ranges Mountains in NE part of Southern Island. The highest peak is Tapuae-o-Uenuku (2885m) with few others rising to above 2500m. Far less visited by climbers than the areas further west and south.
  • Stewart Island South of South Island, the smaller Stewart Island is also mountainous, and is topped by Mount Anglem.

Climbing in New Zealand

  • NZ Topo Map. NZ Topo Map is an interactive topographic map of New Zealand using the official LINZ's 1:50,000 / Topo50 and 1:250,000 / Topo250 maps.

Areas

Southern Alps

Southern Alps on the South Island of New Zealand extends entire length of the Island and are known for their beauty and wild nature. The Southern Alps are a very young range, still actively being uplifted. This, combined with high precipitation on its western side and high erosion rates, results in very dynamic landscapes. The range is a collection of permanently snow and ice-clad summits, heavily crevassed glaciers and spires and ridges of shattered rock. These qualities make Southern Alps one of the best alpine climbing areas in the world.

  • Kahurangi-Nelson Lakes National Park Northernmost part of South Island
  • Arthur’s Pass and the Eastern Canterbury Ranges
  • The Canterbury Westland Alps Mountains of the Southern Alps between Mt Cook and Arthur’s Pass National Parks.
  • Mount Cook Area Mount Cook area is by far the best known area in New Zealand among the climbers. The area contains 29 peaks over 3000 meters, with an exemption of Mount Aspiring (3027m), all other high mountains of the Southern Alps are located in Mt Cook area. Some of the routes in the area are very challenging and there are some large glaciers, spectacular ice falls and immense high altitude snow fields. Most of the climbs are on ice with the best rock being found on Malte Brun and Hicks. The highest mountain of the range, Mount Cook (also known as Aoraki) is 3753m high and has several classic routes, the easiest (although not easy) and most popular being Linda Glacier graded at NZ3/3+ (European AD). There are several more demanding routes on the ridges and faces of the mountain. Mount Tasman with classics Silberhorn Arete and Balfour Face, Malte Brun, Mount Hicks and Mount Haidinger are also popular. Mount Cook village is the closest village. It is possibly to arrange a fly-in from there to several predefined spots in the mountains.
  • Barron Saddle to Mt Brewster Ranges between the Haast Pass and Mount Cook. The valleys covered include the Hopkins and Huxley, the Landsborough, and other West Coast valleys north of Haast Pass.
  • Mount Aspiring National park Mount Aspiring national park, located some 180 southwest of Mount Cook, is popular among climbers and hikers (tramping is kiwi for hiking). Aspiring area has slightly better weather than Mount Cook region. The highest and by far most famous climbing objective is Mount Aspiring (3033m), the only 3000m peak located outside Mount Cook area. Mount Earnslaw is the second most famous peak in the area.
  • Darran mountains Remote Darrans are located in Fiordland national park in the the SW part of South Island. Darrans have good quality rock (granite), the area is known to have the best multipitch rock climbing in the New Zealand. By far the best known climbing objective is Tutoko (2746m). Other notable peaks include Christina (2502m), Sabre (2167m) and Talbot (2110m, East Ridge) on Darrans and Pembroke (2000m) in Fiordland. Because of its its approximity to Tasmanian sea, the weather is problematic enough, as the area has very wet climate, annual precipitation is a staggering 7,5 meters! Some areas can be reached from the road with a reasonable hike. More remote parts are accessed with helicopters.
  • Fiordland
  • Central Otago SE part of Southern Island, to the east of Aspiring, Darrans and Fiordland.

The range divides the island climatically: along the island's west coast, a wall of high peaks rises steeply, battered by extremely heavy winds and rain. Fierce, sudden storms often last for days, and northwest winds are generally so strong that climbs requiring bivouacs are rarely attempted. The best season for climbing runs from December through February while the season for alpine rock routes is between January and May. Eastern slopes and Canterbury Plains are much drier.

