Ball Hut

Ball Hut

Ball Hut is small three bunk hut in Aoraki (Mount Cook) National Park that is situated between the Ball and Tasman Glaciers. It is a small three bunk hut that is tucked between large mountain ranges above and moraine and glacier below. Previously the hut was much easier to access. Due to a large slip in December of 2019 large amount of rainfall causing an enormous landslide around Husky Flat and a erosion of the track throughout parts further on from Husky Flat too. This has made the hike significantly more difficult compared to before. Since the slips, a new route has been created to reach Ball Hut. Marked by cairns and orange poled markers, good route finding skills and experience hiking in New Zealand’s backcountry is essential. The more challenging route has detracted the masses but provides an interesting challenge to a spectacular New Zealand backcountry hut.


3.5 hrs




596 m


BX15, BX16



Zach finally approaching the beginning of the old track to Ball Hut after crossing the final washout

43°37′42″S 170°11′24″E

In Detail

Previously the track into Ball Hut was much easier to follow with the landscape changing dramatically over the past year. In December 2019 a large washout after enormous amounts of rain resulted in Husky Flat destroying an extensive section of track. The detour that has now been created requires experience in route finding and off track tramping. A further section of track has been significantly affected since the washout along the track. If you’re planning on staying at Ball Hut ensure that you pop into the DOC visitor’s centre at Mount Cook village, fill in an intentions form and purchase the number of hut tickets you require. The visitors centre records the number of people who have filed intentions on staying the night at huts in the Mount Cook National Park each night. This gives an idea of the availability at the hut determining whether you carry a bed roll.

Looking out towards the Tasman Glacier and De La Beche from the flats just outside Ball Hut

Getting To Ball Hut

From Christchurch the drive down to Mount Cook usually takes approximately 4 hours. Take State Highway One out of Christchurch following it through to Ashburton then on until the State Highway Seventy Nine (SH79) turn-off. Follow the highway through to the Orari Bridge. Take a right turn here. Follow the road through Geraldine and onto Fairlie. These spots are great places to stop if you need to use the bathroom. When you reach Fairlie take a right turn onto State Highway Eight and follow it through to Tekapo and Pukaki. From Pukaki the turn-off to Mount Cook is less than a five minute drive. From here, the drive takes approximately 50 minutes. As you approach Mount Cook Village you will reach a signposted turn-off to Tasman Glacier.

Ball Hut Route

If you are in a four wheel drive vehicle with a reasonable amount of clearance you can shave off about two or three kilometres off the trip by parking up at the chained gate just before Husky Flat. Climb high enough alongside Husky Flat river to reach a position where you can cross the stream. From the stream bed a bush section has been freshly cut due to the slip making the section manageable. Regain the vehicle track until it runs out. The track is well marked from here onwards before you reach the second slip. Two route options go from here. It was explained to us that most viable route was across the upper scree slope following cairned markers to the hut. An alternative approach follows a poled route ascending and descending steep scree.

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Ball Hut Weather

Weather in the Mount Cook region can change rapidly between sunshine to heavy rain and snow for a period. Even in December and January it’s possible for snow to be falling at the elevation of the car park. Ensure that you have a good rain-coat and warm clothing in case it becomes cold and the wind rises. There are a couple sections of the track with knife edge drops on either side. If the wind rises in these areas it could become difficult to manage obstacles along the track through these sections.

Ball Hut Track

The track begins along a smooth vehicle track from the Tasman Glacier Walk. It’s possible to drive much of the track towards Husky Flat. On this trip we made it as far as the first large puddle along the track before turning back around. The puddles can be avoided by following a route around the very edge of the vehicle track. There are at least three puddles over this small section of track that you’ll need to negotiate. From here on the track is smooth sailing with a gradual climb along the way.

Top: Puddles that stopped us from driving further along the track to cut down our travel time
: The winding four wheel drive track on the most significant climb of the first section of track

Along the track there are a number of Avalanche prone zones, marked by wooden green signs as shown below. They come in pairs, one for entering an avalanche area, and another when you leave the avalanche zone. As the sign says, don’t stop throughout these zones. It’s best to keep your feet moving. At the chained gate there is enough room for a fair number of cars to park up before following the road up to Husky Flat. The final road section has a Himalayas look about it with the long gravel road with snow capped peaks behind.

Top left: A couple ahead of us making their way along the track
Top Right:
One of a few Avalanche warning signs in the area, it’s pair was always found a little further down the track
Approaching Husky Flats along the original four wheel drive track before it got gnarly

Tasman Glacier

From the major washout you get an impressive view of the Tasman Glacier. Depending when you reach Husky Flat tour guides on inflatable boats are often taking people out around the glacier. Fallen fragments that have come off the glacier can be seen floating in Tasman Lake are often a clean subject for a minimalist photo. It’s a sad but beautiful scene when you realise how often the glacier is retreating each and every year.

