Loose, rocky terrain on the descent from Ball Pass
Maximum of 4 participants per guide
Aoraki/Mt. Cook and the western side of Ball Pass
Taking a break in front of Mt. Sefton
Gear hire is included - no hidden costs
Cosy and fully catered private hut
Caroline Hut sits diretly opposite New Zealands highest ice face the 2000m+ Caroline Face
Ball Pass Crossing
A mountaineering adventure traversing the Mount Cook Range
Trek across high mountain passes surrounded by New Zealand's highest peaks and longest glacier! Enjoy two nights in the private Caroline Hut, savouring the fabulous views of the 2000m high Caroline Face of Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest ice face. Relax in its wonderful setting on the Ball Ridge, high above the Tasman Glacier, and be awed by the ice avalanches rumbling down Mount Cook.
Climb Kaitiaki Peak (2222m) to enjoy the panoramic views of the surrounding Southern Alps, including close up views of the Hillary Ridge and South Face of Aoraki Mount Cook. Explore the Ball Glacier with your guide on the way to crossing Ball Pass (2121m) before the long and steep descent into the Hooker Valley.
The Ball Pass Crossing combines an opportunity to learn basic mountaineering skills and summit a peak with the hard, physically demanding challenge of a high alpine crossing.
"I've done a lot of trips around NZ in my travels over years and I would rate this as the best trip. It was superb, not just due to the tramp and scenery themselves. I think the organization was excellent. I was also very impressed with the easy access to any equipment/outdoor supplies to borrow for the trip."- S. de Boer, Auckland. More client comments
The Ball Pass Crossing is much more physically demanding than the Ball Pass Summit Trek, please read carefully to ensure this is the option you want.
The Ball Pass Crossing is a challenging 3 day alpine traverse of the Mount Cook Range from the Tasman to the Hooker Valley. The trekking route on the first day climbs up onto the Ball Ridge, high above the Tasman Glacier, and opposite the mighty Caroline Face of Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest ice face. You will spend two nights at the private Caroline Hut at 1820m/6000ft, using the middle day to climb Kaitiaki Peak (2222m), explore the Ball Glacier, and practise using crampons and ice-axe. On the third day you cross Ball Pass (2121m) and make a steep descent into the Hooker Valley before crossing back over the Mount Cook Range via Mabel Col (2050m) to return to the Tasman Valley.
This trekking trip focuses on the additional challenge of a long third day, which requires a higher level of fitness and agility and more time is spent up-skilling participants on the second day in preparation for the crossing on the final day. This is an excellent introduction to mountaineering and a good opportunity to familiarise yourself with using crampons and ice axe. Participants need have a significant amount of hiking experience, be good on their feet and have a high level of fitness.
- Hike up high in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, home of New Zealand's highest mountains.
- Challenge yourself to an adventurous alpine trek, crossing snow fields, a small glacier, 2 passes and untracked, rugged terrain.
- Get close to the mighty Aoraki Mount Cook and enjoy breathtaking views of nearly all of our 3000m peaks.
- Be awed by Aoraki's Caroline Face as you hike along the Ball Ridge and watch its ice avalanches from the safety of Caroline Hut.
- Climb Kaitiaki Peak (2222m) and learn how to use crampons and ice-axe.
- Tap into the experience of your mountain guide to learn new skills and venture onto terrain you wouldn't otherwise attempt.
- Enjoy the comfort of two nights at the private Caroline Hut at 1820m/6000ft, with guaranteed bunk space in a spectacular location.
- Relax in the good company of like-minded adventurers and hear an exciting tale or two from your guide.
- Little or no mountaineering experience? No problem, but you do need to have done lots of hiking, be good on your feet and have a high level of fitness.
- Don't have all the gear? No worries - all equipment is provided - including boots, harness, crampons, ice-axe.
|returning client discount (on individual bookings), if you have been on an Alpine Recreation trip before.|
|Group Booking Discounts (NZ$ per person)|
|Group booking of 3|
|Group booking of 4-6|
|Group booking of 7-8|
- IFMGA/NZMGA certified mountain guide
- National Park fees
- Heated PRIVATE hut accommodation
- Local accommodation for any nights required during the trip
- Free transport (Tekapo - Mt. Cook return)
- ALL meals (including snacks & energy bars) for the duration of the trip
- ALL mountaineering and trekking equipment
Meals and accommodation before/after the trip are NOT included.
+Minimum & Maximum Numbers
A minimum number of 2 participants is required to run this trip. If you end up being the only person booked on the trip, you will be offered the choice of:
- paying an additional fee of NZ
- rescheduling to another trip/date
- a full refund
The maximum number of participants per guide is 4. The maximum group size is 8, with 2 guides.
Take advantage of our group booking discounts and get a group of family and friends together. The amount of discount you will be eligible for will depend on the group size - the more people you book, the more your discount will be! If our scheduled dates don't suit your group's travel plans, please contact us as we can reschedule a trip to suit (subject to guide availability).
