Stella McCartney Bomber Jacket
@Hooker Valley Track, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home of the highest mountains in New Zealand, with a height of 3,754 meters and the longest glaciers at 27 kilometers in length. It is alpine in the purest sense - with skyscraping peaks, glaciers and permanent snow fields, all set under a star-studded sky.
According to Ngai 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.
At the foot of the mountain sits the village of Mount Cook - a comfortable haven in one of the most unforgiving parts of New Zealand. On every side, the Southern Alps scrape the sky. Even in summer, the weather can change in the blink of an eye. The region is only 44 kilometres from the coast, so storms can arrive suddenly from the Tasman Sea to create dangerous conditions for climbers.
Despite the sometimes difficult conditions, Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park is an exceptionally beautiful place to visit. You don’t have to be a mountaineer to interact with the stunning scenery; there are various alpine walks beginning near the village, all about three hours return. Flightseeing, tours to the Tasman Glacier and stargazing are other ways to optimise your time here.
1. Mountain walks
There are 10 short walks beginning near the village. All tracks are formed and well marked. The Red Tarns Track, Kea Point and the Hooker Valley Track each take around two hours return. For more experienced alpine hikers, there are three mountain pass routes - over the Mueller, Copland and Ball passes.
2. Glacier viewing and skiing
Helicopters and ski-planes provide access to the park's fabulous glaciers. The Tasman Glacier is an excellent choice for intermediate skiers, while the Murchison, Darwin and Bonney glaciers promise excitement for advanced skiers. Landing among spectacular ice formations and caverns is the start of an unforgettable experience. From October until May, you can explore the Tasman Glacier's terminal lake by boat.
Climbing Aoraki/Mount Cook remains the ultimate challenge, but there are many other peaks to tempt experienced climbers. Tasman, Malte Brun, Elie de Beaumont, Sefton and La Perouse are local favorites.
Photos by Lei Li