Looking down upon Tasman Lake as guide boats move tour around the icebergs

Husky Flat

Husky Flat is a major roadblock between getting to the hut. The enormous slip cut-out at least a good couple hundred metres of what was once road over the stream. To navigate this section, follow the stream up until the washout becomes crossable, marked by a small cairn. The washout and make it onto the other side. Rainfall has washed out almost all of the moraine beyond the start of the track. You must take the route up through the bush to reroute through to Ball Hut. Detailed below is a more in-depth route guide across Husky Flat.

Top: Zach releasing his bladder on the edge of Husky Flat
Looking down from the otherside of Husky Flat to the washout below

River Route

The route begins from a large cliff falling sign where the track drops off into the middle of the canyon. From here there is an approximate fifteen minute climb up along the rocky riverbed to reach a point along the canyon which is crossable. Interspersed cairns mark a route through the rock bed. Look out for them along the way to give you a relative guide of where to follow up the stream. A much more defined route down to the shrub track from the opposite side of the stream.

Zach making his way up along the flats to a high enough point where we could cross the washout on Husky Flat

Climbing along the tree route

After you’ve made it across the washout, you’ll be greeted by plenty of scrub around the edge of the mountain. Follow the ridge and the remaining riverbed down until you reach a large dominant cairn. Shrub has been cleared to make a defined route through the shrubs. From a distance a dirt brown trail through the bush. Follow the route, keeping an eye out for orange tape tied to shrub branches along the way. The majority of the route is reasonably well cleared making it difficult to lose.

Top Left: The beginning of the route among the trees marked by a cairn and a good amount of rockfall
Top Right:
Partway up the initial part of the climb the route well instated with plenty of shrubs being fell
Another party making their way around a large boulder along the route as is sidles across the hill

Descent back to the original Ball Hut track

Although it may be difficult to lose the track, the track does require a good amount of balance and strength the sections of track that you are up against. Fortunately in many places there are plenty of branches or tied back tussock that you can grab hold of to pull yourself up on. After traversing the hill you are able to get a view down to the opposite side of Husky Flat and the four wheel drive track you are well on your way to getting past the first detour along the original Ball Hut track.

Left: A typical section of track through the bush that had been shrub cut
Making our way through the descent down through the bush wrestling with a few plants along the way
One the descent back down to the track again, a small piece of orange tape can be seen tied to a tree branch, husky flat in the background

Road Travel

It’s definitely a relief for the legs once you arrive back on the four wheel drive track that has been well paved and smoothed out in contrast to the tree climbing and scrambling section that you previously had to wrestle with. The stark contrast between the rough trail and this smooth, well maintained road in the middle of nowhere comes as a nice surprise.

Looking up along the remnants of the old track which remains intact

Boulder Hopping

Unfortunately the road doesn’t take long to run out and you’re back to engaging the rock hopping skills. The following section of track involves some balance and a healthy amount of rock hopping across the ridge and through to the next section of track. Care should be taken throughout this next section of track as boulders can slip around quite often if they aren’t jammed against each other quite so hard. Having a pole as Zach did can come in handy to give you that extra point of balance throughout the hike.

Top: A quick skippdy hop across a boulder. Tasman Lake in the background
Navigating our way through one of many boulder fields along the route

The rock hopping eventually ends and breaks into boulder fields with grassy meadows for a section. The original track follows around the edge of the meadow, but we found that for the comfort on our feet it well worth paving our own way through the grass. Orange triangle stakes mark the way through to the final section of the slip .

Top: Approaching another boulder field finding our way through a soft grassy patch of track, a change compared to the usual rocky outcrops
Middle Left:
Looking up towards the Tasman glacier, our first good look towards where we were heading
Middle Right:
Zach pacing his way up and along the newly created track through the grass
Spying out the next orange marker highlighted in the sunlight to the left

Ball Hut Route Washout Two

Looking across to the next section of track there are two options for getting across the section of track. On the journey into Ball Hut we climbed and traversed the scree slope on the way to the hut and returned by the washed out track. Either way was difficult although in a party you are much more likely to dislodge rocks on the climb up the eroded scree slopes leading to potential injury if not all members have a climbing helmet. It’s a challenging section where a well-deserved rest is worthwhile.

Looking across to the second washout along the track, the original four wheel drive track can be seen to the right, the second track centre frame blocked by a rockfall

Scree Slope Route

The scree slope was the advised route given to us on our way to Ball Hut. It begins marked by a cairn higher up along the track. The climb is steep and at times will almost have you on all fours while you keep your balance. The large cairn marking the beginning of the traverse gets you to a line of sight position where you can observe a further two large cairns in the distance on your traverse to Ball Hut. The rock is loose along the scree slope meaning that you must really dig your feet into the side of the mountain to keep a good grip.

