Hooker Glacier

(1 route)

The climbs in the upper Hooker are generally serious and demanding, while the lower valley routes are easier, with peaks of the Mt Cook Range especially providing enjoyable climbing. The Hooker Valley is one of the more spectacular in the Aoraki/Mt Cook region but access to the upper valley involves technical difficulty and some objective danger.


There is no air access or flying permitted in the Hooker Valley and for some, this adds to its appeal.
Sefton Bivvy is reached by following the Stocking Stream from the shelter on the west Hooker track, until below the Stocking Glacier. Then head up screes into a large rubble gully (some snow) that leads onto a rocky slope to the north of the main ridge. Above this slope follow a steep tussock gully onto vegetated rock ledges that ramp back to the ridge proper. Follow the ridge mostly on the south side to the bivvy. An alternative route lies up the tussocky crest of the main ridge, starting from the lower scree slopes. Although getting to Sefton Bivvy in summer is relatively straightforward, a number of falls have occurred on this route (2-4hrs).
Getting to Hooker Hut and beyond
The access route to Hooker Hut has changed significantly and no longer uses the vegetated moraine terraces to the west of the Hooker Lake. Avalanches and storms have damaged this route beyond repair. Alternative routes are described below. Hooker Hut has been moved approximately 70m west of its previous position due to the on-going collapse of the moraine wall. At the time of printing this guide the location of the hut was being reviewed. Access to the Copland Ridge, near Hooker Hut, has also been badly affected. Alternative route options are described in the Copland Pass description in this section.
From the White Horse Hill camp ground follow the Hooker Valley track over the swingbridges to the Hooker Lake. Traverse around the western side of the lake at the waterline. Beware of rockfall. At the lakehead continue up the trough between the Hooker Glacier and the moraine wall to a point about 150m south of Hooker Hut (not visible). This point is currently marked by a large (3m high) square shaped rock, with two painted arrows: one indicating the direction of the hut and the other the track to the Copland Ridge. Climb up a loose gully in the moraine wall, adjacent to this rock, to Hooker Hut. Check with park staff for current access information.
If travelling further up valley, continue up the Hooker Glacier, possibly using the ridges in the centre (although on moraine there is no perfect route) until the white ice, where the travel becomes easier. Then proceed to the Hooker Icefall. An alternative to the glacier route lies up the east side of the Hooker Valley, commencing just before the second swingbridge. This route provides access to the upper valley and Ball Pass. A vague track, marked occasionally with cairns, follows vegetated terraces. At roughly the same latitude as Hooker Hut there is a large tussock shelf, continue past this, scramble up around a slip scar and descend back down onto another shelf with a rocky basin. At the end of this, descend down a stream to gain Hooker Glacier. The eastern Hooker Valley route is about an hour longer than the glacier route, quite beautiful and a good way to avoid the bulk of the moraine.
Pudding Rock
The Hooker Icefall flows around a 100m high and rounded protrusion, on the eastern side of the valley, known as Pudding Rock. Although not visible from the icefall, the old Gardiner Hut was situated on top of this rock. Accessing this hut is not easy – some parties have been forced to bivvy and/or return because of conditions.
Before about mid-December the hut can be gained via the icefall directly. Continue up the centre of the glacier past the hut until the glacier flattens out and then loop back to approach the hut from up-valley. Once the glacier becomes too broken alternative options need to be considered.

i) Pudding Rock - using the fixed wires
This is the most regularly used option during summer. Keep towards the middle of the glacier until roughly opposite a waterfall coming down a gully (with an avalanche cone at its base) to the right of Pudding Rock. From near the centre of the glacier there is usually an obvious shallow trough (approximately 150m long) running diagonally towards Pudding Rock, and this provides a good path across. The presence of a deep melt hole near the base of the waterfall indicates that access on to Pudding Rock will need to be gained to the left via seracs and ice boulders. Thirty metres of easy rock (possibly snow covered) needs to be negotiated before the obvious rock ledges and then slabs can be gained. Fixed cables, in three sections (installed in 2001), are attached to the rock via steel rods and bolts, and start from the base of the slabs. This Kiwi-style ‘via ferrata’ continues up through gullies and ledges. Use the wires for safety and assistance. At the top of the wires move up ~25m and traverse ~80m up-valley to the hut. When descending (abseil using the anchors) follow the wires to an abseil station positioned on the edge. The abseil to the glacier usually requires 2 x 50m ropes.
ii) If access from the ice onto Pudding Rock is too tricky then it is also possible to climb the rock right of the waterfall (difficult, and threatened).
iii) In winter or spring the wires on pudding rock may be covered by ice/snow (some snow on the slabs is okay) and the climb will be very difficult or impassable. An alternative is to climb the waterfall gully if it is banked up with snow (beware of a schrund at the top of the snow cone).