The mountain chain is generally totally unpopulated except for the three small alpine villages, of Lewis Pass, Arthur's Pass and Mt Cook. The only roads are those crossing the three main Passes and the access road to Mt Cook village. Climbing in the Southern Alps is serious, with often long approaches (helicopters are widely used). There are several tramping and mountaineering huts. Although the mountains are not that high when compared with some other ranges, they are located close to sea. Thus the actual altitude difference from the base of the climb is often big. This may well necessiate bivouac en route.

Mount Cook area is by far the most popular among the climbers. The area contains 29 peaks over 3000 meters, with an exemption of Mount Aspiring (3027m), all other high mountains are located in Mt Cook area. Some of the routes in the area are very challenging and there are some large glaciers, spectacular ice falls and immense high altitude snow fields. Most of the climbs are on ice with the best rock being found on Malte Brun and Hicks. Besides Mount Cook area, other popular alpine climbing areas include Mount Aspiring, Arthur's Pass and Fiordland national parks. Especially piqturesque Mount Aspiring (sometimes referred to as the Matterhorn of the South) is very popular among the climbers.

Mount Cook Area

Mount Cook area is by far the best known area in New Zealand among the climbers. The area contains 29 peaks over 3000 meters, with an exemption of Mount Aspiring (3027m), all other high mountains of the Southern Alps are located in Mt Cook area. Some of the routes in the area are very challenging and there are some large glaciers, spectacular ice falls and immense high altitude snow fields. Most of the climbs are on ice with the best rock being found on Malte Brun and Hicks. The highest mountain of the range, Mount Cook (also known as Aoraki) is 3753m high and has several classic routes, the easiest (although not easy) and most popular being Linda Glacier graded at NZ3/3+ (European AD). There are several more demanding routes on the ridges and faces of the mountain. Mount Tasman with classics Silberhorn Arete and Balfour Face, Malte Brun, Mount Hicks and Mount Haidinger are also popular. Mount Cook village is the closest village. It is possibly to arrange a fly-in from there to several predefined spots in the mountains.

  • Sealy Range Sealy Range is located immediately to the west of Mount Cook village. Branches from Main Divide forming a horseshoe-shaped Mueller glacier valley together with Main Divide. Accessible from Mueller glacier.
  • Main Divide Highest and best known peaks except for Mount Cook are located in a Main Divide, long ridge of high Peaks running to the west of Tasman valley and to the east of Hooker valley (SW), Fox and Franz Josef glaciers (NW). All peaks of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman are located on Main Divide. East side of Main Divide is accessed from Mueller and Hooker valleys in the south and Tasman valley in the north. West side climbs can be reached from Copland, Srauchon La Perouse and Balfour valleys in the south and Spencer, Fox and Franz Josef glaciers in the north.
  • Mount Cook Mount Cook is located on a separate ridge located between Tasman and Hooker valleys and connected to Main Divide at Green's Saddle, just north of the High Peak. Mount Nazon further to the south is another notable peak on the ridge.
  • Liebig Range East of Tasman valley. Liebig Range is located in southeastern part of th area, to the SE of Murchinson valley
  • Aiguilles Rouges East of Tasman valley. Further north, Aiguilles Rouges and Malte Brun ranges are located to the east of Tasman valley, to the west of Murchinson valley and to the north of Liebig range. These areas is known to have a better quality rock than other areas in Mount Cook region (with the exception of Mount Drake and Mount Magellan). Being located further to the east the area also has better weather than the regions further to the east. Beetham valley between Malte Brun and Aiguilles Rouges serves as a base for many ascents in the area.
  • Malte Brun East of Tasman valley. Further north, Aiguilles Rouges and Malte Brun ranges are located to the east of Tasman valley, to the west of Murchinson valley and to the north of Liebig range. These areas is known to have a better quality rock than other areas in Mount Cook region (with the exception of Mount Drake and Mount Magellan). Being located further to the east the area also has better weather than the regions further to the east. Beetham valley between Malte Brun and Aiguilles Rouges serves as a base for many ascents in the area.

