The extensive névés of the Franz Josef Glacier are bordered in the east by a series of peaks along the Main Divide. To the south, the Fox Glacier and its névés can be reached easily via a number of passes across the Fritz Range and to the north the remote Spencer Glacier Region provides rugged access to the western flanks of Elie De Beaumont and other peaks. The peaks along the Divide offer both short rock routes in summer and ice climbs in spring and winter.
Centennial Hut was built by the New Zealand Alpine Club in 1993 and provides an excellent base for the climbs on the Main Divide. Centennial also provides a much-needed link between the east and west for those traveling from the Tasman Valley, Pioneer and Almer Huts. And, the Franz Josef Névé is a superb ski touring area.
From the east, Graham Saddle (Route 7.11) provides a good route. From the West Coast, routes up the Franz Josef Glacier can often be troublesome. Travel directly up the glacier usually depends on the state of the second icefall below the Almer Ridge and Almer Hut. Check with Westland National Park staff or Franz Josef guides about the state of the icefall. A route along the Baird Range to Almer Hut, known as the “Goatpath”, exists, but is difficult and not recommended.
A much longer alternative lies via the Fritz Range, which separates the Franz Josef and Fox Glacier watersheds. This route is an excellent ski tour and in winter a fast way from Pioneer Hut (see the Fox Glacier section), provided the weather is fine. From the terminal of the Franz Josef Glacier, commence by crossing the glacier above the first icefall and ascending to Castle Rocks Hut. From the hut climb to the saddle above and traverse Mt Moltke, continuing along the undulating Fritz Range, crossing the Sollas Ridge. Further along, Halcombe Col provides quick access to the Fox Glacier. To access the Franz Josef Névé, continue further along and angle up to the Pench Ridge, west of Von Bulow, and follow around the Davis Snowfield to Centennial Hut. Centennial Hut is situated on the ridge which extends north-west below Mt Jervois. If using this route, take a map, as route finding can sometimes be difficult
- beware of mist later in the day.
If the above routes do not appeal, then good access to the Franz Josef Glacier can be found via the Fox Glacier and West Hoe or Newton passes. It is also possible to fly into the Geikie and Davis snowfields by ski plane or into Almer and Centennial huts by helicopter, from the West Coast, or the Aoraki/Mt Cook side.
Almer Hut. Owned and operated by the Westland National Park, the hut has cooking utensils, blankets, radio and 12 bunks (~1680m, grid ref: 841-443).
Castle Rocks Hut. A WNP hut with four bunks – but no radio (~1160m, grid ref: 808-466).
Centennial Hut. An NZAC hut, it has a radio, cell phone coverage, solar powered lights (including a 12v cell phone re-charging jack!) and 12 bunks. There is also a vestibule including a warden’s bunkroom (~2400m, grid ref: 864-406).
Franz Josef Glacier Road to Castle Rocks Hut 4-5 hours (check glacier conditions).
Franz Josef Glacier Road to Almer Hut 1 day (depending on icefall).
The “Goatpath” Route 8-14 hours (local knowledge necessary).
Almer Hut to Centennial Hut 3-4 hours.
Almer Hut to Pioneer Hut 5-7 hours.
Almer Hut to Graham Saddle 4-8 hours.
Centennial Hut to Graham Saddle ~1 hour.
Centennial Hut to Pioneer Hut 2-3 hours.