Encompassing the Mount Cook Range, the peaks above the Ball Glacier contain generally easy climbing, accessed from the old Ball Hut road. The Ball Pass area is an excellent beginners’ playground. Towards Mt Cook, however, the climbs are on a different scale.
The Tasman Valley road that turns off Highway 80 is also known as the old Ball Road and allows vehicle access to Celmisia Flat, or to Husky Flat (if you have a 4WD). A transport service from the Tasman Valley Road to the Blue Lakes normally operates from either the Guide Shop or Hermitage during the summer. It is about two hours or so from Celmisia flat to Ball Shelter on foot. The track that follows along the moraine wall is made up of remnant sections of the old Ball Hut road, constructed during the depression years of the 1920s and 1930s and was used as a road up until the late 1970s. Above the Shelter, the climber has the alternative of descending a gully (‘Garbage Gully’) in the moraine wall onto the Tasman and hence to the Grand Plateau or Upper Tasman, or else ascending Ball Ridge to Ball Pass. The Ball Pass route is described in the Hooker Valley section.
The Tasman Glacier: access & travel
From Ball Shelter follow the track to the very end of the tussock terraces to the rocky slopes. Continue along these for about 60m to a marker post, this is the top of so-called ‘Garbage Gully’. From this point both the Ball and Tasman glaciers should be visible. Descend the gully (despite its name the gully is quite straightforward) to the bottom where it meets the Tasman Glacier. The conditions at the margins of the glacier vary almost daily, but the best route on to the Tasman Glacier is generally directly below Garbage Gully. It involves heading toward the centre of the glacier for about 150-200m (effectively head east). Once clear of the holes, moulins and the difficult to pass ice/moraine slopes, turn up valley and begin the grind. From this point on the glacier, the options are as follows.
If you plan to use the Cinerama Col route to Plateau Hut you need to travel up the Tasman Glacier for only a short time (10-20 minutes) before veering left across to the scree slopes adjacent to the Ball/Tasman glacier junction (on the north side of the Ball Glacier). See Cinerama Col, for the rest of the route to/from Plateau Hut.
For those heading to Haast Ridge, travel up the centre of the Tasman Glacier for about 20 minutes and then aim for the flat section of ice below the Hochstetter Icefall outflow. After this, continue up valley just past Haast Ridge until a suitable point to tackle the moraine wall becomes evident. See Grand Plateau section for details.
If your destination is the Beetham Valley, De La Beche Hut or Tasman Saddle head toward the east side of the glacier and travel up the white ice (you may see an occasional cairn, but don’t count on it.)
Take some music.
Further descriptions can be found in the next section.
Ball Shelter. A small comfortable shelter with a radio, water and two sleeping benches (with mattresses) for approximately eight people, but no kitchen equipment (~1020m, grid ref: 834-274).