Weather is a major climbing obstacle in the area. Temperature is not extremely cold, during the summer freezing line is around 3200m, and during the winter around 1650m. During the summer climbing season, usually one of three days has a good weather. Bad weather in the mountains often means that there's good weather for rock climbing at twin Stream. Excactly what good does that knowledge do for a climber stuck in a storm high up in the Hooker valley is beyond me, though;-).

The predominant pattern are moist western winds which bring lots of precipitation to the area, especially to the western slopes. Because of heavy downpour, both snow and ice avalanches are common occurrence. Rock falls are also quite common, as pointed out by Mount Cook in 1991, when the true summit collapsed. Especially East Face of Cook is a bowling alley of falling rocks. Climbing it is probably best avoided at least if the leghth of your life is anywhere close to the top of your priorities.

Although the peaks in Mount Cook area are not that high, several of the climbs in Mount Cook area are large in scale. The altitude gain from base to the summit is often huge, many climbs are between 1000-2000 high. For example Linda Glacier, the standard route on Mount Cook has altitude gain of 1700m, about the same as Three Mont Blanc Route (III PD+). While both have ice and snow up to around 50 degrees, Linda glacier is more sustained and far more serious due to broken glacier. It also sees far less traffic.

Generally speaking most climbing is on snow and ice. Which is definitely a good thing given that the quality of rock leaves plenty room for improvement. That being said, Malte Brun, Aiguilles Rouges and Liebig ranges to the SE of Tasman valley have much better quality rock than the most peaks of the area. Also Mount Drake and Magellan to the west of Main Divide have good rock. Approaches are usually over glaciated terrain which is often heavily crevassed. Glacier in Southern Alps move quickly and are correspondingly broken. To make matters worse, crevasses are often hidden below fresh snow.

Mount Cook village (764m) is the village closest to most of the climbs. It is possibly to arrange a fly-in from there to several predefined spots in the mountains. Before going climbing climbers should sign-in at the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park visitor Centre at Mount Cook village. There's similar system also at Franz Josef and Fox glacier townships.

There are several huts in the area providing shelter against the elements. Access to them is often long and tedious over heavily crevassed glacier. Because of this, many climbers choose to fly in from Mount Cook airport. Flight are possible either by ski planes or helicopters to 14 pre-defined landing spots. There are several landing spots on Tasman valley and Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. Hooker valley is off limits to flights though.

  • Sealy Range is located immediately to the west of Mount Cook village. Accessible from Mueller glacier.
  • Highest and best known peaks except for Mount Cook are located in a Main Divide, long ridge of high Peaks running to the west of Tasman valley and to the east of Hooker valley (SW), Fox and Franz Josef glaciers (NW). All peaks of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman are located on Main Divide. East side of Main Divide is accessed from Mueller and Hooker valleys in the south and Tasman valley in the north. West side climbs can be reached from Copland, Srauchon La Perouse and Balfour valleys in the south and Spencer, Fox and Franz Josef glaciers in the north.
  • Mount Cook is located on a separate ridge located between Tasman and Hooker valleys and connected to Main Divide at Green's Saddle, just north of the High Peak. Mount Nazon further to the south is another notable peak on the ridge.
  • East of Tasman valley. Liebig Range is located in southeastern part of th area, to the SE of Murchinson valley. Further north, Aiguilles Rouges and Malte Brun ranges are located to the east of Tasman valley, to the west of Murchinson valley and to the north of Liebig range. These areas is known to have a better quality rock than other areas in Mount Cook region (with the exception of Mount Drake and Mount Magellan). Being located further to the east the area also has better weather than the regions further to the east. Beetham valley between Malte Brun and Aiguilles Rouges serves as a base for many ascents in the area.
  • Palman, Alex: Aoraki Mount Cook - a Guide for Mountaineers, 3rd edition. Isbn: 0-9597630-1-5. New Zealand Alpine Club, 2001.

