Aoraki Mt Cook

(33 routes)

Among the celestial visitors were four sons of Raki who were named Ao-raki , Raki-roa , Raki-rua, and Raraki-roa . They came down in a canoe which was known as Te Waka o Aoraki. They decided to return to their celestial home, but the karakia which should have lifted the waka back to the heavens failed and the canoe fell back into the sea and turned over onto its side. The waka listed and settled with the west side much higher out of the water that the east. Aoraki and his brothers clambered on to the high side and were turned to stone. They are still there today. Aoraki is the highest peak and his brothers are the next highest peaks near him – Rakiroa (Mount Dampier), Rakirua (Mount Teichelmann), Rarakiroa (Mount Tasman).

To Ngāi Tahu, Aoraki represents the most sacred of ancestors, from whom Ngāi Tahu descend and who provide the iwi with its sense of communal identity, solidarity and purpose. The ancestor embodied in the mountain remains the physical manifestation of Aoraki, the link between the supernatural and the natural world.
The tapu associated with Aoraki is significant to the tribal value, and is the source of the power over life and death which the mountain possesses. Standing on the very top the the mountain denigrates it's tapu status, and climbers are encouraged to stay off the true summit.

Aoraki / Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand. Its height, as of 2014, is listed as 3,724 metres (12,218 feet). It sits in the Southern Alps, the mountain range that runs the length of the South Island. Aoraki / Mount Cook consists of three summits: from south to north, the Low Peak (3,593 m or 11,788 ft), the Middle Peak (3,717 m or 12,195 ft) and the High Peak. The summits lie slightly south and east of the main divide of the Southern Alps / Kā Tiritiri o te Moana, with the Tasman Glacier to the east and the Hooker Glacier to the southwest.

Despite its modest height relative to other mountains internationally, to approach Aoraki from 700 metres above sea level is involves technically challenging climbing with a high level of glaciation. Its level of difficulty is often underestimated and can change dramatically depending on weather, snow and ice conditions. The climb crosses large crevasses, and involves risks of ice and rock falls, avalanches and rapidly changing weather conditions. The approach is often avoided by helicopter due to difficult travel and route-finding. Aoraki has claimed the lives of 70+ climbers since the first ascent in 1894 by New Zealanders Tom Fyfe, Jack Clarke and George Graham. The climbing season traditionally runs from November to February, and hardly a season goes by without at least one fatality.

The Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai (DOC) runs the Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Rescue Team (AMCART) and the Visitor Centre at Aoraki Mount Cook Village. DOC maintains an intentions system which national park users are encouraged to use, to aid in search and rescue. Intentions can either be filled out at the Vistors Centre in the foyer, or sent via e-mail to
Mountain conditions can be found by calling the Visitor Centre, Alpine Guides Ltd, or on various conditions pages spread throughout social media. The Mountain Safety Council runs a website with public avalanche forecasting and public observations.

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Reference Title Grade Length Quality Bolts Gone Natural pro Link to edit content
Aoraki Mount Cook Grand Traverse V 3+
A ‘GT’ involves traversing Low, Middle and High Peaks (or vice versa) of Aoraki/Mt Cook. The section from Low Peak to Porter Col involves some rock, whereas the rest of the traverse is ice (and this can be hard, especially in winter). The ridge line from Low to High Peak is New Zealand’s highest and most exposed mile providing the most spectacular and famous traverse in the Southern Alps. In its day it was regarded as one of the most impressive achievements in world mountaineering.
Freda Du Faur, Peter Graham, Darby Thomson, January 1913
Zurbriggen Ridge IV 3+
A classic Mt Cook climb. Ascend snow slopes on the edge of the East Face to gain the ridge 400m up, then up a rock step of poor rock (in certain conditions this can be sidled on the East Face). Above here follow snow slopes and the occasional rock pitch to gain the Summit Rocks where the standard Linda Glacier route is joined. Then ascend the north-east arête (commonly referred to as the ‘ice cap’) to the summit. The first three pitches of this route are the steepest, after which it relents a little.
Mattias Zurbriggen (with John Adamson to 3200m), March 1895.
Bowie Couloir IV 3+
Climb the prominent gully between the Bowie and Zurbriggen Ridges, following the right variation couloir at the top to meet Zurbriggen Ridge, then continue to the summit. Involves steep gully climbing.
J Barry, D Nicholls, November 1969
Bowie Ridge ,V 4 13
The full buttress is recommended as a route to the summit.
#EwbankAlpine (Technical)Alpine (Commitment)Alpine (Mt Cook)AidWater IceMixedBoulder (Hueco)LengthBoltsTrad

Climbed from its toe in the Linda Glacier, or from the nerve below the Bowie Couloir. Not quite as difficult as the Upper Buttress.


Can be approached from either the upper Linda Glacier or from a subsidiary gully from Bowie Couloir. The upper buttress comprises good rock. Traverse a ridge with gendarmes to join Zurbriggen Ridge.