Please note that group bookings are not private bookings - if you wish to keep your group closed (ie. you have a private guide just for your group), a surcharge will apply. Alterntatively you can book a group of 4 or 8 (which will ensure there are no others in your group).
Green : Minimum reached - guaranteed departure.
Orange : Only 4 or fewer places available.
Red : No availability.
Aoraki - a special mountain, a special area
↑ Aerial photo of Ball Pass and Caroline Hut
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park offers New Zealand's most spectacular alpine scenery. All of New Zealand's 3000m plus peaks, except Mt Aspiring, are contained in this national park and the adjacent Westland National Park. This is New Zealand's climbing mecca. Most peaks are accessible only to experienced mountaineers. However, alpine hiking or trekking is possible close to Mount Cook on the guided Ball Pass Summit Trek, in the company of experienced mountain guides.
On the Ball Pass Crossing you will enter a "topuni" area, a place of great spiritual significance to Ngai Tahu, the Maori tribe who were the first people to occupy most of the South Island.
"Aoraki", the name given by Ngai Tahu to New Zealand's highest peak (Mount Cook), is their most sacred ancestor, from whom they derive their identity and "mana" or status. Aoraki possesses power over life and death and represents a link between the natural and spiritual worlds. It is a huge privilege to pass through this area and take in the awe-inspiring views that Aoraki and the surrounding mountains offer.
Venue: Caroline Hut
Caroline Hut is the ideal location for an active mountain holiday.
Caroline Hut is the only guide/operator-owned mountain hut in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and is available for the exclusive use of Alpine Recreation parties. As we are not using public huts there is no risk of overcrowding, facilities are clean and you have a guaranteed bunk.
Located at 1820m on Ball Ridge, directly opposite the Caroline Face of Aoraki Mount Cook, Caroline Hut is a great location to experience the mountain views in comfort.
The hut is equipped with firewood, gas, solar lighting, satellite communication devices, Department of Conservation radio, sleeping bags and nonperishable food. A wood-fired stove means there are good heating and drying facilities.
The hut consists of two rooms, sleeping up to 10 participants and 2 guides in total. There are no showers, but warm water and a basin can be provided for washing. The two traditional longdrop toilets have one of the most spectacular views in the country!
Endurance, Agility & Technical Difficulty
↑ Exposed, rocky sections of Ball Ridge - you need to be sure-footed, well-coordinated and have good balance. Photo: B. Boucinhas
Endurance: Grade 4 - "Very Challenging"
A high level of fitness is expected. Fit people will still need to train prior to undertaking this adventure. Ascents of 1200+ vertical metres are likely. Expect 10-12 hour days or longer, carrying a 10-12kg backpack. Early alpine starts may be required. Expect some discomfort due to long days and exposure to elements. Must be dedicated and used to long days in rough, untracked terrain.
Agility: Grade 4 - "Advanced scrambling agility"
Committing and challenging for experienced trekkers. Sustained concentration and focus required for difficult sections. Exposure to heights or large drops likely. Confident footwork and scrambling over rough, loose and steep terrain required (eg. pulling yourself up on vegetation, clambering over boulders). Crampons and ice axes required for crossing moderate snow slopes (≤ 35°), alpine passes and/or glaciated terrain.
Technical: Grade 1 - "Beginner Mountaineer"
No prior rope skills or experience with crampons/ice axe required. Basic 10-point crampon, ice axe, self-arresting and glacier travel skills will be introduced by the guide if applicable.
+Trip Difficulty Ratings explained
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For the guided Ball Pass Crossing you need to have lots of previous trekking, backpacking, tramping or bushwalking experience. This trek is beginner mountaineering and is more demanding than other guided hikes in New Zealand, such as the Milford or Routeburn Tracks, because it is alpine, traverses snow fields and a small glacier. There is no track and the terrain is often uneven and you have to place your feet carefully. In places there are loose scree slopes to negotiate.
If you are planning to walk the Milford and Routeburn Tracks or any of the other Great Walks, then it is best to do these prior to the Ball Pass Crossing, because those hikes are much easier.
Please see this photo gallery for examples of terrain.
Regular hikes of at least 8 hours' duration involving significant vertical ascent are recommended as preparation for this trip. You do not need prior mountaineering experience. All trips to Caroline Hut require a solid level of fitness to cope with the mountain terrain. Early season (November-December) you are likely to encounter soft snow even below the hut. If you have never walked in deep snow before, then the best way to prepare for this is to walk through sand dunes or somewhere where there is loose sand, where you lose a good percentage of your momentum with each step. Mid to late season (January - April), when the snow has melted back, you will encounter firmer snow and loose scree (rock) slopes, especially if you do a crossing. The best training for this is to hike over smooth rock slabs and along rough, stony riverbeds or beaches where there is an uneven surface, where you have to watch your foot placement. You need to be practised at this to be fast enough to do the crossing.
