Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park NZ

Climbing Sebastopol (1468m) via the Red Tarns provides grandstand views of many famous features in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. And a scramble near the top adds a little to the adventure.

Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

It’s just a half day climb from Mt Cook Village to the summit of Sebastopol (1468m) in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, but the views are quite spectacular. The route first climbs on a constructed track to Red Tarns, which is already a good destination for those without the experience or desire to climb higher. (I’ve separated my photos to Red Tarns from the others below). From there the route follows an unmarked impact track past McNulty Tarns, and up steeply to pass through bluffs near the summit. There’s some scrambling required, but will be fine for those with suitable experience. For this extra effort you get 360 degree views encompassing high peaks, river flats and glacial lakes. And of course peak bagging gratification.

Track notes at the end.

Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Aoraki Mt Cook in early morning light, viewed from a lookout on Mt Cook Road. Not a great photo of this famous view, but it’s an impressive sight as you drive along the lake.

Sebastopol via Red Tarns: The Scenery

Red Tarns Track

Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Crossing Black Birch Stream (actually on our way back).
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Black Birch Stream with Mt Annette to the left, and Kitchener to the right. (This photo also on our way back). 
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Sophia at the viewpoint near Red Tarns.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
A panorama from the viewpoint near Red Tarns. As you can see the views are already quite good from this spot and you wouldn’t be disappointed if this were as far as you went.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
The Red Tarns. This one taken at midday on our way down. 
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
One of the Red Tarns looking redder at 12 noon than in the early morning on our way up. The route up to McNulty Tarns is on the far left of this photo. You can descend easily via the scree.

Red Tarns to Sebastopol

Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Sebastopol looming overhead. 
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Some of the McNulty Tarns in morning light.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
One of the McNulty Tarns with Mt Sefton, Mt Wakefield, and Aoraki Mt Cook poking out at the back.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Looking back as we began our climb up to the summit.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Sophia beginning what was probably the hardest part of the walk, with Mt Wakefield centre. (Climbing this mountain is a fairly challenging tramp that is on the to do list. It may have to wait for next summer as it is a long day walk). 
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
The Tasman River runs into Lake Pukaki.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Sophia ascending the last bit to the summit area. There’s a further short walk and scramble to get to the actual summit.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Views from the top of Sebastopol (1486m). Mt Sefton (left) and Aoraki Mt Cook (back right) are prominent.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
A closer look at the Tasman Lake and River.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
A big panorama taking in the main features to the north in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Peaks including Mt Annette and Mt Sealy.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Black Birch Stream and Mt Sefton.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
A closer look at Aoraki Mt Cook.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Sophia on the summit of Sebastopol (1468m). Mt Sefton and Aoraki Mt Cook in the background.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Sophia as we left the summit, with Mt Sefton to the right. A bit glary but you get an impression from this photo how alpine it all looks even in mid summer.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
This is the summit viewed from where you first ascend. As you can see there is a bit of a scramble to get up there, but easier than the scramble required to get up to where I took this picture from.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
A panorama looking south down the Tasman River towards Lake Pukaki.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Sophia about to descend from the summit area. The Tasman Lake in the background.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Tasman Valley
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Sophia descending on loose rock from the summit area. The route climbs up a few metres towards were I took this picture, then winds around some bluffs before descending back down to the tarn shelf.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Winding our way back down around some bluffs – the track is pretty obvious from this point onwards.
Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
A panorama north taken on the way down. Red Tarns and McNulty Tarns down there in the foreground.


Track Notes

Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
There’s a constructed path with lots of steps from the public shelter on the main ring road through the village to Red Tarns. There is then an impact track up to the McNulty Tarns that runs to the left of a scree slope: this scree can be used later for the descent. From McNulty tarns there is a steep unmarked route to the summit that is occasionally marked with cairns. Near the top there are a few options to scramble your way to up to the summit area, with just a short dip into a saddle before finishing the scramble to the summit proper.

There’s a constructed path to Red Tarns (with lots of steps) from the public shelter on the main ring road through the village. (More information on the Red Tarns Track on the DOC website).

There is then an impact track up to the McNulty Tarns that runs to the left of a scree slope: this scree can be used later for the descent. From McNulty tarns there is a steep unmarked route to the summit that is occasionally marked with cairns. Near the top there are a few options to scramble your way to up to the summit area, with just a short dip into a saddle before finishing with an easy scramble to the summit proper.

Sebastopol via Red Tarns, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Sophia descending on loose rock from the summit area. The track is fairly obvious to where I took this picture, but it’s not so obvious that you can then climb up this loose rock to arrive at the summit area. I actually climbed up to the right, but I think Sophia’s route was easier. There is further but easier scramble to visit the actual summit.  

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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