The Fritz Range, Franz Josef Glacier

One of the most popular ski tours in the Mt Cook National Park. The Fritz range leads in a NW direction from the main divide of the Southern Alps out towards the Tasman Ocean, parallel to the Franz Josef Glacier. The Range holds its altitude the length of the Franz Gl, and so involves passing over several peaks. The Fritz range ends with a descent to the Franz Gl terminus.

This route offers some fine skiing of moderate difficulty. It is a direct route from the upper glaciers back to the village and so is often combined with a back country telemark / ski of the neves. This is a high alpine route and so requires basic mountaineering knowledge.

Most commonly parties kickĀ  this back country ski route off from Centennial Hut. An early start may be required as the lower Fritz Range often becomes ensconced in cloud by the mid afternoon making navigation difficult.

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The route begins with a traverse – ski Franz Joseph Glacier, paralleling some large crevasses to gain the pass between Mt Von Burlow and Penck Ridge. From here there is a short ski descent before ascending Sollas Ridge. This often requires crampons and an ice axe, and possibly a rope as there can be a sizeable schrund. This climb will put the skier just to the NE of Bismarck Peaks.

Next a long ski glide on mellow terrain to Zubbriggen Col.The Fritz Glacier can be sidled to the West to save on time, or up and over Mt Roon and down to the Bauman Glacier. The final 100m or so the the Baumann has the steepest skiing of the tour at about 30 to possible 35 degrees. It is occasionally walked down my more mountaineering types.

Mt Molke must be ascended either by sidling to the SW or straight up from the south. Traverse the ridge line which is narrow in places and offers fantastic views. There is a short steepish ski down from pt 1977, then a short traverse to descend to Castle Rocks Hut.

Most tourers find the route straight forward and reasonable quick and hence by-pass Castle Rocks hut and continue down to the Franz Josef Glacier following the true left of the stream bed. This is a bit of a rocky bash if there isn’t enough snow to ski, but is quite manageable in ski touring boots. Upon reaching the glacier ice, cut across the Franz Gl to pick up the steps cut in the dry ice by the Glacier Guides.

8 Hours to the road end would be a reasonable amount of time. Any comments on this time?

Please note that due to glacial recession it is not common to try and descend the lower Franz Joesf Glacier, and so most ski tourers opt for a pick up at the Baumann Gl. Further glacial recession will change the situation in teh next few years and quite possibly the access down the Franz Josef will become tenable again.