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Winter Mountaineering in Arthur's Pass

Arthur's Pass, New Zealand


Added by Tobin Akehurst

Arthurs Pass is home to high, snowy and easily accessible winter climbs, here is a brief guide to some of the areas winter mountaineering routes.

Several mountaineering routes start right off the road in Arthur's Pass making it a great alpine training ground with nearly endless opportunities. Many of the routes are just hiking routes in summer, but in winter snow piles up to transform them into steep, exposed and exciting climbs. 

I will outline the basics of the more popular routes below. There are place in order of difficulty, beginning with the easiest.

Mt Bealey: Mt Bealey is a great route for beginners, and maybe the most scenic of them all. The route begins by ascending the Mt Bealey Track through beech forest. The maintained track ends at the bush line. From here follow the ridge crest, which at times can be very exposed, until you reach the Point 1,760m a common turn-around point for some parties. Continue along the ridge which grows steeper and narrower towards the true summit, Point 1,836m. Bear in mind travel from the Low Peak to the High Peak can be very time consuming.

Avalanche Peak: There are two routes up this mountain, Scott's Track is typically the superior and safer route in winter. Scotts Track climbs through beech forest along the edge of McGrath Creek Canyon until bush line. Beyond 1,500 meters the route follows the ridge crest which can turn into a wildly exposed fin of hard-packed snow. Some steep front-pointing may be required. Proficiency at self arresting is mandatory.

Mt Aicken: The Mt Aicken Track begins near Punchbowl Falls. The track climbs though steep beech forest until it arrives at broad slopes below Point 1844. Beware of avalanches here. Beyond Point 1844 the route follows a fairly straightforward ridge crest which may be heavily corniced. This route is fairly straightforward but very long and subject to dangerous snow conditions.

Mt Cassidy: Mt Cassidy is the most technically demanding route I will lay out here. Begin on the Cons Track which is reached just after the Bealey River Crossing on the Punchbowl Falls Track. Climb the steep track until you reach bush line and then rocky bluffs. Continue north under the bluffs until you reach a steep gully which turns to climbers right. This gully is long, steep and often filled with hard snow and ice. Once atop the gully easy slopes lead you to the main ridge which can be heavily corniced and exposed. Slopes just below the summit are avalanche prone. It is possible to descend by way of Temple Basin.

These descriptions are provided as a starting point only. You should consult topographic mapsThe Arthurs Pass Guidebook , www.arthurspass.com and the visitor center in Arthur's Pass Village before climbing. Do not climb beyond the scope of your abilities and remember that your safety is your responsibility.

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