Piercing the clouds

Hooker Valley Views

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is home to a lot of mountains! There are 27 mountains over 3050m in New Zealand and 22 of those are here. The highest is Mt Cook at 3755m. In fact it’s the highest in Australasia. It’s name in Maori is Aoraki, meaning Cloud Piercer, seems far more apt than the more common name of Mt Cook so called after Captain Cook. Think they got it right the first time in this case.

One of the most popular trails here is the trail through the Hooker Valley. From looking at pictures, summer would be a much more colourful time to visit, but the upside of being off season is that you don’t have to jostle around tour buses to enjoy the trail. The walk is not that taxing, and is really all about getting as close as you can to Mt Cook without climbing. The afternoon was windy and the clouds kept rolling through. I stopped at one stage along the track to get a glimpse of the peak in between the cloud and a Japanese tourist stopped beside me. With her limited English and smiling eyes she pointed to the cloud and announced “the mountain, she shy, she hiding”. I liked that!

These mountains have a large part in New Zealand’s climbing history. The information centre here is one of the better ones with loads of great info. And there is also the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. In 1948 his party first climbed the south ridge and of course later went on to climb another big mountain! I liked this old shelter at Stocking Stream along the trail. Made me think of all those climbers back in the day. The first woman to climb it was an Australian lady, Freda du Faur in 1913, 29 years after the first trio of men put their feet on the summit on Christmas Day 1886.