Tasman Glacier, Mt Cook National Park

A long hot day on the moraine of the lower Tasman Glacier, early Summer (November). Mt De La Beche and the Minarets are the 3000m peaks on the left. Graham's saddle is indicated by the snowy horizon to the left of them. These snow fields feed the Rudolph Glacier which is occluded in this view. It joins the Tasman at De La Beche corner, just visible. De La Beche ridge leads from the corner up to De La Beche, we are looking straight on at the ridge in this view. On the right side of the valley is the Malte Brun range, with Malte Brun and Aiguilles Rouges prominent on the rocky ridge line (left & right resp.).

We are resting beneath the Hochstetter icefall. Mt Cook and the Grand Plateau lie above. The Tasman Glacier is the longest glacier in New Zealand (some 30km+) and walking up the moraine always seems like a chore. Although the Glacier's length has not shrunk much in the last hundred years, its thickness has dramatically reduced. The crumbling moraine walls on both sides of the valley are almost 200m high. The ice was above the height of the moraine walls as little as 90 years ago. Climbing up the moraine walls is one of the hazards of the Mt Cook area.

Mt Cook landslide

Most of the surface moraine visible in this view is actually the debris from the East face and high summit of Mt Cook which collapsed in 1991. The landslide started some 2500m above the glacier and travelled 6km to where it is now. I can't remember the speed at which they calculated that the debris hit the valley floor but I think the accompanying shock wave was supersonic. Unbelievably no one was killed. The landslide came within a few hundred metres of Plateau hut and within 2hrs of climbing parties attempting the (now non-existent) summit.

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Copyright (c) 1996 Jonathan Carr