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Going guided: Overnight at Plateau Hut

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June 2020 Issue

A trip into the midst of the highest mountains of New Zealand is made possible for everyone with an overnight stay at Plateau Hut.

Sitting at 2200m, Plateau Hut looks directly across the vast Grand Plateau icefield to the east face of New Zealand’s highest mountain – Aoraki/Mt Cook. To spend a night here is to gain an insight into New Zealand’s climbing culture and heritage.

Day one of the trip offered by Alpine Guides involves flying to the hut and then exploring the Grand Plateau, full of crevasses and seracs – after first learning how to use crampons and ice axes, and how not to get tangled up in rope. The following day, clients are led up Glacier Dome, a nearby 2424m peak, to put their new-found skills to the test.

“It’s reasonably straightforward, but for people who haven’t worn crampons before it’s always an experience,” says guide Anna Loomes.

American tourists Jared Pearce and Suzanne Asprea visited Plateau Hut on their honeymoon and were awed by the scale of the mountains.

“The Grand Plateau is a fantastically wild and scenic place,” says Pearce.

“The hut and this itinerary really are the closest you can get to Aoraki unless you’re climbing it.”

With limited alpine experience, the couple was grateful for the steadying influence offered by their guide. “I don’t think I would have summited Glacier Dome without Anna’s patience and support,” says Asprea. “She was also incredibly knowledgeable about New Zealand mountaineering and environmental issues. It was very cool to get a brief glimpse inside a tight-knit community of people who work on and around Aoraki.”

They did their trip during the height of the climbing season, which runs from November to January and got to share in the highs and lows of those who were there to climb Aoraki.

“We witnessed the helicopter rescue of two climbers who got stuck on the Linda Glacier and a late-night return of two climbers who’d summited via the Grand Traverse,” recalls Asprea.

It’s possible to do the trip in winter – a perfect time for stargazing – but it is much colder then than in summer. On those trips, Loomes packs extra sleeping bags and down jackets. “It’s not a cushy lodge, but we manage to get pretty comfortable,” she says.

Loomes thinks Plateau Hut is the perfect trip. “To get into the mountains and go climbing is a big deal and you have to plan your holiday around it, but with this trip you can get a similar experience without having to commit a lot of time.”

Where Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park
Who Alpine Guides, www.alpineguides.co.nz
When Year-round
Duration Two days
Price From $1155