Posted by: Matt | January 17, 2009

Mt. Cook and Sir Ed

We finally got to see it up close. We’d driven past on six occasions and only once did we even get half-a-look at the peak, but this week we finally made it up to see Mt. Cook and we were paid off for a little persistence. Mt. Cook, known in traditional Maori as Aoraki, is the tallest mountain in New Zealand and a seriously gnarly peak. The mountain itself tops out at a little over 12,000 feet, which wouldn’t even put it on the map in someplace like Colorado, looking simply at the elevation of the area doesn’t do it justice. This is a mountain range where climbers and mountaineers have migrated to for years, and now we can toss our names in the mix too, right beside Sir Ed himself.

Driving in towards Cook

Driving in towards Cook

Sir Edmund Hillary is, of course, the first westerner to ever ascend Mt. Everest, and Mt. Cook National Park is where he trained for the accomplishment. He was originally from Auckland, but the whole Mt. Cook area oozes with his presence. He is probably the most well-known face in New Zealand history and his picture is on the five-dollar bill here.

Instead of trying to follow ol’ Ed’s tracks up the side of Mt. Cook, we went for a slightly less strenuous route up neighboring Mt. Olliver. This is the first mountain Hillary ever climbed and today there is an awesome alpine hut (Mueller Hut) just shy of the summit where you can watch the sun set and glaciers cracking and falling from neighboring cliffs. Oh yeah, this place is laden with glaciers. There are all sorts here from the earth moving mother-of-all-glacier sorts to the hanging ice shelves. On a sunny day, with a little persistence and some warmth, you can watch the glaciers crack off and fall from their cliffs or into the moraine lakes created by the summer melts.

Knackered, with Mt. Cook in the  background.

Knackered, with Mt. Cook in the background.

Our hike took a little over five hours and then we spent the afternoon hanging out on the top taking in the views. We ate good food (relatively speaking), slept well, and hiked out the next day. On the way home we stopped at our favorite salmon farm and picked up some of their finest fresh and smoked varieties. I’m not sure if our journeys will take us back up in the direction of Mt. Cook, but in the words of Sir Ed himself, “we knocked the bastard off.”


  1. Aaaarrrrr…..good job, mates! A great pic of the premier peak of the New Zealand Alps!


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