The Grand Plateau is notable for long demanding snow and ice climbs. The area provides the easiest access onto Aoraki/Mt Cook and as a result Plateau Hut is often full in the summer months. The climbs from this base require fitness and often involve a long day’s climbing with a midnight/very early morning start.
1. Haast Ridge, on the northern side of the Hochstetter Icefall. Gained from the Tasman Glacier. Despite being a regular access route the ridge is not easy and has seen at least three fatalities. Gain the ridge wherever a reasonable break exists in the moraine wall, usually further up the Tasman Glacier rather than at the toe of the ridge. Ascend the ridge, which narrows and steepens just before it reaches Haast Hut. Above the hut, use snowfields on the Hochstetter Icefall side to traverse up beneath the “Slipper” (a prominent rock gendarme ten minutes above the hut). Above a small col, near the Slipper, either head up on snow and traverse on the south side of Glacier Dome before descending to Plateau Hut or later in the season climb directly up from the col to the rocks of Glacier Dome, then drop down to Plateau Hut. Schrund conditions at the top of Haast Ridge can become troublesome late in the season.
2. Via the Freshfield Glacier. This is usually used as an alternative descent route below Glacier Dome, especially if Haast Ridge is snow covered. In the right conditions it is a quick descent route.
3. Via Cinerama Col. A scenic route and often used to descend from Plateau Hut.
4. Anzac alternative. A seldom used route exists round the eastern side of the Anzac Peaks and up the slopes next to the Hochstetter Icefall.
5. Fly in. It is possible to fly to the Grand Plateau by ski plane (or helicopter if planes are unable to fly/land). The landing strip for the planes is usually near to Mt Dixon, 10-20 minutes from Plateau Hut. For those arriving on the Plateau –
rope-up for the walk to the hut.
Haast Hut. A nine-bunk A-frame hut with a beautiful view, built on the site of the old Haast Hut (King Memorial) and near the historic Haast Ridge bivouac from which many of the early ascents of Aoraki/Mt Cook were made. Serviced with blankets, cooking utensils, and a radio (~1980m, grid ref: 836-323).
Plateau Hut. A three-room, 30 bunk hut with cooking utensils, a radio and solar lights. In summer check at the Visitor Centre to see how many are in the hut as it tends to become unpleasantly overcrowded. Some parties snowcave on the Plateau (~2210m, no cell coverage at the hut, but possible from Glacier Dome (025), grid ref: 826-322).
From Ball Shelter to Plateau Hut via Cinerama Col 6-8 hours (depending on snow conditions). Descending is quicker but again is dependant on snow conditions – especially on the Plateau (hot tip: get away early).
From Ball Shelter to Haast Hut 7 hours (allow an extra 1-2 hours on to Plateau Hut).