Participants for a Ball Pass Crossing need to:
- be very fit (be able to ascend up 300 vertical metres within an hour with a pack)
- have extensive hiking, tramping or bushwalking experience
- be able to walk nimbly over steep, rugged, untracked and exposed terrain
- be able to hike or climb 10-12 hours in a day without difficulty
- be sure-footed, well-coordinated and have good balance
- have no fear of heights or problems with vertigo
For easier options, we recommend the Ball Pass Summit Trek or the Aoraki Mount Cook Trek.
Mountain Conditions & Weather
Early season (November - December) there can be deep snow to contend with. If necessary we will outfit you with snowshoes. Late in the season (mid February - April) snow has often completely disappeared, leaving crevasses wide open. However, even in the middle of the summer there can be new snowfall, and as we get to autumn (March - April) the chances of this increase.
The guide will give you a thorough gear check before departure to ensure you are adequately equipped for both the hot and cold of a mountain environment.
Routes & Itinerary
↑ Aerial photo of Ball Pass and Caroline Hut.
BALL HUT & CAROLINE HUT ROUTE CHANGES
The intense and prolonged rainfall of 1-8 December 2019 caused significant damage to the traditional route to Ball Hut and Caroline Hut across Husky Flat. Significant damage was also sustained on the east Hooker Valley (the traditional route taken after crossing Ball Pass). Alternative foot access routes to Ball Ridge and from the East Hooker Valley back up onto the Mount Cook Range and descending back to the Tasman Valley have been successfully established, and Alpine Recreation guides are familiar with the ongoing changes to the routes. The current foot access to Caroline Hut takes approximately 2 hours longer than traditional route up Ball Ridge and is through rough and challenging terrain (some sections involve pulling on steep vegetation, clambering across loose scree and negotiating large boulder fields). Please see this photo gallery for examples of terrain. The new loop over Ball Pass and Mabel Col is comparable in time to the traditional East Hooker route, but spends more time in alpine terrain. If you are unsure whether your fitness and agility are sufficient, please contact us before booking your trip.
6-8 hours trekking, 5.5km distance, 1200m ascent.
8am gear check at Alpine Recreation's Edelweiss Lodge, 8 Erebus Place, Lake Tekapo.
Drive to Mount Cook (about 1 hour), transfer to 4WD vehicle and drive as far as possible up the old Ball Hut Road, parallel to the Tasman Glacier. The effects of glacial recession are very evident as we hike beside the lateral moraine. Climb up onto Ball Ridge and along to Caroline Hut at 1800m/6000ft, perched right opposite the awe-inspiring Caroline Face of Aoraki Mount Cook. The panorama includes Aoraki Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, all the mountains adjoining the Tasman Glacier, and Lake Pukaki.
Your guide will choose one of two routes (Waterfall direct or Cove Stream) depending on conditions and weather. If snow conditions are firm below Caroline Hut, you are likely to be introduced to crampons and ice axe.
In addition to our personal clothing, the crampons, ice-axe, helmet and harness, we will be carrying some fresh items of food (e.g. bread, fruit, vegetables, meat). The hut is stocked with nonperishable food, mattresses, pillows, sleeping bags, cooking and eating utensils, gas and firewood.
If you are fit enough to do the full Ball Pass Crossing you will be expected to complete the ascent to Caroline Hut from the Ball Hut Road in 6 hours.
Ball Hut Road → Caroline Hut: Elevation profile
6-8 hours return from Caroline Hut.
Practice basic mountaineering techniques, using crampons and ice-axe. Climb Kaitiaki Peak (2222m/7290ft) south of Ball Pass and take in the dramatic views of the South Ridge of Aoraki. Maybe explore a crevasse on the Ball Glacier. Back at Caroline Hut take time to watch the sun set on Mt Tasman and the ice avalanches thunder down the Caroline Face.
10-12 hours trekking, 8.5km distance, 700m ascent.
This is the longest and toughest day, with exposed and steep slopes to negotiate. We cross Ball Pass at 2121m/7000ft. Now the view opens to the South Face of Aoraki, the Hooker and Mueller Glaciers, Mount Sefton and the Copland Pass. The steep descent from Ball Pass usually requires the use of crampons and often a rope if conditions are icy. The terrain is rugged and untracked and you rely on your professional mountain guide to find a safe route around bluffs into the East Hooker Valley. After a break, climb back up onto the Mount Cook Range and descend back to the Tasman Valley, passing an alpine lake, spectacular gorges and waterfalls on the way. Return travel to Lake Tekapo.
Finishing times can vary from 5-8pm depending on conditions and fitness/ability of participants. It is best to organize accommodation in Tekapo or Mt Cook Village and not plan to drive far after this long day.
The crossing is subject to safe snow and weather conditions. The professional judgement of your guide will take into account all factors, including client fitness for the conditions. Please see our Bad Weather Policies.
Caroline Hut → Ball Pass → Ball Hut Road: Elevation profile
All of your equipment will be checked during the gear check at our office at the start of your trip. Any equipment you need to borrow from us will be issued by your guide.
Alpine Recreation provides helmets, harnesses, crampons and ice-axes. Outdoor clothing, packs and boots can also be provided at no extra cost if necessary. Please see the equipment list for further details.