From Gardiner hut site to Empress Hut, either head up the main glacier from Gardiner to beneath Harper Saddle before swinging around to Empress Hut (2-3 hours), or else ascend from Gardiner towards the West Ridge of Mt Cook and around the lower Empress Shelf (3-4 hours).
Sefton Bivvy. This bivvy was lovingly rebuilt by DoC staff in 1999 retaining its original character. There are no amenities, except a radio. It will sleep about four people on its wooden floor. The bivvy may be buried by snow in winter or spring. A large rock just beyond the hut can accommodate three people and also provides some good bouldering and top-roping (take a piton or two). Water: if the puddle behind the bivvy is dry, try the basin to the south (~1617m, cell coverage (025), grid ref: 743-203).
Hooker Hut. Managed by AMCNP, with 12 bunks. This hut was the busiest in the park but, due to the problems with access to it and the Copland Pass, it is now one of the quietest. The hut has a radio (and possibly a ghost) (~1140m, grid ref: 770-233).
Copland Shelter. A small barrel-shaped shelter with water (at the rear), a radio and mattresses for four. The shelter may be covered by snow in winter (~1960m, cell coverage (025), grid ref: 760-240).
Gardiner Hut. Was removed after being hit by rockfall from the South Ridge of Mt Cook. (~1755m, grid ref: 770-279).
Empress Hut. A state-of-the-art DoC hut built in 1994 on the original site with significant help and funds from the CMC. Also managed by the AMCNP. It can accommodate 10-12 people, has a radio and a superb deck for viewing and g & ts after climbs (~2516m, cell coverage (027), grid ref: 776-307).
Village to Sefton Bivvy ~3 hours.
Village to Hooker Hut 3-4 hours.
Village to Gardiner Hut 6-8 hours (depending on access onto Pudding Rock).
Village to Empress Hut 9-11 hours.

Reference Title Grade Length Quality Bolts Gone Natural pro Link to edit content
Grade 5 Multi-day Skiing in the Hooker is a big ski-mountaineering undertaking. Skis are more often used for access to winter climbs than for a pure ski trip. The Hooker is steeper than the other glaciers of the region, and there are no aircraft flights to get in and out. Objective hazard is higher, due to the steep sides and narrow glacier. Avalanches and ice falls will often go from one side of the glacier to the other. As for the actual skiing route up the glacier, it follow the centre of the glacier, much like the climbing route description (see the Aoraki Mount Cook Guide by Alex Palman). A frozen terminal lake will make travel to the glacier much faster. Snow on the moraine will save a moraine bash to the white ice. The Sheila, Empress and Noeline Glaciers can all provide good downhill ski runs depending on conditions. !!The Gardiner Hut has been removed!! For access details consult the Aoraki Mount Cook Guide. Empress Hut is a Canterbury Mountaineering Club Hut at 2516m (grid ref 776307) with 10 bunks and radio.
Alex Palman


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Update re access to Hooker Hut: we were the first party to sign the hut book in one year when we visited in Jan 2012. The marked boulder mentioned above no longer exists. The moraine shelf the hut is on is cut completely by gullies that extend back into bedrock both 100m north (Fitzgerald Stream), and 150m south of the hut. Neither of the gullies appear able to be crossed. We climbed a very sketchy, loose gully off the Fitzgerald Stream (helmet definitely needed, some difficult rocky steps, no protection available) and found a difficult, dangerous exit through the branch of the gully with the least overhanging material to reach a position on steep vegetated slopes about 150m above the hut. Would strongly discourage anyone from following. In descent we used the gully 150m south of the hut, we struggled to find a boulder to abseil off over the vertical crumbling headwall into the gully which was also full of loose material, again helmet a must. This route would be very hard to climb out of as there is nothing to protect a climb with. In summary we'd recommend avoiding the Hooker Hut completely until it is re-sited.

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