“Kia tuohu kotou, Me he maunga teitei, Ko Aoraki anake.

If you must bow your head then let it be to the lofty mountain Aoraki.”

The beauty of New Zealand is well known . Whenever I think of the Tolkien creative world of the rings, I use to think of New Zealand, like it is the forever village of Middle Earth paradise. We all know that the legendary move has been filmed over there but it seems that this land has not only never-ending attractive valleys and waterfalls but also the pristine of alpine landscape. Above all, it has Mount Cook. This is definitely the tallest mountain in New Zealand,  with its 3,724 metres (12,218 feet) and always touched by snow. It is interesting to know that this mountain has three peeks:  Low Peak, Middle Peak and High Peak. According to the Ngāi Tahu legend, Aoraki and his three brothers were the sons of Rakinui, the Sky Father: “While on a sea voyage, their canoe overturned on a reef. When the brothers climbed on top of their canoe, the freezing south wind turned them to stone. The canoe became the South Island (Te Waka o Aoraki); Aoraki and his brothers became the peaks of the Southern Alps.”

This lord of the New Zealand mountain universe is actually located in the middle of alluring national park, that is one of the unique with the highest mountains and longest glaciers. This is why the Mount Cook has the Hooker Glacier to the west and Tasman Glacier to the east. However you will to reach it, you need perfect climbing skills and serious access to the mountain challenges. The accent is not a joke since the mountain is choosing who will go and who wont go. The unpredictable weather conditions and risky glacier settings are the ground for experienced climbers and adrenaline boosted extreme mountaineers. For those who arent so skilled in technical climbing, there is a great hike around the glacier region. Tasman Glacier covers about 40% of the Mount Cook National Park and it is a super choice for a one day hike. On the other side, The Hooker Valley Track  is one of the best short hike in the world.

Beside it, if you want to watch the sky and stars, you can do it on the 4367 square kilometres the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, the world’s largest Gold Status International Dark Sky Reserve. The stars could be watched and explored through the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, being isolated in the Earth´s precious beauty.

Nevertheless, Mount Cook is actually very serious and admirable mountain that requires preparation so doesn’t surprise that sir Edmund Hillary has worked and developed his climbing skills for Mount Everest, right here. In 1949, he along with Harry Ayres made the first ascent on the south peak. They both completed also the grand traverse and confirmed why the In 1949 New Zealand’s most famous mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hillary, along with Harry Ayres, made the first ascent up the challenging south ridge on the south peak. They also completed the grand traverse and confirmed why they are the best climbers in New Zealand.

This mountain has always been known as Aoraki to the indigenous people of Maori but the name Mount Cook comes later, after Cook. Now, it is integrated like the confirmation of intensions to keep Maori culture and heritage in the urban culture and language. What is fascinating about Aoraki/ Mountain Cook is the fact that it still grows with an average of 7 millimetres ( o,28 inches ) each year. Why is that happening ? This is caused by the location of Southern Alps right on the Alpine Fault that is active. Literally, the tectonic plates are pushing and polishing each other, creating the opportunity for the mountain to go higher.

The growing mountain is tricky and dangerous and it has already took many lives of non-experienced mountain lovers. The experts say that is because of the glaciers and the tricky places that require the 100% of concentration and right know-how. It cant be performed jus like that and it need to be well organised, well prepared and the participants must have great fitness level supported with ultimate technical climbing capacity. This mountain doesn’t like to make joke and wont play with you, it will let you go or will damn you for eternity, taking your life. Some underestimated it because it is low elevation but the circumstances are difficult. There is a danger from fast changing weather forecast, vertical relief and degree of glaciation. If you manage to go through all of those risks, you will be rewarded with the spectacular view and summit experience.

The skilled climbers will let you know that the relatively easy route on Aoraki Mount Cook is via Linda Glacier but it is hazardus, after all, since you have to be aware of the ice-fall danger from above and also the rockfall that might occur. It is not secret, but without true climbing experience, you cant reach the summit successfully and each serious climbing agency in New Zealand will ask for proof of your technical mountaineering which includes that the potential client has used crampons, at least 14 days, within the last 2 years. Then, there is a proven experience on climbing with 2 tools on 45-50 degrees snow and ice. It is requested glacier travel past or crevasse rescue system, rock climbing competence and availability to climb 1,000 vertical metres with 8 kg backpack in 3,5 hours. This is almost a mission impossible for the climber -beginners but nor for professionals that can conquer the task that gives the mountain. The majority of the climbers go via Linda Glacier route that is the standard route but please note that there are no normal trekking route to the summit. If you want your peak, you need though the ice and snow, showing the master performance and handling with mountaineering tools. Base Camp is on the Tasman Glacier at 2,400 meters. To get to the high camp along Haast Ridge to Plateau Hut takes the next 10-12 hours. The Linda route or alpine grade 3 is less difficult if you compare it with Zurbriggins Ridge, the East Ridge, and a Grand Traverse across Low Peak, Middle Peak, and High Peak.

If there is a will, there is a way. You need to prepare yourself if you haven’t been on real tehnical climbing before. It is not impossible and you need to set up your goals and hold on them, no matter how the world is spinning around you and how many encouraging/ discouraging words are following you. Remember that Noah ark has been built by amateurs and the Titanic by professionals so the pure truth and success is only driven by your heart. The body will just follow and Aoraki Mount Cook is waiting for you.



  1. Sarah’s informative and delightful article reminded me of my time in New Zealand (i.e. I resided in Christchurch while The Lord of the Rings was being filmed [2000-2001])…

    At that time, ecologists and geophysicists of The University of Canterbury in Christchurch were providing data on global warming impacts on glaciers of New Zealand’s southern mountains; such as Hooker Glacier (11 km long), which derives from a slope of Mount Cook.

    A scientific study was conducted in mid-2022, and found that 60% of the glaciers of the southern mountains of New Zealand have consistent loss of ice, snow and overall volume, which inundates lakes and rivers; eventually, ocean level impact. This equates to 1.5 metres of thinning between 2015-2019: between 2000-2004, it was much, much less.

    Several scientists who are experts on glaciology believe the bulk of the glaciers of the southern mountains of New Zealand will lose their threshold volume by 2040, if global warming continues…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

About Sarahowlgirl1982

I am a master of Political Sciences, with special focus on Security Studies, Islamic Counter Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. I enjoy discovering and commenting things which are " in the air" but still not spoken.I also do like science writing and planing to move myself into the pure science journalism !