This is the most popular high climbing area on the West Coast. Pioneer Hut provides an excellent climbing base with access to numerous recommended climbs on the 3000m peaks surrounding the head of the Fox Glacier. The routes are generally demanding but by starting from a high base their seriousness is reduced. The whole area is an excellent winter and spring ski touring region. As access is not easy most parties elect to fly in by ski-plane or helicopter.
From the east the best route is via Governor Col (see Route 6.48) from Haast Ridge or Plateau Hut (crossing the East Ridge of Dixon). Other routes from Plateau Hut, such as Marcel Col, are considerably more difficult but can be quick in hard conditions. The route via Graham Saddle is circuitous, involving crossing the Franz Josef Glacier névé and West Hoe Pass, but it provides a beautiful and reasonably safe high alpine journey.
From the West Coast the best route is up the Fox Glacier. From the glacier terminus head up the left side (north) of the glacier to get onto the glacier proper. Cross over the white ice to the south side and drop into a rocky gully between the glacier margin and the scree/moraine. Follow this gully until opposite the Victoria Falls. Cross the glacier again to the north side and follow rocks beside the glacier until a prominent bluff, next to a creekbed, is reached. Continue past this, moving off the ice to gain a vegetated shelf. Continue for another 150m and then turn left up a creekbed/track that weaves up through the vegetation to the western end of the Chancellor Shelf. The historic Chancellor Hut is situated at the upper end of the shelf. Conditions on the Fox Glacier, more specifically where parties need to get on and off it, change quickly. Check current conditions with Alpine Guides Westland or DoC.
Beyond Chancellor Hut, continue to the top of the shelf and then drop onto the “the trough”, a flat section near the edge of the Fox Glacier. Then follow the edge of the glacier keeping hard under Chancellor Dome. Crevasses at this point can present problems late in the season. From here, head up the left side of the glacier, toward Von Bulow, and then swing around, to travel up the Fox Glacier parallel to the Fritz Range before finally angling across to the prominent depression known as the Pioneer Gap between the upper and lower Pioneer Ridge. Ascend the snow slopes close to the toe of the upper Pioneer Ridge (but beware of slab avalanches in winter and spring). Pioneer Hut is situated on the west side of the gap.
A popular descent route from Pioneer Hut, especially on skis in winter, is along the Fritz Range described under the Franz Josef Glacier section. This route can be accessed either from West Hoe or Newton passes (and traversing above the Franz Josef Névé) or via Halcombe Col.
Other access and/or descent routes lie along the Victoria Range starting from Rocky Creek or along the southern side of the Fox Névé via the Paschendale Ridge and Boyd Creek. The former is not recommended because of its length and the latter because of rockfall danger in Boyd Creek.
Air access is also possible. Ski-planes land under the South Face of Douglas, about
30 minutes from Pioneer Hut. Helicopters and ski-planes also land on the south side of the Fox Névé, on the Big Mac landing strip, below Katies Col. Chancellor and Pioneer huts can also be accessed by helicopter.
Chancellor Hut. A classic hut from a bygone era situated in a spectacular spot on the Chancellor Shelf. Westland National Park staff are doing a superb job restoring this old hut to its former glory. It has friendly keas and a radio. The toilet has one of the best views in New Zealand. There are 12 bunks (~1250m, grid ref: 762-401).
Pioneer Hut. Owned by NZAC and managed by WNP. The hut is serviced with cooking utensils and a radio. This 15 bunk hut is also a popular ski-mountaineering base (~2380m, grid ref: 822-380).
Fox Glacier Road to Chancellor Hut 5-7 hours.
Chancellor Hut to Pioneer Hut 5-6 hours.
Pioneer Hut via the Paschendale Ridge to the Fox Glacier Road 9-10 hour.
(Don’t forget this time is going downhill. It’s slower coming in.)
Pioneer Hut to Castle Rocks Hut, via the Fritz Range, 6-9 hours.
(This is a walking time. Skiers will make faster time.)
Pioneer Hut to Centennial Hut 1.5-2.5 hours.
(Also refer to the Franz Josef Glacier section for times.)
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