Top: Climbing up towards the cairned marker before beginning the traverse
Middle: Zach crossing the scree slope aiming for a cairn that we could make out along the route
The large iconic cairn that can be seen from a large distance away on the scree slope, it’s the spot to aim for

Passing the two large marked cairns you’ll find that yourself back in the grassy meadows with shrubs in the surroundings. Pick your path down through the rocks and shrubs and you will soon find your way back onto the well cut track back to Ball Hut. Not far out from the hut is a rain collector water tank that stores rain water in a tank that is relatively safe to drink, take the time to fill up your bladder or bottles here before heading on into the hut.

Top: Making our way down through the small shrubs towards Ball Hut seen as the small red spec in the middle left of the picture
Bottom: Zach taking a long drink from the rain fed water tank from

Ball Hut

Ball Hut is a small three bunk hut nestled between the Ball and Tasman Glaciers surrounded by 2000m peaks. The hut is laid out with a bunk bed on the west facing wall. A small bench stainless steel for cooking and a basin outside the hut. Although the water tank that feeds the basin catches plenty of water from the roof the tap to let water flow in and out is broken. The toilet is a long drop with a view. Fitted inside the hut is a mountain radio that will ring at 7pm during the summer which will give you a weather update if you call in. Due to an issue with the radio we were told by DOC that you are able to hear what was transmitted from DOC but they were not able to receive your messages from the hut.


3 Bunks


Mattresses, Water,



Top: Ball Hut at sunset, the toilet with a view making and an appearance in the background
Looking up to the Malte Brun Range as the last light slips from the mountain peaks

A range of wildlife was observed during our time at Ball Hut. We were fortunate enough to see two or three kea (native New Zealand mountain parrots) while we were waiting for sunset to come. If you do manage to snap a picture or sight a kea in the area, take the time to report your sighting on the Kea database. We managed to get a good sighting of what we thought was a Chamois from a distance at dusk from the hut just before dark. The surrounding mountains are absolutely stunning with a touch of alpine glow in the evening.

Top: An intrigued kea hopping around the flats close to the hut
Ball Hut at dusk
Looking out over Tasman Glacier and the Southern Alps at dusk

Return Journey from Ball Hut

As mentioned earlier there are two routes through the second slip coming from the carpark. On the way back out of curiosity we took the route around the slip to get an idea of whether it was an easier alternative to traversing the scree. Returning via the original route begins along the same well cut path and leads you right the way out to as steep drop. The large cairn that can be seen from the hut is still easily visible if you do decide to take the recommended approach across the scree slope instead. Either way requires substantial effort from your core to keep you balanced along the slopes and requires you to be stable on your feet.

Top: The well worn track leading out from Ball Hut is like the calm before the storm
Zach searching for a route as we approach the end of the track before dropping through scree or sidling across the boulder slide

Original Route

The original route is marked by orange markers that are displaced throughout the landslides that you must navigate. For the most part it’s relatively easy to see where you need to get to, however, it can take some time to find a reasonable route between the two markers which you need to pick out. Beginning with a steep drop down through a boulder field leading onto a larger scree slope brings you down to the sunken original track. Although it is overgrown in places a good bit of rock hopping is required.

Top Left: From the original track the track falls away quite steeply through rockfall for a start
Top Right:
Looking back up to the scree slope descended beyond the path shown to the left
Bottom Left:
Finding another orange marker amongst the scrub to follow
Bottom Right:
Looking back towards the original with it’s fair share of rockfall that has made it difficult to cross

After overcoming a difficult descent and rock hopping about the difficult section comes when you must ascend the scree slope again to regain the track. All of the rock is not very forgiving with little to grip onto, acting very much like a slippery slope. It’s easy to dislodge a few rocks and cause a cascade of small rocks and boulders to follow on down. Rocks will clear anything from out beneath them. Ensure you bring a helmet to protect your head.

Top: Unfortunately the track didn’t last forever and you must climb the scree back up again to regain the track
Bottom: Looking out over the original track that falls away at this point

Husky Flat to the Road End

The route back to the car is exactly the same after the second washout from the car park. The walk through husky flat is a matter of navigating as you feel comfortable for finding a spot to cross. The higher up you head the easier it is, although the more walking that you’ll have ahead of you. It’s certainly a relief when you make it back onto the vehicle track where you can pick up the pace and look forward to the comfort of your car.

Top: Heading back up the flats towards Husky Stream
Zach taking a break on the way back down Husky Flat admiring the Tasman Glacier and lake