Rising as the highest summit in the group of peaks between the Murchison and Tasman glaciers, Malte Brun is one of the classic peaks of the Southern Alps of New Zealand. The West Ridge (NZ Grade 3), with its famous "cheval" section, is one of the finest alpine rock climbs in the range with rock that is extremely solid by New Zealand standards. But a number of other star-quality routes can also be found on the peak, including "Rightside Direct" and "Zig Zag" on the south face and the East Rib, the classic route from the the Murchison valley. Also of classic status is the Northwest Face (NZ Grade 3+), a sustained rock climb starting from the Bonney Glacier and the route of Tom Fyfe's incredible solo-FA in 1894.
Malte Brun is a somewhat remote peak by New Zealand standards and all approaches are reasonably involved. Routes on the south face can be reached from the Beetham valley and the route to Malte Brun Pass. While flights can be arranged to a point on the Tasman glacier at the entrance to the Beetham valley, there is currently no hut and a camp must be placed somewhere near Malte Brun Pass. Plans are in place to rebuild the Beetham Hut, which was destroyed some time ago, although the proposed site is quite low in the valley, which may limit is usefulness. Routes on the Murchison side are also difficult to access, although flights are possible to several landing sites on the Murchison Glacier. Note that the upper Murchison Glacier can also be gained by crossing Tasman Saddle from the upper Tasman Glacier. Access to the West Ridge is possible from either the Beetham Valley and Malte Brun glacier or via the Darwin and Bonney Glaciers.
Mount Cook Village is the starting point for all climbs on Malte Brun. The village can be reached in about 3 hours from either Chirstchurch or Queenstown. Christchurch is the larger city, with international flights from Asia, the US, and Australia. Direct flights from Australia to Queenstown are also possible.
Bus transportation is available to Mount Cook Village:
has daily service between Christchurch and Queenstown, with a 1-hour stop in Mount Cook Village. The bus stops at the YHA hostel and the Hermitage hotel.
2) Atomic Shuttles
also has a daily Christchurch-Queenstown run with a stop in Twizel (70 km from Mount Cook Village). Continuing service to Mount Cook Village is then possible with High Country Shuttles (0800 435 050) or The Cook Connection
Hut fees must be paid if staying at any of the DOC or NZAC huts in the park. The Mount Cook Visitor's Center is open from 8:30 to 18:00 daily during summer and hut fees can be paid upon returning from the mountains. It is recommended to complete an "intentions form" before heading into the mountains. Otherwise, no permits or fees are required to climb anywhere in the park.
When To Climb
The summer season, which typically runs from November to February is the best time for an ascent of Malte Brun. The rock routes are easier when free of snow (typically later in the season), but glacier approaches become more difficult. This is particularly the case, since Malte Brun lies east of the Main Divide and receives less snow during the winter. Snow and ice routes are possible in the winter and early in the summer season.
Camping and Accomadation
A number of accomadation options are available in Mount Cook Village, including several hotels and a YHA hostel. There is also a campground a few kilometers outside the village, reached via the gravel road leading into the Hooker Valley. The best option for climbers though is probably Unwin Lodge
, managed by the NZ Alpine Club. This large and well equipped hut is $25 per night for non-Alpine Club members or $10 per night for members. There are several bunk rooms, a large kitchen, and a common area with fireplace, couches, tables, and internet access (limited use only). The hut is a good place to find partners and to meet other parties who may want to split the cost of a flight into the hills.