FATMAP by Strava

Traversing from the Kelman Hut to the West Coast

Mount Cook

A stunning traverse through Mount Cook and West Coast National Parks

Also in Canterbury, New Zealand

Ski Touring Difficult

34 km
2 km
3.2 km
1 day +
Low Point
1.2 km
High Point
2.7 km
Traversing from the Kelman Hut to the West Coast Map

Looking at the map it is easy to see why you would want to do this traverse. Heading from the East over the great divide is as scenic as it gets but it is far from easy. This trip has a bit of it all with long ski runs, moraine bashing and an intensely challenging traverse that is getting worse every year through glacial melting. While most of the route is easy getting over to the West Coast Glaciers is not and should only be done by people who are confident on crampons and know how to move on glaciers. While there are huts along the route make sure to have good weather while skiing while being in a whiteout will be life threatening.. When I did this trip we started from the now closed Murchison hut so instead will describe it from the Kelman Hut.


Flying is the way to go when it comes to getting up the Tasman Glacier. Not only will it save you time but also your gear will not be destroyed when arriving in the high country. Leaving from Mount Cook Airport take either an airplane or a helicopter up to the base of the Kelman Hut and start your planning by getting the weather forecast from the radio in the late afternoon.

Once you feel confident with the forecast start early in the morning by riding down the Tasman Glacier as far as you can go. Before long you won’t be able to ski anymore and will have to start hiking on the glacial rocks. At around 1250 meters you can finally make your way up the Rudolph Glacier valley where it starts in rocks but soon enough transitions to ice once again. Heading up the valley you will need the climb up the Southwest slopes to Graham Saddle.

The next section is the crux of the trip as you need to do a steep sidhilling traverse to get just above the lower icefall. For us this was a two ice axe and front pointing experience but after around an hour we were back onto the glacier and doing the long slog up to Graham Saddle. Once there you can see the Tasman Sea and Glaciers of the west coast.

Dropping onto the north slopes from Graham Saddle ride 300 meters before reaching the lower flats of the Chamberlin Snowfield. Now traverse a bit southwest over to the Centennial Hut for the night where if lucky with the weather you will be able to continue the next day.

Leaving from the Centennial Hut start traversing a bit southwest to make your way over to West Hoe Pass. Standing on top you can’t see the slope under you but you want to traverse around 10 meters to the skiers left before descending to avoid a crevasse. Being on the Explorer Glacier you can head up to the Pioneer Hut or just start riding down to the Fox Glacier. This is probably the most scenic descent of the whole trip as you head down the skiers right side into a gully that sticks right next to the glacier. At 1500 meters it is time to start hiking as you traverse over to the Chancellor Hut.

From the Chancellor hut you should be able to radio in a helicopter out if you haven’t already arranged one. Being lucky you may be able to save some money by going back down in an empty helicopter as they dropped off some tourists up higher. While you can hike down it will add a lot more time to the trip so in my opinion this is the way to go.

This is basically half of the Symphony on Skis which my link shows most of the route but we didn’t have a car to head up the Godley Valley so we did what we could in the situation.

For more pictures and the full story check out this link https://www.whereiskylemiller.com/new-zealand/symphony-on-skis/



Serious gradient of 30-38 degrees where a real risk of slipping exists.

High Exposure (E3)

3 out of 4

In case of a fall, death is highly likely.


3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

between September and November


  • Alpine
  • Cliffs
  • Ski Safari
  • Ski Mountaineering

Equipment required

  • Rope
  • Skins
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons
  • Glacier kit

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area