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Bevan Col

7 July 2010

Coordinates 44°23.596′ S, 168°41.307′ E

Mt Bevan, Bevan Col and Mt Aspiring from Matukituki Saddle. Photo D Hegg

Bevan Col (1851m), the low point on the ridge connecting Mount Bevan to Mount Joffre, is an alpine pass between the Matukituki and Waipara catchments. It provides one of the easiest and most popular access routes to the Bonar Glacier and Mount Aspiring from the Matukituki River West Branch.


Bevan Col is named after Mount Bevan immediately above. According to historian Herries Beattie, the mountain was named by surveyor James McKerrow during his visit to the Matukituki Valley in 1862 [1]. However, I was not able to find any evidence of this in McKerrow’s maps or notes. My bet is that the peak was named after Mr. John Bevan, who represented Hokitika in the House of Representatives from 1884 to 1887, and was also chairman of the Hokitika Education Board [2]. In this case, the name would have been bestowed (probably by Gerhard Mueller) from the West.

The history of exploration of Bevan Col is somewhat unusual, in that the col is easily accessed from Hector Col, yet it was over 75 years after the latter was first crossed that the snow slopes leading to Bevan Col were first climbed. It is especially surprising that Bernard Head, Jack Clarke and Alec Graham did not climb to Bevan Col in November 1909. While looking for an approach to Mount Aspiring, they climbed to Hector Col, from where they had a good view of the surrounding mountains, then they returned to the valley floor and pioneered a route to the Bonar Glacier via French Ridge and Quarterdeck Pass [3]. From Hector Col, the Bonar Glacier would have been just one hour away.

The Quarterdeck and the Breakaway remained the standard access routes to the Bonar Glacier for a long time, but both were often difficult and dangerous due to crevasses or ice fall from above. In 1930, Porter wrote of their crossing of the Breakaway: “Chambers developed such a dislike of our ordeal, that he searched of some method of circumventing it, and found a solution of the problem, free from danger or difficulty, in the easy ground to the head of the valley at Matukituki Saddle. A traverse to the right below the saddle across the gentle snow slopes of Bevan will lead to the col between Bevan and Joffre, in which fair shelter for a bivouac can be found, as we could see from the ridge of Aspiring. Access to the Bonar is easy and certain. The only objection is that getting to it would involve several additional hours of heavy swagging” [4].

Tarn on Bevan Col. Mt Liverpool and Mt Barff behind. Photo N Dickerhof

First men to actually trod on Bevan Col were J.A. Sim, D.H. Leigh and W.H. Walker on January 3rd, 1935. The party completed the first ascent of Mt Avalanche via French Ridge and the Quarterdeck, then filled in the afternoon by climbing Mt Joffre (by mistake) and Mt Bevan (first ascent), touching Bevan Col on the way [5].

A route to Bevan Col from the Matukituki Valley had to wait even longer. On 28 December 1939, J.A. Sim, P. Sim, J. Kerr and I. Johnston climbed Mt Bevan via Hector Col and Bevan Col. Sim writes that “incidentally, our purpose in making this climb from Hector Col was to verify a previous expression of opinion of this as an alternative approach to Aspiring when the Bonar is cut off from the French Ridge. Apart from one steepish pinch where the snow ridge descending from Bevan has to be crossed, it presents no difficulties even with swags” [6].

Route descriptions

Bevan Col Map. 1 grid square = 1km. Left click on map to enlarge

From Scott’s Biv

Rating: Alpine, Grade 1.                   January 1998

From Scott’s Biv at the head of the Matukituki River West Branch, follow the route to Hector Col until about 100m below the pass. Veer right, sidling diagonally up a system of ledges, then ascend easy rocks to the snow fields directly below Mount Bevan. Climb steep and exposed snow to cross the south arete of Mount Bevan and reach the slopes leading to Bevan Col. Allow 4 to 5 hours from Scott’s Biv to Bevan Col.

To Colin Todd Hut

Rating: Alpine, Grade 1                    January 1998

Bevan Col is generally used as a route to access Colin Todd Hut at the toe of Mt Aspiring’s north-west ridge. From the col, it’s a brief descent to the plateau of the Bonar Glacier. Aim directly for the hut, well visible just over 2km away. In fog, follow the compass on a bearing of 360 degrees magnetic. During peak climbing season, there’s likely to be a highway of footprints leading to the hut. The Bonar Glacier is crevassed. Allow 1 hour from the col to the hut.

Climbing the south arete of Mt Bevan, en route to Bevan Col. Photo J Chichester


[1] p85 in Beattie, H. (1948) Otago Place Names, as bestowed by the Pakeha and jotted down by Herries Beattie. Otago Daily Times and Witness Newspapers Co., Ltd., Dunedin. 120 pages.

[2] p483 in The Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Volume 5: Nelson, Marlborough and Westland Provincial Districts (1906). Published by the Cyclopedia Company Ltd., Christchurch.

[3] Handwritten account by Bernard Head of his approach to Mount Aspiring. MS-3184/001 in Hocken Library Archives and Manuscripts.

[4] Porter, H.E.L.: Mt. Aspiring. The New Zealand Alpine Journal, Vol IV, No. 17, 1930, pages 75-83. Published by the New Zealand Alpine Club. 

[5] Sim, J.A.: Mts Avalanche and Bevan (1st ascents), and an ascent of Mt Aspiring. The New Zealand Alpine Journal, Vol VI, No. 22, 1935, pages 154-156. Published by the New Zealand Alpine Club. 

[6] Sim, J.A.: Camp Three. The New Zealand Alpine Journal, Vol VIII, No. 27, 1940, pages 155-166. Published by the New Zealand Alpine Club.

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