Recent First Descents of Mount Cook and Tasman by Fredrico Varingo

While some first descents get lots of attention, others often trickle by unnoticed. Because of that, I just wanted to give props to these potential first ski descents by Italian Fredrico Varingo, who is reported by Aspiring Guides of New Zealand to have made first descents of both Mount Cook and Mount Tasman this past November. I’ve skied in New Zealand a couple times, so these descents get me stoked to return again. It seems like the summer season may be the time to nail the biggest peaks. But, really I think it just takes big cajones to drop in on these big, glaciated and steep New Zealand faces.


Fredrico Varingo’s approximate ski descent of the East Face of Mount Cook.

On November 27, 2011, “Freddy” climbed the Linda Glacier Route on Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak and dropped in to the East Face just below the summit. The next day, he nailed Mount Tasman, in what is reported to be a first ski descent from the peak’s summit. Reports of ski descents often go unnoticed in places like New Zealand, so while his first descents are in question, it would be cool to know if these were in fact, first descents of two of New Zealand’s most iconic peaks.

Here’s is the report from Aspiring Guide’s blog. If you know any info about possible ski descents of these lines in the past, please feel free to comment below.

On Sunday Nov. 27 Aspiring Guides guide Fredrico Varingo made the first ski descent (to our knowledge) of the East Face of Mnt. Cook. Freddy, an IFMGA qualified guide from Italy, climbed the Linda Glacier on his first trip up Mnt. Cook. The way down included a right turn just below the summit ice cap. His route took him pretty much straight down until traversing left and joining the Zubriggins Route just above Grand Plateau. This was just a warm up.


Fredrico Varingo’s November 27th, 2011 Mount Tasman approximate ski descent route.
Photo courtesy Ian Stehbens.

The next day skiing off the summit of Mnt. Tasman. Again a first and what a route down. Unlike Mnt. Cook which was “easy” now Freddy opted to climb the route he intended to ski. Ascending below Engineer Col to about elev. 3000m he traversed to the other side of Syme Ridge and proceeded up and diagonal to the summit. It was this improbable route that he skied back down. Describing the maze of schrunds and ice blocks below engineer Col as “horrible” Freddy was very happy to reach the safety of the Grand Plateau. I am not an authority on this sort of thing but as far as I know this is the first ski descent of Tasman. Anyone mad enough to claim this route before?

19 Comments

19 Responses to “Recent First Descents of Mount Cook and Tasman by Fredrico Varingo”


  1. 1 Derek Dec 22nd, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Jesus, burly lines!

    Which peak was it that essentially fell off years ago?

  2. 2 randosteve Dec 22nd, 2011 at 10:09 am

    mt cook…the east face pretty much “fell off”. just about the same line he skied.

  3. 3 Mike Dec 22nd, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Mt. Cook has been skied before, so he got a first descent *on* Cook, not *of.*

  4. 4 randosteve Dec 22nd, 2011 at 10:36 am

    right mike…i realize that.

    i think the claim is that he got the first ski descent of the east face of mount cook…and possibly the first ski descent from the summit of mount tasman.

  5. 5 Dave V Dec 23rd, 2011 at 5:41 am

    Wow! I wonder how many crevasses were crossed in the descent? Sick!

  6. 6 randosteve Dec 23rd, 2011 at 5:46 am

    for sure dave. in case you didn’t realize, the photo i’ve got of tasman isn’t “current” or relative to the condition the peak was in during his descent. but, the end of november is the start of summer down there…so i’m sure the glaciers/crevasses (at least the one’s at lower elevation) were opening up just the same.

  7. 7 Jason Dec 23rd, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Tasman looks crazy… he was solo?

  8. 8 mt surf Dec 23rd, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Gnarl-burgler!

  9. 9 ptor Dec 23rd, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    niiiiiiiice!

  10. 10 john doyle Dec 24th, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Fredrico is clearly a badass; solo no less. Are his skis the Dynastar Mythic Light? Just curious. Thanks Steve for one of the coolest websites available. Merry Christmas and Live to Ski!

  11. 11 randosteve Dec 24th, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    here is a nice write-up from john mletschnig, that was featured in the new zealand alpine journal, of his descent of the east face of mount cook from the choke…due to icy conditions. thanks for sharing john!!!

    part one
    http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7001/6566288179_06c6e7f5aa_o.jpg

    part two
    http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7003/6566288513_b36ae310ec_o.jpg

  12. 12 randosteve Dec 25th, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    for those interested in more nz/cook stoke…here are some more photos and info from john on his blog.

    http://www.utahbackcountryskiing.blogspot.com/2008_10_01_archive.html

  13. 13 Wooklyfe Dec 31st, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Beau skied Cook solo FYI

  14. 14 randosteve Jan 1st, 2012 at 8:59 am

    thanks wooklyfe…i think he skied the linda. right?

  15. 15 Peter Lambert Jan 3rd, 2012 at 1:39 am

    I think the East Face of Mount Cook was first ski descended in 1982 by a Wanaka (NZ) based mountain guide named Geoff Wyatt. You can check out his CV at http://www.mountainrec.co.nz/gwcv1.htm or contact him at mountainrec@mountainrec.co.nz

  16. 16 randosteve Jan 3rd, 2012 at 8:20 am

    peter…i’m thinking that geoff probably didn’t drop-in directly from the top of the east face…but i’m looking into it now.

  17. 17 Whitney Thurlow Jan 3rd, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Hi Steve,
    I have seen a few cool and calm descents before but Freddy’s routes are pretty much the most impressive ones I have seen. The East Face route was bold, he did not even bother to ascend the route, first time on the mountain etc… but pretty straight forward especially since the snow was in perfect condition. Mount Cook has been skied a number of times before, Geoff Wayatt and partner (John Blennerhasset?)were the first to ski Cook but as far as I am aware they skied down the Linda Glacier. Since the Upper Linda is so broken now, all the subsequent descents have been down Greens Gully and over to Zubriggins ridge. Basically Freddy short cut the top part by skiing the East Face and joined onto the usual Zubriggins route.

    The route down Tasman though…as far as I am aware no one has skied Tasman by any route. It is one of those routes that it took someone from not around here to do because no one who knows the mountain would have considered it!!!! it. At least he bothered to climb the route and at least he was “terrified” in the maze of crevasses at the bottom.

    Cheers,
    Whitney

  18. 18 randosteve Jan 4th, 2012 at 7:40 am

    thanks for the nz and cook ski history, whit interesting take on how it would be someone from out of town to hit tasman…or at least that route in particular. sound like freddy is a bad ass. props to him and hopefully we will see more of his impressive skiing.

  19. 19 Nick Feb 20th, 2012 at 2:17 am

    Regarding this being a first descent of Mount Tasman, I did read in the Mount Cook guidebook that the Syme Ridge had been descended before. Although if this is from the Summit and that descent was not then indeed it would be a first. I believe Freddy did remove his skis for a time in order to downclimb some more icy sections, leaving the door open for someone to possibly claim a descent involving skis from summit to base. Also it might be worth asking Freddy if the summit wasn’t part of the bit he downclimbed. (I was up at Plateau at the time and chatted to him about his descent, but can’t remember all the details).

    Big ups to the man though – absolutely insane line down Tasman!

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