The armchair traverse is a spectacular route that consists of ridgeline between Mt Cook and Mt Weart. Due to the lengthy approach and descent with over 2000m of vertical, it's not a route to be taken lightly, once on the ridgeline there are many 4th class moves.
Turn off highway 99 into the Wedgmount parking area, cross the bridge and follow the FSR on the left, take this all the way to the Wedgemount parking lot. Although it's an FSR, you can use 2WD.
Once you are at the Wedgemount lake parking. Cross the bridge to the left of the car park, there is a well marked turn off on the right after about 70m to begin going up the trail.
Follow well marked trail to the lake (roughly 1100 vertical meters). If traversing from Mt Cook to Mt Weart, an indistinct trail branches to the left from the hut/campsite. Follow this trail uphill and you will find yourself on a scree slope on Mt Cook (see pictures below). There is no way of getting around the steep loose rock up to Mt Cook, just choose the least steep portion.
View of the Wedgemount glacier from the slopes of Mt Cook
Ascending the loose rock of Mt Cook
Once you summit Mt Cook just follow the obvious ridgeline towards Mt Weart, the difficulties will start to slowly ramp up as the ridge gets narrow and the exposure increases. You can stay on the ridge proper of dip to the right side of the ridge. The right hand side gullys are filled with loose rock.
When you get to the final ridge summit, it looks very intimidating from a distance, almost vertical. However, once you get closer you see there are solid ledges all the way to the top.
Beginning of the ridge line
Weart glacier from the ridgeline
Getting off the ridge was the slowest and most challenging part. The route is fairly well marked with cairns along the south east ridge but at some point you do have to turn right into the basin. There is a very simple slab boulder ramp leading all the way down, sometime marker with cairns at the turn of point. If should be simple so if you find yourself in terrain that is not its likely not the route.
Coming down from the basin to the toe of the Wedgemount glacier follows a loose, steep gravel/boulder slope. It was the crux of the route for me. Watch your step!
Best part of the trip
The views from the ridge and summits of Mt Cook and Mt Weart are absolutely breathtaking. The ridge itself offers some great exposure but is still very enjoyable. If something looks too steep or intimidating you can always find a way around it.
For navigation in the mountains I like to use FATMAP. As a explore member you can download different maps onto your phone and use them without cellular data. Usually, I have my phone on Airplane mode to save the battery. On this scramble I used my buddy’s Zachary Del Greco GPX track. He did the whole thing in 6 hours! Holly cow! You can download the file by clicking here. Use at your own risk.
Your gear highly depends on your ascent style. Some people are able to run the whole thing, others take it more slowly like I did. You will always find in my backpack:
Hardshell (Arc’teryx Alpha FL)
Helmets are highly recommended. Also, I found new Tecnica Forge S GTX boots to be comfortable and well suited for the terrain like this. But as I mentioned earlier, people do it in trail running shoes without any problems.