Mueller glacier

Mueller glacier area is the most accessible as it is located immediately to the west of Mount Cook Village. The glacier is enclosed by the peaks of Main Divide and Sealy range branching to the east the Main Divide.

Especially Sealy Range with Mount Sealy (2627m) is popular. Most routes on the area are relatively easy, so the area is suitable for the first-time visitors. There are also several longer and more difficult climbs on south faces and on Main Divide. Best known climbing objectives are Mount Sefton (3151m), Vampire Peak (2645m) and Mount Footstool. Mount Sefton is the highest peak climbable from Mueller glacier (NZ 3+ - 5, easier Copland valley). Annette Plateau is good base for climbs in Sealy Range.

  • Mueller hut1780Located to the north of Kitchener, west of Mount Cook village.
    Connections:
    • from From Mount Cook village (760m) at the entrance of the valley, 1020m (distance 5,2km), 4h.
  • Barron Saddle hut-43.75832170.000091995
    Connections:
    • from Mueller hut
    • from From Mount Cook village (760m) at the entrance of the valley.
  • Sefton bivvy1617
    Connections:
    • from From Mount Cook village (760m) at the entrance of the valley, 3h.
  • Barron Saddle
  • Sealy Range
  • Vampire PeakSE face
  • Mount SeftonSouth face
  • Mount FootstoolSouth face

Hooker Valley

Hooker valley

Hooker valley is one of the most spectacular ones in the area. Hooker, Gardiner and Empress huts are important bases in the upper valley, access to which involves some objective danger. Flying is not permitted in the valley. From the Hooker valley, smaller Strauchon and inaccessible La Perouse Glaciers can be reached

Climbs in the upper valley tends to be both difficult and serious, while lower part of the valley has easier routes. Main climbing destinations from the valley are western routes of Mount Cook (Sheila, Hooker and South Faces), Mount Dampier (3440m) and South Face of Mount Hicks (3198m).

  • Sefton bivvy1617
    Connections:
    • from From Mount Cook village (760m) at the entrance of the valley, 3h.
  • Copland shelter1960Located high, close to Copland Pass.
  • Hooker Hut1140
    Connections:
    • from From Mount Cook village (760m) at the entrance of the valley, 3-4h.
  • Gardiner Hut1755
    Connections:
    • from From Mount Cook village (760m) at the entrance of the valley, 6-8h.
  • Empress Hut2516
    Connections:
    • from From Mount Cook village at the entrance of the valley, 9-11h.
  • Mount Footstool
  • Copland Pass
  • Mount Beatrice
  • Mount Dilemma
  • Baker Saddle
  • Harper Saddle
  • Mount HicksSouth face
  • Mount Dampier
  • Green's Saddle
  • Mount CookSheila face
  • Mount CookHooker face
  • Mount CookSouth face
  • Mount NazonSW side
  • Ball Pass
  • Mount WakefieldWest side
Strauchon glacier

Strauchon valley offers access to climbs on Mount la Perouse and Dilemma (2602m). The valley is renowed for outstanding rock climbing including the longest rock climb of Australasia, almost 5000' Direct route on Mount Dilemma's Strauchon Face (27 pitches of 5.7+ rock, NZ5). Access to valley is easiest from Hooker valley through Baker Saddle (2192m, NZ 2).

  • Mount DilemmaStrauchon face
  • La Perouse
La Perouse glacier

La Perouse glacier has Mount la Perouse, north face of Mount Hicks, Mount Drake (2960m), Magellan (3049m) and Mount Dampier/Rakiroa (3440m). Access to the valley can be gained either from Hooker valley through Harper Saddle (2585m, NZ 3-), Cook Rover with 2-3days hike or from Tasman valley.

