One of the best alpine tramping trips in New Zealand, the crossing of Ball Pass between the Hooker and Tasman valleys provides excellent close-up views of the South Face and the Caroline Face of Aoraki Mt Cook.
Most parties take two days to complete the route. With overnight packs, the entire trip takes about 14-16 hours of travelling time. Camping equipment is required —Caroline Hut is private, but has a basic shelter for emergency use only, a public toilet, and a water tank.
The crossing is an unmarked route. Anyone contemplating this trip must have excellent route-finding ability in alpine terrain. Crampons and ice axe are usually required, but late in a dry summer they might not be needed. Some parties choose to carry rope and harness; however, if you feel the need to use them you are probably off route. The small glaciers on either side of the pass are generally safe to cross unroped, but large crevasses do form late in the season and can be covered by summer snowfalls — be careful.
The crossing is described from west to east (Hooker to Tasman), but either direction has its advantages. If attempting the crossing from west to east, you’ll enjoy easier routefinding through the bluffs above the playing fields. If travelling from east to west, there are some beautiful campsites in the basins east of the pass, from where you may be able to climb Kaitiaki, Turner, or Pibrac. The steepest slopes are on the west side of the pass, and they are best attempted during early to mid-morning, before the sun softens them — take this into account when planning your trip.
There is mobile phone coverage in most of the Hooker valley and around Ball Pass itself, but there are gaps, so don’t rely on being able to use your mobile for help at any point.
There is currently (August 2020) no access either beyond Husky Flat on the old Ball Hut Road or up the East Hooker (western side) of Ball Pass. This is because of a major storm in December 2019 that caused collapses.