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Mount Cook Facts

If you did not already know, Mount Cook is the highest mountain located in New Zealand.

Another fun fact is that it is the mountain that assisted Sir Edmund Hillary in preparation for his conquest in climbing Mount Everest.

According to the story of how the mountain got its name, it started with a young man who, in the company of his brothers, all the sons of his father, went out to explore Mother Earth.

In his exploration, the canoe got trapped in the middle of a reef where one of its ends sank, and so the brothers had to climb over the opposite end.

The south wind froze them and turned them into stone, while the canoe is said to represent the current south island Aoraki on the highest peak of the mountain while the brothers are on the sides.

Mount Cook Facts for Kids

  • Originally called Aoraki until it was changed to Mount Cook in 1851
  • Mount Cook is surrounded by 22 summits or peaks
  • It has long glaciers, towering peaks, and snowfields.
  • The mountain received its European name in honor of Captain James Cook
  • James Cook was the first European circumnavigator of New Zealand
  • It is located on the South Island
  • The Maori name of the mountain comes from the history that exists on the south island called canoe by Aoraki.
  • The first climb was by Tom Fyfe, George Graham, and John Michael Clarke on December 25, 1894
  • The local climate is domination of precipitation throughout the entire year
  • In 1914, the first tragic accident occurred on Linda Glacier with three men were trapped in an avalanche
  • A large rock fell in 1991 and turned the peak into a sharp-edged ridge; reducing the height of Mount Cook
  • Mount Cook Village is located at the base of the mountain and serves as a tourist area

Where Is Mount Cook National Park?

Surrounded by glaciers, the mountain is actually a set of three peaks: low, medium, and high. It is ideal for making tracks around its surroundings. Mount Cook, or Aoraki, as the Maori call it, rises above the Southern Alps on New Zealand’s South Island.

For indigenous populations, especially the Ngãi Tahu tribe, it is considered a sacred ancestral mountain. It is currently considered an important tourist destination and a famous location for mountaineering since on its sides, and there are several glaciers such as the Tasman and Hooker.

Access to the area is made on a regular basis by the Mount Cook Highway, which wraps around the western shore of Lake Pukaki. In close proximity is an airfield.

Mount Cook is the departure from the Alps of the Ocean Cycle Trail to Oamaru, a footpath whose manufacture was scheduled for the next few years after its acceptance in 2010 by the New Zealand cycle plan.

The mountain is located in the Canterbury area. The National Park was opened in October 1953 along with Mount Aspiring, Fiordland, and Westland National Park. The park was established to protect the landscape and vegetation in the area.

Encompassing 279 square miles, Mount Cook National Park itself is forty percent of the glaciers. Mount Cook has in excess of a hundred and forty peaks, which stand over 6,600 feet. It also has seventy-two glaciers, all with names. The glaciers envelop forty percent of its 170,000 acreages.

You would find the peak of the mountain at the north end region of Mount Cook Range. People can access the peak from where the Tasman Valley and Hooker Valley meet. At the end of the track in Hooker Valley, there is a lookout point, which is located ten kilometers away from the peak, where you can view the whole mountainside.

Below the mountain is a settlement known as Mount Cook Village or Aoraki. It is a popular tourist spot and is the support camp for the mountain. The tourist center is located about seven kilometers from the far end of Tasman Glacier and fifteen kilometers from the peak of Mount Cook.

Christchurch is a city located just four hours from Mount Cook. Twizel is the closest town to Mount Cook Village. It takes forty minutes to drive on highway 50 to Mount Cook Village. Drivers have access to pull-in points on Highway 50, where the mountain can be viewed, and photographs were taken.

On days when it is clear, visitors can see Mount Cook from Greymouth and also from the West Coast. This is about one hundred and fifty kilometers in the distance. It can also be seen from State Highway 6 and State Highway 80.  

Can You Climb Mount Cook?

Mount Cook has a long history of climbers, its summit being conquered hundreds of times since the late 19th century, but its main legend is that of Sir Edmund Hillary, a New Zealand climber who honed his altitude skills here before achieving the feat of being the first man to climb Mount Everest in May 1953.

