With the day starting overcast and foggy, even with a slight frost!, we held back from rushing up into Aoraki Mount Cook National Park as it looked as though it was going to take a little while to clear. So after coffees in the town, we headed off on the 60km journey into the park. Aoraki is a Maori word, which means ´Cloud Piercer´describing New Zealand´s highest peak, Mount Cook, which stands above its neighbours at 3754m (12300ft) – its neighbours are not so much smaller though Mount Tasman stands at 3498m (11300ft) and Mount Sefton at 3158m (10300ft). In fact, Mount Cook is surrounded by 19 snow capped peaks, all over 3000m (9800ft). This mountainous area also houses two glaciers, the Hooker and the Tasman! So as you can see, with all this to see, we were really hoping for a clear day
We took the winding road which meanders parallel to another turquoise coloured lake, Lake Pukaki. Autumnal coloured trees line its shores reflected in its calm waters. As we drove, the morning cloud began to clear slowly revealing the peaks that we had read about. We had to slow down at one point to make way for cattle being moved from one grazing area to another, herded by not only dogs, but by horse mounted ´cowboy´farmers. The drive takes about forty minutes to the outskirts of Mount Cook Village where we turned off towards the Hooker Valley, where the walk we had earmarked commenced.
In Mount Cook National Park there is virtually no forest, with around one third of it being permanent snow and ice, so with lower slopes showing some trees, the majority of colour comes from the Alpine plants on the valley floors. We left the car at the campsite and began our hike up the valley. Morning dew still glistened on the low lying grass and shrubs with snow covered Mount Sefton clear and crisp to our left. You cross over a swing bridge before reaching Mueller Glaciar Lake before continuing up the valley eventually crossing over a second swing bridge. The rocky trail takes you through bushland alongside a gushing, cloudy coloured stream where you suddenly round the valley side and are offered an uninterrupted view of Mount Cook itself, standing at the head of the Hooker Valley. The trail ends at the Hooker Glacier Lake, where you can see the Hooker Glacier nestled at its start. Although covered in debris that has been collected on its top during its move down the valley, you can still see the whiteness of its front as it touches the lake, which has small icebergs floating amoungst its water. The scene was an amazing one, clear blue sky, deep, crisp white snow on its peak and a high mountainous valley around us with New Zealand´s highest peak ahead of us……well worth the hike and well worth waiting for the cloud to clear