Mount Tasman, the second highest mountain in New Zealand, is a huge, beautiful mountain along the continental divide on the south island. It is located in Aoraki / Mount Cook national park next to its big brother. With its shear faces and icy ridges, Mount Tasman represents a significant mountaineering challenge for the experienced snow and ice climber.
The national park protecting the area covers almost 7,000 hectacres which includes 80% of the peaks over 3,000 meters. This park was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco due to its stunning alpine scenery. Many tourists visit the park each year by flying over it in a helicopter or small turboprop airplane. The view is truly breathtaking. The 700 kilometer long range is often referred to as the Southern Alps.
The original name of the mountain is Rarakiora or "Long Unbroken Line". This name was given to it by the Maori, the indigenous people. When the islands were first settled in the 1200s, the Maori believed that the sons of Raki, the sky father, turned to stone and became the mountains. The summits of the mountains are considered sacred by these people, because of Atua and the other spirits that reside here. If you climb the mountains, please do not stand right on the summit, as it is considered insulting and is culturally insensitive.
It is generally believed that the Maori people did not climb any of the large glaciated peaks. The first ascent of Mount Tasman was in 1895 by E. A. Fitzgerald, M. Zurbriggen, and J. Clarke, a year after Mount Cook's first ascent.
"If I were to wish that one New Zealand mountain were to stand alone and all others disappear, it would be Mt Tasman - for the beauty of its soaring ridges and the variety and complexity of its faces but most of all for the quality of the climbing it presents. Its the mountaineers's mountain, yeilding experiences which are no doubt etched onto the memories of all who have ventured onto it."
Courtesy of Cragrat:
North Shoulder 3+ Marcel Kurtz/Harold Porter 1/1927 (Descended)
Heemskik Face 3+ F.A Maurice Conway Wayne McIlwraith 12/72
F.W.A Pete Robertson John Webby 8/77
Arapiles oh Arapiles 3+ M.Roberts, A.Slater 1/1994
North Buttress 4 F.A Alan Berry, Neil hamilton Dec 1955
F.W.A Nick Cradock Dave Vass 7/98
Centurion 5 F.A. (winter) Dave Crow, Andy McFarlane, Jon Taylor 6/94
Direct variation Dave Hiddleston, Dave Vass spring 2000
White Jasmine 5 Dave Bamford, John Nankervis March 1983
Abel Janzoon Face 5 Merv English, Murray Jones Dec 1977
5 F.W.A Steve Elder June 1986
Nipple Rib 5 Phil Grover, John Nankervis Jan 1982
Harris Jones Rib 4+ George Harris, Murray Jones Jan 1969
Stevenson Dick couloir 3+ Doug Dick, Harry Stevenson Dec 1941 (descended)
West Ridge 4 Les cleveland,Neil Hamilton, John Lange Jan 1951 (descended during Tasman Torres traverse)
Balfour Glacier Area:
Hippo Takes a Holiday 6 Brian Alder Dave Vass Sep 1989
Direct 6 Guy Halliburton, Alan Woods Jan 1982
FWA Guy McKinnon July 2004
Mortimer Sissons Gully 5+ Greg Mortimer Noel Sissons Nov 1979
Sissons Buttress 5 John Fantini Noel Sissons Jan 1975
Balfour Rib 4 John Harrison,Brian hearfield,Wally Romanes Jim Wilson Dec 1959
Surreal Insomnia 6 Guy Cotter, Mark Sedon
Mists of Avalon 6 John Fantini, Tony Dignan Jan 1986
FWA Gren Hinton winter 2002
Left Buttresss 6 Marty Beare, John Entwisle Feb 1983
Rattus Balfourus 6 Russell Braddock, Kim Logan Nov 1982
Original Route 6 Bill Denz, Bryan Pooley Dec 1971
FWA Bill Denz Phil Herron Jun 1975
Not Named 6- Athol Whimp, Andrew Lindblade July 1993 (FWA)
Mr Curly's Big Adventure 5 Jonathon Chapman, Joe Stock Jan 1995
Right Buttress Variant Jeff Sandifort, T Vervoni Jan 1997
Grand Plateau Area:
Silberhorn Arête 3+ JackClarke, Edward Fitzgerald, Mattias Zurbriggen Feb 1895
FWA Harry Keys,Noel and Bryan Sissons, Ian Jowett, Keith McIvor, Keith Thompson Aug 1971
East Face (left) 4- Kobi Bosshard, Fritz Schaumburg Jan 1962
East Face (right) 4 Hans Leitner, Eberhard von Terzi Jan 1960
Syme Ridge 3+ Dan Bryant ,Rod Syme 1930
FWA: Bill McLeod 1983
The closest major airport to the mountain is in Christchurch, on the east side of the south island. Flights from the U.S. usually depart LAX and land in Aukland, New Zealand. From here, a small commuter flight is taken down to Christchurch. Most flights from Europe and Asia go through Melbourne or Sydney, then directly to Christchurch.
