The Forgotten Falls – Wakefield Falls(230m)

“On a Mish” #91 The Forgotten Falls. Wakefield Falls. Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. 3.12.2014. Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is a place of constant change, which sometimes happens right before your own eyes. As the glaciers retreat they leave behind a world different than when they were there. Because of this mountainside rearrangement some places of the past have become more difficult to access and therefore aren’t visited as often as they used to be. Sitting within easy reach of a busy road is a huge waterfall that is barely looked at let alone visited…

Before the well formed concrete road and car park to the Tasman Glacier Lake, complete with fancy shelter, there was no lake or car park. People did come to the area but it was to see the water that would become the lake in its glacial form. The same road that is used today used to continue past the current car park’s location and continue all the way up to the Ball Glacier where people would go skiing. While in the area if the weather was poor for skiing the tourist would have the opportunity to go explore some of the stunning surroundings.

The 230 metre high Wakefield Falls is seen either from a distance, or sadly completely missed by most people heading in their cars to the Tasman Glacier Lake car park / picnic area nowadays. Its out-of-the-way location means many will simply just drive on with no idea they have just missed a 230 metre waterfall. In most places a waterfall that big would be the centre of attention, however in Aoraki / Mt Cook everything is massive so the waterfall blends into the dramatic surroundings.

I had visited Wakefield Falls before, when I first started living in Aoraki/Mt Cook Village, and I wanted to add more adventure to the experience by clambering up a scree slide beside it. This became the next must-do-mish, and I put it on the ‘Rainy Day’ mission list. A list of things to do when I couldn’t climb on my days off.

So, on a gloomy and windy classic Aoraki / Mt Cook pre-storm day, when Heli-Guiding was definitely not happening, I drove to a spot on the Tasman Lake Road and headed for the falls and beyond.

There is an old beaten track that leads up to a mounted picture displaying and naming the mountains of the Malte Brun Range, with a little bit more glacier ice on the mountains in the picture I might add.

After this point I eyed up the eastern faces and spurs and saw that they were all covered in dense, nasty alpine scrub and I wasn’t in the mood to get my legs slashed to bits. This meant my plan was to head north, away from the Wakefield Falls stream once the valley narrowed.

Upward travel was at first through open bush and then up, gaining altitude quickly via the large scree gut I had spotted on the map. When the scree got too steep and loose I headed into the dense alpine scrub beside it which had plenty of good plants to use as hand holds. I was finally stopped in my tracks by a large vertical bluff of very crumbly, loose rock.

This wasn’t the hill I was going to die on today, so I took in the epic view back down the Tasman Valley, a view seen by few. From my elevated point I could look right across the Tasman Glacier Lake at the ranges on its eastern side, the same one in the mounted picture.

After soaking in the view I then climbed back down out of the scrub, and scree surfed back down the aptly named ‘scree slide’ to the valley floor. It is amazing how quickly going down can be when compared to going up!

I couldn’t visit the area without heading up to the base of the very impressive 230 metre high Wakefield Falls and the narrow canyon that it flows into.

After getting a good soaking in the refreshing clear cold water I headed back down the true left of the stream to the road and my car.

A great easy morning out in the mountains, and something different from the normal tracks visited in the area. The simple hike is a must for those seeking something outside of the box in the Aoraki area and when combined with a visit to the lake it makes an excellent half day out while visiting the home of New Zealand’s biggest mountains.

The Tasman River from high above Wakefield Falls Stream

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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