Mountain Aspiring, the tallest mountain in Mount Aspiring National Park, is a moderately sized peak with three distinct knife-edge ridges. It is a popular climb due to its shape and asthetic lines of ascent. Mount Aspiring can be climbed by anyone with good moderate skills. The mountain is located in the southern end of the "Southern Alps" mountain range. Mount Aspiring is oftern referred to as The Matterhorn of the South.
The mountain and over 355,000 hectacres of the surrounding area are protected within Mount Aspiring National Park. With its wondurful mix of glaciated peaks, remote wilderness, and beautiful river valleys, this area has become very popular for trekking and peakbagging. This park, along with Fiordland National Park, are part of Te Wahipounamu - Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area, as designated by Unesco.
The original name of the mountain is Tititia or "Glittering Peak". 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.
The closest major airport to the area is in Wanaka. Wanaka is a 1.5 hour flight south from Christchurch. Flights from the U.S. usually depart LAX and land in Aukland, New Zealand. From here, a small commuter flight is taken down to Queenstown. Most flights from Europe and Asia go through Melbourne or Sydney. Direct flights from Australia to Queenstown are available thereby missing Christchurch and saving one day travel each way if arriving through Australia. An alternate way to get to Queenstown from Christchurch is to take the bus, which takes the better part of a day. From Queenstown catch the bus or arrange transportation to the small town of Wanaka.
Walking access to the mountain is from Wanaka and then to the Matukituki Valley where one can stay at Mt. Aspiring Hut. From there two routes lead further up one to French Ridge Hut and the other to Bevan Col and then to Colin Todd Hut.
A lot of people use a helicopter to fly to Bevan Col and then walk across the Bonar Glacier to Colin Todd Hut at 1,800 meters. From there the mountain can be climbed via the northwest Ridge. A walk in approach from Wanaka requires a full day.
Mount Aspiring is a moderate undertaking for the intermediate mountaineer with good basic skills. The mountain sees about 100 ascents per year. There are two standard routes up the mountain. The most commonly climbed is the northwest ridge, which is rated New Zealand 2. A harder route for the more experienced climber is via the southwest ridge, which is rated New Zealand 3. This route requires a much higher level of skill.
An ascent of the northwest ridge from the Colin Todd Hut involves an elevation gain of almost 1,300 meters and can be done in 1 long day. The lower part of the climb can be done 2 ways. Option 1 is to take the Ramp, a 40 degree snow slope, to the Northwest Ridge. The other way is to get up on Shipowner Ridge which is a mixed rock and snow ridge. Both ways lead to the Northwest Ridge which is a rock and snow ridge up to 40 degrees. It is very common to climb this route without using any ropes, except on the lower glacier.
The southwest ridge route requires a full set of moutaineering equipment. See the gear list on the Mount Cook page.
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.
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. This hut cannot be reserved in advance, first come first serve.
November to March is the main climbing season. It can be climbed at any time of year. Difficulty always depends on weather on snow ice conditions.
Camping is allowed. No fees.
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
Mount Aspiring - The Guide for Mountaineers