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NZ - Ball Pass unguided info saught

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NZ - Ball Pass unguided info saught

Postby Jascent » Fri Oct 07, 2011 4:11 am

My friend and I are looking to head to Mt Cook Village in early Jan, one of the objectives of the trip is to do the Ball Pass trek from the Hooker Glacier over to the Tasman Glacier. We are hoping to do it without a guide and am just looking for some info/advice from anyone with experience?

We are coming from Australia and have some Victorian winter backcountry experience(snow camping and steep hiking). We also have rock climbing experience(though I doubt much of that will be useful for what are intending to do). We have crampons and ice axes for the snow fields around the pass, are there any specific skills that could be required for the pass that we may be missing?

I realize that Caroline Hut is a private hut so we'd have to camp out, any suggestions as to good areas to aim for the first night?

Any additional info anyone has would be appreciated.
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Re: NZ - Ball Pass unguided info saught

Postby rgg » Fri Oct 07, 2011 4:28 pm

The best info about the route, including possible camping spots, is by the NZ Department of Conservation:
Ball Pass Crossing.
And the Ball Pass route page here on Summitpost is pretty good too.

Rock climbing experience is not necessary, but you'll need good route finding skills and the ability to self arrest on steep ice or snow or you may find yourself in serious trouble.

Route finding is already a bit tricky in bright sunshine, and a lot more so in poor visibility. If you take a wrong turn somewhere, you may have to retrace your steps, or even camp unplanned until you can see something again. With enough spare food that shouldn't be too much of a problem, although in really stormy weather camping near Ball Pass is best avoided.

Image
Ball Pass from the Hooker side

As to the ice and snow section, the part of the route on the glacier on the Hooker valley side below Ball Pass is potentially dangerous. Nothing in Australia compares to this. If you fall in the wrong place on ice, it's steep enough to be potentially deadly, and it's hard to self arrest on ice. If there is no trail to follow, avoid the steepest parts by going high early when you reach the glacier from the Hooker side and then traverse high on the glacier to the saddle.
However, if the glacier has a nice layer of snow on top, it's a lot safer, as self arrest would be a whole lot easier then (but if you don't know how to do that, get some instruction first, or go with a guide). You can get the latest info about the route conditions and weather forecast in Mount Cook village.

Good luck!

P.S. I've done the route guided, with the company that owns Caroline Hut.
Image
The Caroline Face of Aoraki / Mount Cook
Last edited by rgg on Sat Oct 08, 2011 6:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: NZ - Ball Pass unguided info saught

Postby Jascent » Sat Oct 08, 2011 2:58 am

Thanks RGG - good info. That NZ DoC site was very helpful.

I have practiced self arrest a couple of times here in Victoria, on Mt Feathertop which his one of our steepest 'hills'.

The route finding up from the hooker side through the pass was one of the concerns I had, I will make sure we have a couple of days of good weather forecast before heading off. I have multi-pitch rock climbing experience so am confident setting up belays and anchors. I'll be taking my rock gear to Mt Cook to do some climbing around the village so I suppose I'll just ask about conditions before heading off to see if its advisable to carry a rope & harness.
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Re: NZ - Ball Pass unguided info saught

Postby rgg » Sat Oct 08, 2011 6:24 pm

Jascent wrote:... if its advisable to carry a rope & harness.


Since you won't be alone out there anyway, I would say take a rope (and harness), if only because you're going over a glacier - a small one on the Hooker side, a bigger one on the other side, from what I remember - and there can be crevasses. Of course, I was there back in 2007, so the glaciers will surely be smaller now and perhaps easier.
Normally, belaying is not necessary anywhere. The only situation I can think of where you might want to belay is when the glacier has no snow whatsoever. If you know you won't fall, or will be able to self arrest quickly on ice, you can still opt not to use a belay in that case. Otherwise you'll need a couple of ice screws.
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Re: NZ - Ball Pass unguided info saught

Postby huwj » Tue Dec 06, 2011 9:49 am

Hey there Jascent

Stumbled across your post as I was looking for similar info....

I'm based in Melbourne and will be heading over to Mt Cook in the new year. Am looking at doing Ball Pass (unguided) around 2nd week of Jan. I'll be on my own so if you're in the area around those dates and still looking to go over the pass send me a pm! I've got a bit of Himalayan experience so am happy with the grade but would always prefer to go with others...

Cheers

Huw
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