“Tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for Being…” The Rhodora by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mount Cook (Aoraki – cloud piercer – in Māori), the highest mountain in New Zealand, is a stunning beauty! It’s part of the Southern Alps mountain range which runs the length of the South Island and is a favorite challenge for mountain climbers. Mount Cook consists of three summits, the Low, Middle, and High Peaks, with Tasman Glacier to the east and the Hooker Glacier to the west.
“Mount Cook National Park, Westland National Park, Mount Aspiring National Park, and Fiordland National Park are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The parks contain more than 140 peaks and 72 named glaciers, which cover 40 percent of the park’s 170,000 acres.
Centuries before the first European, Abel Tasman, saw Mount Cook in 1642 it was only known to Māori. The English name Mount Cook was in honour Captain James Cook who first surveyed and circumnavigated the islands of New Zealand in 1770.”
Mt. Cook is about 90 miles from Lake Tekapo so I drove there today and spent a few hours hiking. It was clear early in the day and got cloudy and very windy as the day progressed. I hiked the Red Tarns trail which, along with Kea Point, Sealy Tarns, and Ball Shelter Hut tracks, is one of the best known moderate hiking trails in the area. It leads to some great viewpoints of the Hooker Valley. The longer and more difficult trails – Sefton Bivouac, Ball Pass, and Copland Track – wind into Hooker Valley territory and become a more serious mountaineering venture.
There is a guided alpine hike that enables you to get as close as possible to Mount Cook on foot without actually being on the mountain. It’s the two-day Aoraki Mount Cook trek which is easier than the three-day Ball Pass Crossing trek. Day 1 is the same as for the Ball Pass Crossing but on day 2 you descend back into the Tasman Valley. Maximum walking time on the Aoraki Mount Cook trek is 4-6 hours a day and it eliminates the challenging 8-12 hour day 3 of the Ball Pass Crossing trek. I have noted this trek for my next trip and think the three-day Ball Pass crossing sounds like a great experience.
Plan to spend one more day at Lake Tekapo and will head toward Christchurch on Saturday – route undecided at this point.