A view down the terminal lake of the Tasman Glacier - New Zealand longest glacier at over 23 km - is not only spectacular, but graphically demonstrates a glacier in retreat. This is a wild and raw place, high mountains but close to the trimmings of civilisation.
Tasman Glacier is signposted 7km along Tasman Valley Road, 1 km from the settlement of Aoraki/Mount Cook. There’s a large, but sometimes not large enough, parking area with toilets.
From the carpark, the metalled track climbs over 70 metres to the top of the terminal moraines above the lake.
Two side tracks are possible on this walk:
The Tasman Glacier Lake (1 hour return 2.6 km), which branches off shortly after the start of the walk on the right.
And a short detour to Blue Lake (5 minutes return).
Blue Lake is also visible from above as you climb the steps to the lake viewing area. Floating icebergs stud the grey waters of the lake and in the distance the ice cliffs of the glacier’s terminal face occasionally calve. Rock debris covers the glacier, so it is difficult to make out the white of the ice flow.
On the opposite side of the valley are peaks such as Mount Blackburn, The Nuns Veil and The Acolyte. Mount Tasman is concealed in the far distance.
Previous to glacial action, many valleys were characterised by a system of interlocking spurs protruding into the valley floor – the legacy of water’s erosion carving V’s into the land. Glaciers worked differently and having no regard for these obstructions, simply bulldozed through the rock, truncating spurs to leave a triangular face bisecting the former ridgeline.
Glaciers filled the valleys and joined in the upland areas to form ice caps. The last Ice Age was known as the Otiran and occurred between 80,000 and 10,000 years ago. Ice was up to 2 km deep. Sea levels were up to 120 metres lower and ice reached over 10 km off today’s shoreline. At least 5 glacial advances and retreats are evident. At the conclusion of the last glacial between 35,000 and 14,000 years ago, a Glacial Maximum occurred, a short but intense episode of global cooling. This spurred on the glaciers in a final pulsing advance, which built up the vast terminal moraines, filling the McKenzie basin and extending glaciers 10 km past the current southern shores of Lake Pukaki. These details give some fuel for thought on the rapidity of climate change that occurs without the influence of humankind.
The Tasman Glacier is New Zealand’s longest. A series of Photoshopped photos on a revolving sign at the lookout show the glacier’s height in recent times. And it’s staggering rate of retreat. Currently the glacier is 23.5 km long, covers 101 square kms and is around 600m thick at it’s maximum depth. The terminus is 200m deep.
South Island ▷ Mount Cook - MacKenzie ▷ Mount Cook
Showing 13 reviews of 20.
The Tasman glacier lake looks so surreal, almost like from another planet - I'm really glad we made this spontaneous stop. It's only a few minutes walk up to the viewpoint, so it's doable even after a long day in the Mt. Cook area.
Romy de Boer
Safe and beautiful! The view is amazing. Make a picnic stop here.
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Short walk, saw the Blue Lakes from an upper view point which are not blue anymore (you can see a description why there). Good view of the icebergs of the glaciers.
The blue lakes are actually green - there is an explanatory board 'why are the blue lakes green' - and you can't see the glacier terminal from the top. That being said, the views from the top were nice both ways. The track is mostly made of brand new steps - some 400 steps, we counted them to see what to expect on the 2200 steps of the Sealy Tarns track . The road to the Tasman glacier is brand new as well. It was a nice short walk. Took us 20min to get to the top.
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Ok but not great.
Short as well but steep so you have a good view on the glacier and the lake.
It is a nice little walk and you will get a nice view of the Tasman Glacier, but nothing from another world.
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great view when you get to the top. You climb up lots of rocks so be careful not sure I would want to try in the wet or with small children but there is an easier track around the side.
Nice bridges, some not so long tracks, swimming in the lakes, not so many people.
Beautiful view and lake with ice but the way was long and unsealed.
A great view of the glacier for a short walk.
WOW, never seen such a thing in my life before.
Initial views across Lake Tekapo were stunning, but nothing compared to those at Mount Cook itself - pray for a clear day!!!
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