Ball Pass Crossing is a demanding route that rewards experienced trekkers with unforgettable alpine scenery.
Featuring some of New Zealand’s most spectacular alpine scenery, the Ball Pass Crossing is a demanding route, crossing the Mount Cook ranges between the Hooker and Tasman Valleys. A high level of fitness is required - it's best suited to experienced trekkers - with a 1400-metre altitude climb.
However, there are two easier variations of this hike.
The Ball Pass Summit Trek mirrors the Ball Pass Crossing except that on day 3 you retrace your steps as you return via the Tasman Valley instead of crossing Ball Pass. This avoids an intensive 9-10 hour hike on the last day.
The Aoraki Mt Cook Trek is a shorter undertaking at 2 days, which takes you up to Caroline Hut and back again, but not up to Ball Pass.
If you intend to hike this crossing independently, you'll need previous mountaineering experience.
Day 1, Lake Tekapo > Tasman Glacier > Caroline Hut, 7km, 850m climb
The first day begins by walking parallel to the Tasman Glacier along the remains of the old Ball Hut track. At Ball Shelter the 850m climb up to Caroline Hut begins. Upon cresting the Ball Ridge you'll come face to face with the 2000m high Caroline Face of Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest ice face. With views in all directions, to the top of the Tasman Glacier and down to Lake Pukaki, the 4-6 hour trek to Caroline Hut at 1800m is both challenging and rewarding.
Day 2, Caroline Hut > Kaitiaki Peak > Caroline Hut, 5km, 220m climb, 220m descent
Sunrise over the Malte Brun Range to the east of the Tasman Glacier is a spectacular sight, casting a pink tinge over the snow of Mt Tasman and on Aoraki/Mt Cook. Start today's trek over Fergun’s Knob, following the Ball Ridge up to the neve of the Ball Glacier and on up to Ball Pass and Kaitiaki Peak (2222m). On the glacier guides will teach you how to use crampons and ice-axes, even if you don't have prior experience.
The summit of Kaitiaki Peak provides the ideal viewpoint for the Hillary Ridge of Aoraki and nearly all of New Zealand’s major peaks over 3000m. The return trip from Caroline Hut takes about 6 hours, leaving enough time to relax at the hut and photograph the stunning views.
Day 3, Caroline Hut > Mount Cook Village/Lake Tekapo, 14km, 200m ascent, 1300m descent
The two-hour climb up to Ball Pass will be familiar from yesterday's hike, then it’s onto new terrain for the steep descent into the Hooker Valley. Now the views open up to the head of the Hooker Glacier, the Copland Pass, Mt Sefton and the dominating south face of Aoraki/Mt Cook. Permanent snow cover necessitates the use of crampons and ice-axes (guides willl also be ready with a belay rope if needed). Lower down, you'll need to be nimble on your feet to negotiate loose rocks and scree slopes. Here, icebergs on the terminal lake of the Hooker Glacier and lush flora such as mountain daisies and Mt Cook lilies provide a visual feast. For the last 90 minutes you'll join the popular Hooker Valley trail back to Mt Cook Village, making a total of 9-10 hours of hiking.
During the walk
Caroline Hut belongs to Alpine Recreation, which operates guided Ball Pass Crossing treks.
There are camping sites in the Tasman Valley and Hooker Valley. Ask about them at the DOC visitor centre at Mt Cook.
Before and after
It's best to spend the night before setting out in Lake Tekapo. After the trek you can return here, or overnight in Aoraki/Mt Cook Village.
A specialist tour operator can guide you along the journey - see Alpine Recreation for more.
Information from DOC including features, track description and accommodation. Ball Pass Crossing.