Unless you have arranged to climb with a guide service, your group has 2 major options of getting to the National Park from Christchurch. First, you can rent a vehicle and drive there yourself. Another option is to arrange transportation to and from the mountains. This may be cheaper overall, but a rental car is handy to sightsee before or after climbing.
From the East: Take highway 1about 200 km south to the city of Timaru. From here turn unto route 8 west to the town of Lake Takapo. Hardcore adventurists can trek the 40 miles west accross rugged terrain to access the Tasman Glacier. This has been done by several groups. Most teams climbing an eastside route arrange for a helicopter or small plane to fly them and their gear unto one of the eastside glaciers.
From the West: Take a commuter flight from Christchurch over to the small city of Hokitika on the west side of the island. From here, rent a car or arrange transportation for the 150 km ride south to the town of Fox Glacier. You then have 2 choices. Option one is to fly ($120 US if you share) or helicopter ($360 US shared) up to the Pioneer Hut for the North Ridge route, or unto the Fox Glacier if you attempting a west side route. This is quite common, but a lot of people think it is cheating. The other way is to approach your high camp by foot which requires 2 days. Ask around in the town of Fox Glacier for approach information and get a topographical map if you decide to do this.
An easier way of climbing the Silverhorn east side route without cheating would be to climb up to the Pioneer Hut on the North Ridge route then traverse over to the Plateau Hut on the Tasman Glacier.
Climbing Mount Tasman is a serious undertaking. Do not underestimate the difficulty because of the relatively low summit elevation. There are no walk-up or non technical routes up the mountain. If you use a plane or a chopper, proper acclimitization must be achieved before attempting the climb. The standard route on the mountain, Silverhorn, is signifcantly more difficult than the Linda Glacier route on Mount Cook. This in turn is significantly more difficult than Liberty Ridge on Mount Rainier. Do not attempt this climb without a high level intermediate or advanced skills in glacier travel, creavase rescue, protective systems, steep snow climbing, and ice climbing.
Silverhorn Ridge is the standard route on the mountain and sees the most climbers. This was also the route of the first ascent. It is rated grade 4 or New Zealand 3+. The high camp is at Plateau Hut on the Tasman Glacier at 2,400 meters. The route starts out by gently rising over the Grand Plateau before obtaining the ridge. The climbing is steep snow and ice along a knife edge ridge with tons of exposure. The summit is the intersection of the three primary ridges. Summit day requires a gain in elevation of 1,100 meters, and usually requires an exhausting 16 - 20 hours round trip if protection is used the whole way up. Freeclimbing the ridge is much faster but more dangerous.
The other popular route is via the North Ridge at the north end of the Fox Glacier. The climbing is of similar difficulty and duration to Silverhorn Ridge. On the way to the summit of Tasman, the ridge takes you over Mount Lendenfeld at about 3,000 meters then descends the col between the two peaks. The final ridgeline to the summit is steep and very exposed.
If these routes are too wimpy for you, try the 800 meter Balfour face on Mount Tasman. This is probably the hardest alpine climb in New Zealand, rated NZ6+, which is grade 7. Similar in difficulty to the harder routes on the North Face of the Eiger.
Descending from high camp can be done via plane, chopper, or foot. It takes one full day to get down to the trailhead from the high camp on the North Ridge.
Winter climbing (May to October) is also quite common. Like other peaks, weather windows are shorter and avalanche danger is higher. The ridges can also be heavily corniced. Use extreme caution.
Here is a list of commonly used technical equipment.
Harness - With adjustable leg loops, gear loops, and belay loop.
Avalanche transceiver and probe.
Altimeter - Helpfull.
Helmet and Headlamp.
Several large locking carabiners.
Several long ice screws.
2 technical ice tools with straight shafts.
Rope - atleast 2 60 meter dynamic coils.
Prusick Loops - Optional for glacier travel.
Snow shovel and saw.
Internal Frame Backpack - 4,000 to 7,000 CI depending on your approach choice.
Sleeping Bag - Down or Synthetic 0 to -10F is suitable in summer, -20F or warmer in winter.
Crampons - General purpose mountaineering crampons.
Boots - Double plastic boots are highly recommended. "High End" leather boots with lots of insulation can also be used.
Overboots - Only needed for a winter ascent.
When to Climb
Summer climbing is done from December to March. Can be climbed at any time under more difficult conditions.
There are no permits required for climbing here. If you use the hut, there is a fee to pay. I beleive that it is about $20 NZ or $8 US per night.
Eyewitness Travel guide to New Zealand
Fodor's Exploring New Zealand
Lonely Planet New Zealand
Nelles New Zealand Travel Map
Adventuring in New Zealand
The Rough Guide to New Zealand
- Alpine Guides Website
If you don't want to organize your own expedition, drop them a line.
- Department of Conservation for Mount Cook National Park
- New Zealand Climbing Links
- More Links