Godley Glacier & Neish Plateau from Sealy Pass, Main Divide Southern Alps.

August 15 2020 The Godley Glacier is at the northern end of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. There are three branches of the glacier; the Neish Plateau, the Amherst/Mt Shyness glacier, and the Terra Nova pass/McClure branch. These spill together to form the Godley Glacier, which eventually melts its way into the Godley Lake.
The north of Mt D’Archiac

The Neish Plateau is well sheltered by the surrounding peaks, keeping the glacier shady and freezing. We found good snow some ten days after the last snowfall. The plateau’s snow-pack also appears to be well sheltered from most winds except maybe a gale southerly.
At around 2100m on Neish Plateau

Recently the huts on the West Coast Glaciers (Centennial and Pioneer) have been chocked full with ski tourers. If you are prepared to camp, then the Neish Plateau offers an excellent adventurous alternative. The skiing is excellent, the views outstanding, and you are not likely to see anyone else.
Camping on Sealy Pass

The terrain is suitable for intermediate skiers as it is possible to negotiate the terrain without hitting the steeps.. Sealy Pass also has a large area of intermediate level bowls and slopes, enough for a day or two of skiing.
Sealy Pass is in the foreground centre and offers lots of bowls and ski touring terrain. Background from left: Mt Shyness with the long left trending glacier. Mt Petermann prominent to the front showing a stunning face and couloir. Just to the right of Petermann is a shady ramp, possibly giving access to the Amherst gl? To the right in the distance is the pointed McClure peak. The Godley Gl east branch is in the valley, and the rock tooth in the back is The Commander.

There are also plenty of steep lines, most of which I assume have not yet been skied. Check out the lovely line on the west face of Mt Petermann, or the lovely 100m coloir directly above the landing zone.
Glacier skiing on the Godley Glacier

Glacier travel experience is required and one has to be mindful of crevasses. However the geology of the plateau and glacier lends itself to easier glacier travel.
Looking east from around 2000m on Neish Plateau. Mt Petermann on the left with a stunning couloir. Sealy Pass foreground centre left. Godley valley east branch

There are areas of ice-fall, objective hazard and avalanche triggers, however these can be mitigated with route selection. Sealy Pass does not have these same hazards.
Neish Plateau at 1950m. Plateau leading to the Maud Gl is to the left above the icefall

Helicopters offer the only feasible access into and out of the area. There is no landing area on the glacier, however there is a landing site just outside of the park’s boundary.
Mt Kennedy centre, Mt Wolsely to the left, Neish Plateau

Heli Services from Franz Joseph will stage a pick-up from the LZ at Whataroa. In 2020 the charge is 600$ per flight with a 400kg payload. (three persons plus gear). This is roughly the same price as a flights from Franz Joseph up to Centennial Hut.
Landing Zone below Sealy Pass

We camped up on the Sealy Pass. There are excellent views of Mt D’Archaic, the Scone and Perth Rivers, McKinnon Pk, Mt Petermann and Mt Wolseley, and all the way out to Mt Sibbald.
Camping Sealy Pass. Mt Petermann in background

Camping on the pass is fine in good weather, however it is exposed to wind from the North and the South and would not be a pleasant place in inclement weather. Good winter camping skills are required in this area.
Skiing off Cumine Pk on the Neish Plateau. Mt D’Archaic background centre left, Mt Sibbald background right

Skiing the Neish Plateau from Cumine Pk

Our first day we toured up to the head of the Neish Plateau, and skied from 15m below the lovely summit of Cumine Peak. There are superb views of the Butler Range, all the way down to Okarito lagoon, as well as south to Mts Cook and Tasman.
Ascending McKinnon Peak, Mt Cumine in background

Next we headed for a scramble up McKinnon Peak. Then a lovely ski directly back down the Glacier to our camp on Sealy Pass.
Skiing the Neish, McKinnon Pk in background

Skiing down the Neish Plateau at about 2400m, below McKinnon Pk.

Our objective for day 2 was to ascend the glacier ato the col just south of the summit of Mt Petermann, and then ski tour up the Amherst Glacier to Mt Shyness. Conditions didn’t allow for this so after a change of plans we decided to head for the plateau above the Maud Glacier. This involved tackling the ice-fall that feeds from the Maud Plateau onto the Neish. Things went well at first and we succeeded in getting up most of the vertical. However an ice step stopped us from succeeding. It would be feasible to descend this ice-fall if someone had come up the Maud Glacier and was wanting to go down the Godley, but expect there to be an abseil or two. We note that we were there in a meagre snowfall year.
Scrambling up through the icefall to the Maud Plateau

Abseiling over the glacial ice bulge

The skiing down from our high point was on smooth dry snow and at a lovely pitch. Most enjoyable.


We were interested in having a look at the Maud Glacier from above. We tried to ski it once in spring. We paddled a raft up the Maud/Gray lake, then scrambled up the Maud moraine to have a look. The route up the Maud Glacier is crevassed, and for about about 200 vertical meters the route is pushed close under the flanks of Mt Fletcher, which is ringed by large cornices. It is an objectively dangerous route in warm conditions, but might be undertaken in cold conditions. If the Godley lake is frozen, then the Maud Glacier Route is more likely to be on.