The Broken Road to Nowhere- Ball Hut

“On a Mish” #64 The Broken Road to Nowhere. Ball Hut. Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park. 26.4.2013. Reading about the history of the Aoraki / Mt Cook area and seeing pictures from the past has shown me how much it has changed due to glacial recession. Areas that were once covered completely in ice are now reduced to piles of loose rocky rubble. The place has changed so much that some of the park’s most popular huts have been removed due to the access being made very dangerous or in some cases near to impossible…

Sadly the route to the once very busy Ball Hut area is deteriorating as the Tasman Glacier moraine slowly collapses, taking the road / track with it. The ground is so unstable that during a storm in 2020 a massive section of the track / land around Husky Stream was washed away. Once home to a huge lodge that could accommodate up to 80 people and a ski field on the Ball Glacier, all that remains now is a tiny red hut and a toilet.

The area is breathtaking and once the masses are left behind at the Tasman Glacier Lake car park, it regains its feeling of remoteness. The broken road leads to nowhere.

The old road which winds its way over the sprawling moraine on the true right side of Tasman Lake / Glacier is the only reminder that hundreds of people a day were driven in buses from the Aoraki / Mt Cook Village up to the lodge for a play in the snow.

When on the road, the hiking is very easy and the surroundings can be easily taken in as you wander towards the snow and ice covered giants that stand in silence. Unfortunately, like at Husky Stream, the track is covered in slips and some have rumbled down from above with a mess of rocks covering the track. In some places the track has slipped away, creating new cliffs as the loose land has crumbled downwards into Tasman Lake or onto the rocky moraine.

The Ball Hut Track doesn’t receive anywhere near as many visitors as it used to, making it a must for those who love big mountains without big crowds. If you can get to the final flat (location of the hut) the views are incredible, possibly some of the best seen from a relatively flat walk.

When at the hut looking north over the lower reaches of the Tasman Glacier you can see De La Beche Corner and the first patch of white ice on the Tasman Glacier. Opposite De La Beche Corner to the east is the stunning red rock and bright white glaciers of the Malte Burn Range, which sits alone like a giant island detached from the Main Divide.

Considering there was once a massive lodge in the same location the hut is very small, being only three bunks and I would recommend taking a tent. When I visited the area with my girlfriend at the time we opted for a night in our tent just in case we weren’t alone. And it was lucky we did as some people showed up later in the evening, and with that the little hut was full.

We had a brief chat with the hut’s occupants and then we spent the rest of the night at our little camp near the top of the flats. As the daylight faded we wandered up to the Ball / Tasman Glacier junction and looked down at the ice which used to sit level with the flat and was the location of New Zealand’s first ‘ski field’. With our day now over we retreated to our sleeping bags and drifted off to sleep to the sound of distant avalanches and the creaks and groans of the surrounding glaciers.

An early-ish start was very important due to rain in the forecast, and escaping early was also important as the side streams are notorious for rising quickly, thereby trapping you on the wrong side.

As the sun rose the sky gave us an incredibly beautiful message that rain was on the way. The tent’s door perfectly framed the Malte Brun Range, which was glowing red with hints of gold – a true warning of the approaching nor’west storm.

Go,go,go was the mode in the morning and our speed increased as we got closer to the car park and the first drops of rain started falling. Hiking quickly across moraine can be tricky, especially when the rocks are wet.

Luckily no ankles were twisted during our mad scramble back to the car and we got back just before the real rain arrived.

Both hungry and happy to be out of the rain, we left the pristine environment with the wipers on full and the surrounding mountains disappearing into a layer of dark grey clouds. While driving out of the park we soaked in the mish just like our clothing and the rain, and in our tired and hungry state we consumed an entire block of camembert cheese by itself bite for bite on the drive home!

The Aoraki area is one of awe and a mountainous region whose grandeur can match any other mountain scene found anywhere on the planet. If you are in Aotearoa then a visit to Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park is an absolute must!

Malte Brun Range at dawn

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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