FATMAP difficulty grade
The Grand Traverse of Aoraki is a mammoth undertaking and one of the finest and wildest alpine traverses one can undertake in the southern hemisphere.
It is both committing and serious, with prolonged sections of sustained climbing, ridge traversing and an involved descent down the Linda Glacier route.
The Grand Traverse described here ascends the Hooker Glacier to the West Ridge, goes up the West Ridge to Low Peak, traverses to High Peak and descends the Linda Glacier Route to the Plateau Hut.
Some purists may want to make the return journey all the way on foot and this is possible, although often difficult, via the Boys Glacier, or down Haast Ridge.
This route will take a fit team a minimum of two days and often more.
Carry bivouac equipment and be ready for a huge alpine mission! Before setting off on this trip, it's worth trying to find information on the state of the Lind Glacier route for descent and the Hooker and Empress glacier for ascent.
Conditions vary wildly season to season.
If you choose to leave by helicopter from the Plateau Hut then it is worth booking before your trip and carrying some form of communication with you.
Finally, and crucially, you need a good forecast with snow freezing overnight. From the car park in the campsite, follow the Hooker Lake path pleasantly to the lookout at the lake.
Traverse the east side of the lake and drop down scree slopes to the dry glacier at its end.
Follow the rocky tongue of the glacier for a considerable distance until you finally reach dry ice and shortly thereafter the start of the wet glacier, which is heavily crevassed. To reach the upper Hooker Glacier you will need to bypass Pudding Rock- an obvious rocky outcrop on the east side of the glacier.
In early season it can be possible to sneak below this rock on the glacier, but normal conditions will require you to climb the Pudding Rock.
If snow conditions allow, you can gain a cabled and bolted route up the pudding stone where it meets the crevassed section of the glacier.
In late season it is possible to climb to the right of the small rock gully with three pitches up to grade 15. Ascend towards the West Ridge of Aoraki Low Peak, traversing beneath its base onto the Empress Glacier.
Sticking to the left side of the ridge, follow the ever steepening glacier until you can gain the West Ridge from its top, thus avoiding some technical climbing and saving time.
Follow the ridge, keeping slightly left, until the ridge flattens at 3,200m.
Follow the snow ridge to the summit of Low Peak at the not so "low" height of 3,593m. From here begin the spectacular ridge traverse to Middle Peak at 3,717m and then the exposed and more challenging traverse to the main summit of Mt Cook at 7,724m.
It is crucial that you should have an early start for this day so that not only the summit ridge is frozen, but the remaining descent of the Linda Glacier is still in good condition. From the summit, the snow ridge leads quickly down to the summit triangle.
From here a series of eight 30m abseils, between good bolted anchors leads to the glacier.
Snow slopes lead steeply to the Linda Glacier (this section is exposed to rock and icefall) and then follow the Linda Glacier route, which will likely have a track in it, towards the Plateau Hut and a very well earned cup of tea!