Aoraki Mount Cook Region

Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest peak, is the majestic focal point of the Southern Alps, the 'backbone' of the South Island. The region is a haven for tourists, adventurers and leisure seekers alike.

The european name of Mount Cook was bestowed in 1851, in honour of Captain James Cook. The mountain is officially known by its Maori name, 'Aoraki', from an ancient myth, in which the Gods turned the entire complement of a wrecked canoe into hills. The 'tallest' of the party was a child named Aoraki, who was sitting on the chief's shoulders. Another account says that the mountain was named in honour of Aoraki, the first-born son of the sky father.

The summit, which has in fact three peaks, is 3,724 metres above sea level towering over its neighbours. It was once 10 metres higher, but in December 1991, an avalanche containing 10 million cubic metres of snow, ice and rock tumbled off the eastern face of the summit.

The first attempt at the summit was made in 1882, but it was not conquered until Christmas Day, 1894. The mountain is still not to be taken lightly, as over 140 climbers have lost their lives on its slopes.

Aoraki Mount Cook is the center piece of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, comprising nearly 70,000 hectares, more than one-third of which is permanent ice and snow. Within it frontiers are many of the most spectacular features of the central Southern Alps.

Twenty-two other peaks exceed 3,050 metres in height, including Horokoau Mount Tasman, the second highest in the country at 3,497 metres. These peaks have served as an outstanding training ground for many notable New Zealand mountaineers, including Sir Edmund Hillary and his son Peter, and Graeme Dingle.

The visitor's center at Aoraki Mount Cook Village will tell you a wide range of information on the area, with fantastic interactive displays and learning opportunities. If you are planning on exploring in the mountains you must tell the guides if you are going anywhere beyond the immediate confines. In summer park staff arrange an informal and friendly programme of guided walks during the day, and evening lectures on birds, ski mountaineering and other topics, to enable everyone to better understand and appreciate the beauty of the park.

There are many official and private huts to serve climbers or experienced trampers. Walks range from the short Bowen Track, which takes 10 minutes to complete, to longer walks on the Mueller, Hooker Valley and Red Tarns Tracks.

Park rangers organise daily walks along the many easy tracks during the summer. There is a school of mountaineering, and professional guides are available for climbing, tramping and skiing trips.

There are five major glaciers in the region, including 'Haupapa' the Tasman Glacier, a river of ice 27 kilometres long, up to three kilometers wide and in places 2,500 metres thick. It is the largest glacier in the world outside the polar regions or the Himalayas.

A pure white mountain buttercup known as the Mount Cook lily grows in profusion throughout the region. The olive green parrot, the Kea, is best known of the region's birds. It is blatantly curious, so keep a close eye on your food during a meal. Many other birds may be seen, including native pigeons, grey warblers, bellbirds, and the tiny rifleman. All of them are protected.

The hunting of European chamois, and Himalayan tahr, though, is actively encouraged, because of the damage the animals cause to the vegetation. Shooting permits must be obtained at park headquarters. There are also opportunities for hunting on Glentanner Station.

23km from Aoraki Mount Cook Village and 18km from Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is Glentanner Park Centre. Glentanner Park offers a range of budget accommodation including motel style self contained units, basic and standard units/cabins, and campervan and tent sites.

Glentanner Park is also the perfect base to explore the beauty of this wonderful region, offering a wide range of outdoor adventure activities. The Glentanner High Country Heli-Hike, Helicopter flights with snow landings, Heli-Skiing, Heli-Hiking on the Tasman Glacier, flightseeing, glacier boat trips and walking/hiking being being the most highly sort after.

Glentanner and the Aoraki Mount Cook region is very popular in the summer months, and is an excellent choice in the winter too!