  • La Perouse
  • Mount HicksNorth face
  • Mount Drake
  • Mount Magellan
  • Mount Dampier

Tasman valley

Tasman valley offers probably the best scope for general mountaineering. It allows access to high peaks on Main Divide on the left of Tasman valley and Malte Brun, Aiguilles Rouges and Liebig Ranges to the SE of Tasman valley.

  • lower Tasman valley
  • Grand Plateau
  • Upper Tasman Valley
  • Beetham valley
Lower Tasman Valley

Most climbs in Lower Tasman Valley are not too difficult. However, there are exceptions, most notably 2000m Carolina Face of Mount Cook, the highest face of the range. Access is from Mount Cook village by car to road end (720m). From there 2h hike to Ball Shelter (1020m).

  • Ball Shelter1020
    Connections:
    • from Access is from Mount Cook village by car to road end (720m). From there 2h hike to Ball Shelter.
  • Caroline hut1800
    Connections:
    • from By car from Mount Cook village. Ball shelter (1020m), 2h hike from the road end.
  • Mount WakefieldWest side
  • Mount Kinseywest side
  • Mount CookCarolina face
  • Liebig RangeWest side
  • Aiguilles RougesWest side
Grand Plateau

High glacier Plateau to the east of Tasman valley. Host of long and demanding snow and mixed climbs on the high peaks on Main Divide. Very popular among the climbers as it provides the easiest access to Aoraki/Mount Cook.

All the main climbing objectives of the area are located on the Main Divide. From south to North there are Middle and High Peaks of Mount Cook, Gree's Saddle (3348m), Mount Dampier (3409m) and Mount Hicks (the latter located slightly to the west of the Main Divide, mostly climbed from Hooker valley), Clarke Saddle, Mount Graham with Mount Drake and Magellan further to the west, Silberhorn, Mount Tasman, Engineer col, Lendenfield Peak, Haast with Mount Dixon further to the west, Pioneer Col and Mount Haidinger.

Most popular climbs are Linda Route on Aoraki, Silberhorn Arete and Syme Ridge on Mount Tasman, Mount Haast (3114m) and Mount Dixon (3004m). Plateau and Haast huts are located here.

Access is from Mount Cook village By car to road end in the lower Tasman valley. From there hike via Ball Shelter (2h) through Tasman glacier and Haast Ridge (further 6-8h). The usual practice is to get a small plane ride to the Plateau Hut.

  • Haast hut1980
  • Plateau hut2200
Upper Tasman Valley

Upper Tasman valley has long snow and mixed climbs on the Main Divide, such as Douglas Peak (3077m), Walter Peak (2905m), Mount Darwin (2913m) and Elie de Beaumont (3109m). Most of these have relatively easy normal routes (around NZ 2). 500m high South Face of Douglas Peak has difficult ice routes (NZ 5).

Access through the Tasman valley. From the road end (720m) long hike through Tasman glacier (24km, 15h). Many choose to fly in.

  • Beetham hut2300
  • Kelman hut
  • Tasman Saddle hut1100Beetham hut destroyed in avalanche.
  • Douglas PeakSouth face
  • Walter Peak
  • Mount Darwin
  • Elie de Beaumont
Beetham valley

Used to access climbs on Malte Brun and Aiguilles Rouges massifs to the east of Tasman valley. Malte Brun (3199m) range on the east on the other has mainly rock climbs. Beetham glacier falls from the Malte Brun Pass (2400m) separating Malte Brun (N) from Aiguilles Rouges (S).

Acess from Tasman valley, slightly to the south of De la Beche hut.

  • Tasman Saddle hut1100Beetham hut destroyed in avalanche.
  • Malte Brun
  • Aiguilles Rouges

Murchinson valley

Located to the east of Malte Brun and Aiguilles Rouges massifs. Access from Lower Tasman valley

  • Malte Brun
  • Aiguilles Rouges

Balfour glacier

Remote Balfour glacier is probably most often accessed from Grand Plateau over Silberhorn (NZ3+/4). Most famous climb of the valley is Balfour Face of Mount Tasman. Other highlights include very difficult rock routes of Mount Drake (2974m), Mount Magellan and Torres (3165m).