(Upper Buttress) Dick Irwin, Hamish MacInnes, Peter Robinson, February 1956
Bowie Face IV 5+ 18 500m
wire representing trad
The Bowie Face is the relatively neglected steep rock face on the right side of the Upper Bowie Buttress. A route of 10 pitches ascends the left/ centre of the face.The route starts from the upper Linda Glacier and then follows a narrow chimney , which is often iced up, (crux 18). The rock is excellent with more potential further R.
Kevin Boekholt, Nick Cradock, Dec 1984
Linda Glacier IV 3
While this is the easiest and most climbed route on Aoraki/Mount Cook, it is also one of the most dangerous, being menaced by icecliffs. The lower glacier is often heavily crevassed and there is considerable danger from ice avalanches off the right (Divide) slopes. At the head of the glacier under the Gunbarrel (the prominent and active icecliffs of the Upper Linda), traverse left very quickly across the Linda Shelf to join Zurbriggen Ridge below the Summit Rocks (these provide access to the summit, which is over 400m above). A 150m gully that runs directly from the Linda Shelf to the start of the Summit Rocks is a popular alternative to traversing to the Zurbriggen junction. Climb the rocks - there is usually a series of ice gullies running up through the rocks which make for easier climbing. Late in the season parties may need to venture further toward the East Face. Once above the Summit Rocks follow the north-east ice cap to the summit. The easiest way to get onto the summit ridge is to traverse to the west, overlooking the North Ridge and Sheila Face, and climb a short step to follow a sustrugi filled ramp that leads to the top. Due to the 1991 avalanche the very top is probably not a smart place to stand and climbers are asked to respect the wishes of Ngai Tahu by not standing on the very top. The Linda Glacier is the most common descent route from Aoraki/Mount Cook. Most parties use two abseils (100m) when descending the Summit Rocks. As a result there can be a ‘Christmas tree’ of abandoned slings and other assorted anchors in the rock and ice. Check these thoroughly before using them for abseiling. There have been numerous falls on this part of the route. As a general rule, ascents of the ‘Linda’ take anywhere from 15-18hrs or more depending on conditions and the speed of the party. It’s a big day out in any language. To make sure it’s one to remember: get fit, plan, prepare and practice. If there are many parties intending to do the Linda (or Zurbriggen) - try to avoid a Summit Rocks bottleneck – and don’t forget your camera. A flat section on the Bowie Ridge above Teichelmann’s Corner, accessible from the Linda Glacier, provides a relatively safe bivvy spot. There is also a schrund, uphill of the Linda Shelf, which has been used for shelter.
Hugh Chambers, Jack Clarke, Jim Murphy, Hugh Wright, February 1912.
Gunbarrels V 4
The left side of the Gunbarrels has been used as a ‘short cut’ to the summit from the upper Linda by various parties. Andrew Lindblade and Athol Whimp descended the right side in winter 1997. The feasibility of these routes is highly dependent on the condition of the upper ice cliffs.
Harry Ayres, Bruce Banfield, Tom Duffy, Jack Ede, Ernie Gilmore, Peg McMahon, Norm Southern, December 1941
NR North Ridge V 4+
wire representing trad
From the upper Sheila Glacier head up the rib to the left of Fyfe’s Gut - the narrow couloir directly below the saddle. It is possible to climb Fyfe’s Gut but watch for dangerous stonefall. The route comes out above Green Saddle. Then up three prominent steps on the North ridge, the last and more difficult ‘Beare Step’ being turned via either a steep hand traverse or an abseil into a couloir on the Sheila Face. It is also possible to bypass the 'Beare direct' by a rock variation on the face to the left at about Grade 14 (Whimp/Tweedie). A classic route used for the first ascent of Aoraki/Mt Cook. It was descended by at least four parties on early ascents but this is not recommended. Green Saddle can also be accessed from the Grand Plateau: Ascend to Green Saddle from the Linda Glacier (schrunds can be problem late in the season). First ascended from the Linda Glacier by Harry Ayres, Oscar Coberger, Dec 1951.
Jack Clarke, Tom Fyfe, George Graham, 25 December 1894
Earle Ridge V 3+ 900m
Gain the ridge at Earle’s Gap and then follow the broad ridge on mostly poor rock. At about 3200m the ridge flattens out before meeting the final headwall. Depending on how iced the rocks are, either climb up steep ice gullies directly above or traverse left and use the Sheila Face exits, or even further left to the top of the North Ridge.
Jack Clarke, Laurence Earle, Alex Graham, Peter Graham, March 1909
Alex Palman Photo by Clayton Garbes


Type Title Link to edit content
Face (Alpine) East Face (5 routes)
Face (Alpine) Endeavour Buttress (3 routes)
Face (Alpine) Sheila Face (8 routes)
Pass Earle’s Gap (4 routes)
Face (Alpine) Hooker Face (4 routes)

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