Mt Cook – East Face & Mt Tasman ski descent

Quite a bit has been written already about these two ski descents by Fredrico Varengo, however I wanted to put them in here for the record as they are milestones in NZ ski mountaineering history.

Freddy skied from the summit of Mt Cook last year (2011) taking the direct line from the summit. I spoke to Freddy about this route, which he says averaged in the 40 to 45 degree range. There was a section near the top where he had to take his skis off and cramponed for 10m or so, before putting skis back on and continuing.


The descent of Mt Tasman was more circuitous but no less bold for sure. Freddy ascended via Syme Ridge, but picked a line he hadn’t climbed to ski down. The picture of the route says it all.

Approx route ski descent Mt Tasman

When talking about these descents Freddy was rather casual and modest about his achievements but most open to talk about them. He states that he is not into ‘extreme stuff’ and that it has to be a’ good run’ for him to do it. This applied to his ski of Mt Cook.

However as I reflect on our conversation, it is apparent that Freddy has put a lot of research into the mountains here, has a great eye for routes, is adept at reading the NZ environment, and has the skill to be able to translate that into action. It is my opinion that it is by no accident that he has been able to pull off these feats.  It has also been noted that his gear (which Freddy tells me is 3 years old) is superlight (Dynastar Altitrail Powder skis, Scarpa F1 Rando boots and Dynafit  Tourlite bindings).  On one hand this makes me think of  scattering planks which skitter at the first sight of ice. On the other hand each descent Freddy makes is always in prime packed powder. He is not driving the skis hard like a racer, rather, he is keeping in perfect centered balance and so does not have the need for a heavy stiff boot, and with the light boot can ski a lighter ski –  think a park skiers lighter gear and centered balance vs the racers driving boot and hard edge. And this lighter gear allows Freddy to make some phenomenal speed in the hills, and keeps him fitter for the descents. Its a clever and well thought of setup.


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