A conversation with mountain guide Tim Robertson
Why would you want to climb Mt Tasman?
To climb Mt Tasman is a more difficult task than Aoraki. Tasman is a classic narrow snow ridge, snow arete kind of climb. It’s super exposed so it gets fewer ascents than Aoraki. It’s a more difficult peak which is seldom climbed. More of climber’s mountain.
Are there any particular challenges?
The challenge is basically the exposure. We have to traverse a 3000 m mountain, Mt Lendenfeld, then drop down, then up and over Tasman and you have to regain that height on the way back. So people have to be confident enough to move well with extreme exposure. There is a 1000 m drop off one side and a 500 meter drop off the other. And that’s just on the first peak, on Lendenfeld.
The north shoulder is a glaciated feature, so as the glacier changes sometimes there is an ice cliff there and the route is completely cut off. In other years there is a short step of really steep ice while at other times there’s a snow ramp and you hardly notice the feature. At those times we’re climbing 45-50o ice or snow, straight up the route and straight over it. The ridge changes a lot.
There is some steep down-climbing required, the route is more difficult than Aoraki Mount Cook and we have to retrace the same route that we ascended.
But despite the extra difficulty, the objective dangers when we climb Mt Tasman are lower than Aoraki/Cook.
So how do you approach this ascent?
When we climb Mt Tasman, I like to bivouac at Marcel Col, which is just under 3000 m, and then make the summit attempt from there.
What do you look for in a client who wants to climb Mt Tasman?
Someone who can move really well and efficiently on steep snow and ice, and on super-exposed terrain. Tasman is really a climber’s mountain.