  • Mount TasmanBalfour face
  • Mount Drake
  • Mount Magellan
  • Torres Peak

Spencer, Franz Josef & Fox glaciers

Spencer glacier, Franz Josef glacier and Fox glaciers are located to the north of Main Divide. Especially Fox glacier is quite popular with several demanding routes. Many climbers choose to fly in. Most popular climbs include North Shoulder of Mount Tasman (3497m), Torres Peak (3160m, traverse Torres - Tasman is a classic), Douglas Peak (3087m), Mount Haast (3114m), Haidinger (3070m) and south faces of Mallory and Barnicoat.

Fox glacier
  • Pioneer hut2380
  • Mount TasmanNorth side
  • Torres Peak
  • Douglas Peak
  • Mount Haast
  • Mount Haidinger
  • Mount Mallory
  • Mount Barnicoat
Franz Josef glacier
  • Centennial hut2400
  • Almer hut
  • Elie de Beaumont

Mount Aspiring National park

Mount Aspiring national park, located some 180 southwest of Mount Cook, is popular among climbers and hikers (tramping is kiwi for hiking). Aspiring area has slightly better weather than Mount Cook region. The highest and by far most famous climbing objective is Mount Aspiring (3033m), the only 3000m peak located outside Mount Cook area. Mount Earnslaw is the second most famous peak in the area.

  • Aspiring Group
  • Forbes Range Another highlight of Mount Aspiring National park is Forbes range. If the scenery of the area seems somehow familiar, it may very well be the case as this was the main location for filming "the Lord of the Rings" trilogy. The highest and most famous peak is Earnslaw (Pikirakataki, 2819m), rising above Rees and Dart valley and to the north of lake Wakatipu, to the SW of Mount Aspiring. Leary Peak (2570m) is another high peak in the area.

Main convenient center is Wanaka, located at the southern end of lake Wanaka. For Mount Earnslaw, the access is most convenient from via Glanorchy (315m), located 50 km to NW at the northern end of lake Wakatipu and accessible from Queenstown or Christchurch by bus. From Glenorchy 4-5h hike to Muddy Creek at the beginning of Rees valley.

There are several glaciers, Bovel, Therman and Volta are the most important ones. The highest and by far most famous climbing objective is Mount Aspiring (3033m), the only 3000m peak located outside Mount Cook area. It is located just outside (W) of Mount Aspiring National Park, to the west of lake Wanaka. Access to Mount Aspiring is 12-16h from the road end through Matukituki valley to Colin Todd hut (1725m). French Ridge hut (1465) is another possibility, but it makes the summit day even longer (usually 8-13h for NW Ridge from Colin Todd hut). It is also possible to arrange fly in. Besides the normal route along Northwest ridge, southwest ridge, often referred to as being the best climb in the Southern Alps, is popular. Stargazer (2341m), Mount Awful and Maori (2507m) are other peaks reasonably popular among climbers.

  • Watson, Mark & Uren, Allan: The Mount Aspiring Region, 2nd edition. Isbn: 9780959763096. New Zealand Alpine Club, 2004.

Darran mountains

Remote Darrans are located in Fiordland national park in the the SW part of South Island. Darrans have good quality rock (granite), the area is known to have the best multipitch rock climbing in the New Zealand. By far the best known climbing objective is Tutoko (2746m). Other notable peaks include Christina (2502m), Sabre (2167m) and Talbot (2110m, East Ridge) on Darrans and Pembroke (2000m) in Fiordland. Because of its its approximity to Tasmanian sea, the weather is problematic enough, as the area has very wet climate, annual precipitation is a staggering 7,5 meters! Some areas can be reached from the road with a reasonable hike. More remote parts are accessed with helicopters.

  • Tutoko
  • Mount Christina
  • Mount Sabre
  • Mount Talbot
  • Mount Pembroke