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Areas in Hooker Glacier Valley

Mount Hicks, South Face 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 1
Elevation: 7,871 ft
GPS: -43.601, 170.12 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
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Shared By: Karl Henize on Jan 25, 2017
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Description

The Hooker Glacial Valley is an extremely beautiful glacial valley to the west of Mount Cook, which contains some of the best alpine climbs in New Zealand.

There is no air access or flying permitted in the Hooker Valley.

Once you get to the terminal moraine that dams the glacial lake, there are no easy approaches to the Gardiner and Empress Huts.

The Hooker glacier is heavily crevassed and has been rapidly receding in recent years. The lateral moraines are often unstable and the bergshrunds can be difficult to navigate.

Getting There

When you enter Aoraki National Park and see Mount Cook, the Hooker Glacial Valley will be the obvious large valley to the west of Mount Cook.

If travelling further up valley, continue up the Hooker Glacier, possibly using the ridges in the centre (although on moraine there is no perfect route) until the white ice, where the travel becomes easier. Then proceed to the Hooker Icefall. An alternative to the glacier route lies up the east side of the Hooker Valley, commencing just before the second swingbridge. This route provides access to the upper valley and Ball Pass. A vague track, marked occasionally with cairns, follows vegetated terraces. At roughly the same latitude as Hooker Hut there is a large tussock shelf, continue past this, scramble up around a slip scar and descend back down onto another shelf with a rocky basin. At the end of this, descend down a stream to gain Hooker Glacier. The eastern Hooker Valley route is about an hour longer than the glacier route, quite beautiful and a good way to avoid the bulk of the moraine.
Pudding Rock
The Hooker Icefall flows around a 100m high and rounded protrusion, on the eastern side of the valley, known as Pudding Rock. Although not visible from the icefall, the old Gardiner Hut was situated on top of this rock. Accessing this hut is not easy – some parties have been forced to bivvy and/or return because of conditions.
Before about mid-December the hut can be gained via the icefall directly. Continue up the centre of the glacier past the hut until the glacier flattens out and then loop back to approach the hut from up-valley. Once the glacier becomes too broken alternative options need to be considered.

i) Pudding Rock - using the fixed wires
This is the most regularly used option during summer. Keep towards the middle of the glacier until roughly opposite a waterfall coming down a gully (with an avalanche cone at its base) to the right of Pudding Rock. From near the centre of the glacier there is usually an obvious shallow trough (approximately 150m long) running diagonally towards Pudding Rock, and this provides a good path across. The presence of a deep melt hole near the base of the waterfall indicates that access on to Pudding Rock will need to be gained to the left via seracs and ice boulders. Thirty metres of easy rock (possibly snow covered) needs to be negotiated before the obvious rock ledges and then slabs can be gained. Fixed cables, in three sections (installed in 2001), are attached to the rock via steel rods and bolts, and start from the base of the slabs. This Kiwi-style ‘via ferrata’ continues up through gullies and ledges. Use the wires for safety and assistance. At the top of the wires move up ~25m and traverse ~80m up-valley to the hut. When descending (abseil using the anchors) follow the wires to an abseil station positioned on the edge. The abseil to the glacier usually requires 2 x 50m ropes.
ii) If access from the ice onto Pudding Rock is too tricky then it is also possible to climb the rock right of the waterfall (difficult, and threatened).
iii) In winter or spring the wires on pudding rock may be covered by ice/snow (some snow on the slabs is okay) and the climb will be very difficult or impassable. An alternative is to climb the waterfall gully if it is banked up with snow (beware of a schrund at the top of the snow cone).

From Gardiner hut site to Empress Hut, either head up the main glacier from Gardiner to beneath Harper Saddle before swinging around to Empress Hut (2-3 hours), or else ascend from Gardiner towards the West Ridge of Mt Cook and around the lower Empress Shelf (3-4 hours).
Shelter
Sefton Bivvy. This bivvy was lovingly rebuilt by DoC staff in 1999 retaining its original character. There are no amenities, except a radio. It will sleep about four people on its wooden floor. The bivvy may be buried by snow in winter or spring. A large rock just beyond the hut can accommodate three people and also provides some good bouldering and top-roping (take a piton or two). Water: if the puddle behind the bivvy is dry, try the basin to the south (~1617m, cell coverage (025), grid ref: 743-203).
Copland Shelter. A small barrel-shaped shelter with water (at the rear), a radio and mattresses for four. The shelter may be covered by snow in winter (~1960m, cell coverage (025), grid ref: 760-240).
Gardiner Hut. Was removed after being hit by rockfall from the South Ridge of Mt Cook. (~1755m, grid ref: 770-279).
Empress Hut. A state-of-the-art DoC hut built in 1994 on the original site with significant help and funds from the CMC. Also managed by the AMCNP. It can accommodate 10-12 people, has a radio and a superb deck for viewing and g & ts after climbs (~2516m, cell coverage (027), grid ref: 776-307).

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