Situated at the corner of the Tasman and Hooker valleys, Mt. Wakefield is visible from almost anywhere in the valley. After a good southerly dump, it can provide some pretty nice skiing, given the snow line is low – around the 700m mark or below.
Just before reaching Mt. Cook Village, turn onto Tasman Valley Rd. and park your car after the Hooker River bridge (Hooker corner). From here, there is a goat track going up on the Wakefield ridge, but don’t be too alarmed if you can’t find it, especially if there is quite a bit of snow around. Generally look for the path of least resistance up the hill until you can put your skins on and get into your skis. Walking up can be a slog and generally the lower the snow – the easier, with one caveat though – if there’s not enough snow to cover the undergrowth, it can become pretty difficult.
Once on the ridge, take a deep breath and look around. Panoramic views of the Tasman, Mueller and Hooker valleys will be set below you. While it is possible to reach the summit of Mt. Wakefield by following the ridge, we opted to ski the E aspect from the 1600m point towards the Tasman valley. Later we have skied down the W aspect overlooking Mt. Cook village. The W aspect is the big scree slope usually visible in summer from the village, however in winter it is a big bowl with interesting chutes starting at the ridge line. This bowl is probably the best skiing down from Wakefield, but care should be taken, especially if the snowpack is not very stable as there are very little safe spots, if at all, on this big slope.
Despite having quite a bit of snow at the 700m mark (village elevation) we could not ski below the 1000m contour. Once you get to the valley floor, skin or walk back N towards the Hooker valley footbridge and towards the campsite. From here hitch or drive back to the starting point. After taking turns on the W aspect, there’s the big bonus of sitting in the pub and looking at those turns you’ve just earned while sipping your favourite beer.
Dan F. and Zucco