Mount Cook is New Zealand’s highest peak at 3,754 metres although in December 1991 it lost ten metres off the top. The Maori name for Mount Cook is ‘Aoraki’ which means cloud piercer, which of course this snow-capped wonder does. The mountain looms in the background but there are 22 mountains which are over 3,000 metres high. The Tasman Glacier is also here and at 27km in length and 3 km wide it is the largest glacier in the world outside the Himalayan region and was the mountain where Sir Edmund Hillary developed his mountaineering and climbing skills before he conquered Mount Everest!
Freda du Faur was the first woman to climb Aoraki/ Mount Cook. She accomplished this amazing feat in 1910 with the help of two guides, brothers Alex and Peter Graham. In 1913, Freda completed the first Grand Traverse (all three peaks) of Aoraki/ Mount Cook with guides Peter Graham and Darby Thompson. Freda’s Rock is the site where her now famous photo was taken just after her first successful ascent of the mountain.
I was determined to do another hike whilst in New Zealand and the Hooker Valley Track definitely fitted my requirements. Set in the shadow of Mount Cook it takes about 3 hours return and is relatively flat. As for the Kea Point Track start at White Horse Hill Campground or from the village which adds an hour to the walk.
The best time to walk this stunning track is at dawn when the first rays of sun creep over the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana, including over New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki/ Mount Cook, and there are fewer walkers. The track leads up the Hooker valley towards Aoraki/Mount Cook. It passes close to the Alpine Memorial (a great viewpoint) and Freda’s Rock before coming to the viewing point of the Mueller Glacier and the first swing bridge. As you cross the Hooker River here, carry on to the second swing bridge. Look out for many different wildflowers along the way, including celmisia and the Mount Cook buttercup/ kōpukupuku.
The track from the first swing bridge to the second travels between old moraine ridges and humps. Past the second bridge, the vegetation changes to more open tussock and a wider valley floor. A third swing bridge leads to the east; Hooker and the source of the Hooker River. These swing bridges are a fantastic sight and I liked to think of myself as Indiana Jones as I crossed them! The track ends at the glacier lake, where there are amazing views of Aoraki/Mount Cook, Hooker Glacier and the Southern Alps/ Kā Tiritiri o te Moana. Return the same way, enjoying more views down the valley and across to the Sealy Range.
This was one of my favourite New Zealand adventures. The view of Mount Cook was dazzling but I was also fascinated by the glacial lake as I have never encountered one before. There were icebergs in the lake, and it made for a wonderful sight. I also managed to get some great photographs of the glacial lake so I could look back with great fondness of another spectacular New Zealand adventure!