Aoraki/Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, a peak in the Southern Alps range that runs the length of the West Coast of the South Island. A popular tourist destination, it is also a favourite challenge for mountain climbers. The Tasman Glacier and Hooker Glacier flow down its slopes.
Following the settlement between Kāi Tahu and the Crown in 1998, the name of the mountain was officially changed from Mount Cook to Aoraki/Mount Cook to incorporate its original name, Aoraki. As part of the settlement, a number of South Island placenames were appended with their Māori name. Signifying the importance of Aoraki/Mount Cook, it is the only one of these names where the Māori name precedes the English. In the terms of the settlement, the Crown also agreed to return title to Aoraki/Mount Cook to Kāi Tahu, who would then formally gift it back to the nation.
The mountain is located within the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. The park was formally declared in 1953, and in combination with Westland National Park is one of the United Nations World Heritage Parks. The park contains more than 140 peaks standing over 2,000 m (6,500 ft) and 72 named glaciers, which cover 40% of the park's 700 km² (173,000 acres).
The settlement of Mount Cook Village (also known as The Hermitage) serves as a tourist centre and base camp for the mountain. It is located 4 km from the head of the Tasman Glacier, 12 km south of Aoraki/Mount Cook's summit.
Aoraki means "Cloud Piercer" in the Kāi Tahu dialect of the Māori language. Historically, the Māori name has also been spelt in the "canonical" Māori form: Aorangi. The English name honours Captain James Cook, who first surveyed and circumnavigated the islands of New Zealand in 1770.
 Summit attempts
The first recorded European attempt on the summit was initially attributed to the Irishman Rev. W. H. Green and two Swiss mountain guides on 2 March 1882, but it was subsequently established that they were 50 m short of the true summit. On 25 December 1894 New Zealanders Tom Fyfe, James (Jack) Clarke and George Graham, all from the South Island town of Waimate, successfully reached the summit via the Hooker Valley. Swiss guide Matthias Zurbriggen climbed the mountain solo very shortly afterwards from the Tasman Glacier side, via the ridge that now bears his name.
It remains a challenging ascent, with frequent storms and very steep snow and ice climbing to reach the peak. Strictly speaking, it is a triple peak, with the north peak being the highest, and the central and southern peaks being slightly lower. A traverse of the three peaks was first accomplished in 1913 by Freda du Faur and guides Peter and Alex Graham. Three years earlier du Faur had become the first woman to ascend Aoraki/Mount Cook.
Aoraki/Mount Cook was 10 m (33 ft) higher until a large section of rock and ice fell off the northern peak on 14 December 1991.
 The Southern Alps
The Southern Alps on the South Island are formed by tectonic uplifting and pressure as the Pacific and Australia-Indian plates collide along the island's western coast. The uplifting continues, raising Aoraki/Mount Cook an average of 7 mm (just over a quarter of an inch) each year. However, erosive forces are also powerful shapers of the mountains. The severe weather is due to the mountain's jutting into a trade wind pattern known as the Roaring Forties, which is characterized by powerful winds that run roughly around 45°S latitude, south of both Africa and Australia, so that the Southern Alps are the first obstacle the winds encounter after South America as they blow easterly across the Southern Ocean.
 Forests and Glaciers
The average annual rainfall in the surrounding lowlands is around 7.6 m (300 inches). This very high rainfall leads to temperate rain forests in the coastal lowlands and a reliable source of snow in the mountains to keep the glaciers flowing. These include the Tasman and Murchison Glaciers to the east and the smaller Hooker and Mueller Glaciers to the south.
 Area history
- 1642 - Aoraki sighted by Abel Tasman. Māori knew it for centuries before this.
- 1770 - Captain Cook named the Southern Alps
- 1851 - Captain Stokes of the survey ship HMS Acheron gave the name of Mt Cook to Aoraki.
- 1884 - First Hermitage built under the direction of Frank Huddleson
- 1894 - First ascent of Aoraki/Mount Cook on Christmas Day by Jack Clarke, Tom Fyte and George Graham
- 1910 - Freda da Faur becomes first woman to climb Aoraki/Mount Cook
- 1911 - The vital swing bridge is built in the Hooker Valley
- 1913 - First ascents of the footstool and Mt Sefton made by Freda da Faur's climbing party
- 1913 - Hermitage first ravaged by flood in January, then destroyed beyond repair by floodwaters two months later
- 1914 - First fatal accident when three men caught in avalanche on Linda Glacier
- 1914 - Second Hermitage opened, on different site
- 1957 - Second Hermitage razed to the ground
- 1959 - First school opens, Aoraki Mt Cook School
- 1981 - Passenger flights begin by Mount Cook Airline, now known as Air New Zealand
- 1982 - Mark Inglis trapped in Schrund
- 1991 - Avalanche of 10 million cubic metres of snow and rock cause 30 metres to be lost off the top of Aoraki/Mount Cook
- 1998 - The Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act officially recognises the original name, renaming the mountain Aoraki/Mt Cook.
 Visiting Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
Aoraki/Mount Cook web cam
Mount Cook National Park is dominated by the peaks of Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain as well as Mount Tasman. There are several other high peaks of the South Island's, Southern Alps nearby.
The park is renowned for its natural environment. Take only pictures and leave only footprints is a good rule to follow.
 Get in
From Twizel there is an all weather sealed road to the Mount Cook village. Mount Cook airport is down the road from the village.
 Get around
Walking is a popular way to get around the park. There are a number of formed tracks and recognised walking routes.
For those who want to see or ski the mountains, there are light aircraft and helicopters that can get you to places in minutes that would otherwise take hours or days of walking.
These are high mountains, so close up that it will put a crick in the back of your neck.
Fly From Queenstown with Glenorchy Air
For walking options refer to www.doc.govt.nz
Tramping options include an excursion to Mueller Hut (refer to Department of Conservation website above) and the Ball Pass Trek. For the Ball Pass crossing you need mountaineering experience, crampons and ice-axe, or go with a guide. For the guided option see www.alpinerecreation.com or phone +64 3 6806736.
Skiing options include day skiing on the Tasman Glacier with Mount Cook Ski Planes and Alpine Guides, or heliskiing in the Ben Ohau and Liebig Ranges, or ski touring based at high alpine huts. See www.alpineguides.co.nz and www.alpinerecreation.com for more information.
Mountaineering options range from Introductory Climbing Courses to guided ascents of Mount Cook.
See www.alpineguides.co.nz and www.alpinerecreation.com for more information on all options.
- Mount Cook Youth Hostel Cnr Bowen & Kitchener Drives, PO Box 26, Mt Cook National Park, 24-32 NZD (Mount Cook YHA).
- The Hermitage (backpackers accommodation is also available).
- There are huts in the mountains, be prepared to climb to reach them.
- Camping out is permitted in some parts of the park, though you may need to dig a snow cave.
 Stay Safe
Travelling in this mountain area requires preparation and some experience of mountain country.
Even in summer, day-walkers should carry warm clothing and some high-energy food, as the weather in this area can change rapidly.
Tramping and Climbing parties should be prepared to stay overnight in the open in an emergency. Intention plans should be lodged with the Park Rangers. Be aware that weather conditions may delay Search and Rescue efforts, so parties should be self sufficient and competent in all aspects of mountaineering. Local advice and guidance should be sought on any proposed activities.
Motorists should keep to the paved roads and not venture onto unsealed roads or 4 wheel drive tracks unless they are sure of their driving abilities and the suitability of their vehicle for the terrain and road surface. Some (notional) roads in this area are so dangerous they are excluded from vehicle insurance policies. In winter, chains should be carried and used when the roads become snow covered.
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 See also
 External links