Then Sir Edmund returned to New Zealand and repeatedly visited the national park, and he was so proud of this piece of land that he was even honored by opening a museum in his name.

Many will agree that Mount Cook is not easy to climb, an objective for only the most skilled and experienced mountaineers. The typical practice for mountaineers is to take a small plane ride; 2,200 meters to Plateau Hut, after which they would wait for good weather to make the trek up the mountain. There is quite a lot of ice and snow to go through for the summit climb.

The first attempted summit climb recorded was in 1882 by Reverend William S. Green, who was an Irishman, and Ulrich Kaufmann, a mountain guide, along with Emil Boss, a hotelier. The three men entered from the Linda and Tasman Glaciers. It is believed that the three came within close proximity to the summit, at least 50 meters.

Like others like Tom Fyfe, George Graham, and John Michael Clark climbed Mount Cook in December 1894, you can reach the peak from the north ridge and Hooker Valley. These climbers were local.

They wanted to prove that despite earlier attempts to climb Mount Cook five days before, they had a desire to be the first locals to do so in lieu of rumors that Edward Fitzgerald, an American mountain climber, was eyeing the summit to do his climb.

The three men reached the peak of the mountain at 1:30 PM. Since then, no one repeated that route again until sixty years after in 1955.

The second attempt at climbing Mount Cook was made on March 14, 1895. Matthias Zurgriggen was a Swiss guide. He also participated in the climb that Edward Fitzgerald made in later years. Zurbriggen went up the mountain from Tasman Glacier using the bridge that later bore his name.

Jack Clarke, along with four other climbers, ascended Mount Cook in 1905, using the same route as Zurbriggen did. Therefore, Clarke was named the first person that did the repeat climb.

Mount Cook is a technical challenge due to its high glacial level. Many climbers underestimate its difficulty and the fact that this changes according to the weather conditions on a particular day. Climbers take risks of crossing

  • Large crevasses
  • Falling rocks
  • Ice
  • Varying weather conditions
  • Avalanches

80 climbers have suffered tragedy during the early part of the 20th century. It is considered a deadly peak, which claims at least one life during the climbing season, which runs from the months of November to February of each year.

How Old Is Mount Cook?

The altitude of Mount Cook was founded in 1882 by General Robert from the western slope, while in 1890, Brodrick from the Canterbury slope.

His measurements are almost exact, with about 13,000 feet 3765 meters, that altitude decreased by 10 meters when more than ten million cubic meters of stone and ice fell from the top of the northern peak in December 1992.

Mount Cook or Aoraki is located in a national park. While 1953 is the year it was established, it earned its Maori name in 1998.

The New Zealand Alps of the South Island were formed by the tectonic pressure caused by the collision of the Pacific Plate and the Indo-Australian at the convergent edge that corresponds to the western coastline of the island.

The subduction continues to lift Mount Cook an average of 7 mm per year. In any case, the erosive fortresses also give the powerful shape of the mountains, which usually has severe climate due to the action of the powerful westerly winds called roaring forties that take action along 45 degrees south latitude.

In the southern part of Africa and Australia, the New Zealand Alps are the first and only impediment that these winds have in their way through the length of the southern seas.

The tectonic uplifting when the Indo-Australian Plates and the Pacific collided was the reason that Mount Cook became a part of the Southern Alps. The mountain itself formed approximately 10 million years ago if you were to view it in geological terminology.

How Tall Is Mount Cook?

Of the more than twenty mountains over 3000 meters high, all but one are found in this national park, Aoraki or Mount Cook being the highest in New Zealand, and the entire oceanic continent, with its steep 3760 meters above the level of the sea.

Although this figure seems to be not so impressive when compared with the height of the Andes in South America or the European Alps, the elevation of Aoraki from its base is higher than many of the mountains that we see in the other mountain ranges.

It is also partly to what must be one of the most photogenic mountains in the world. In addition to the impressive face of Aoraki and the fact that it is almost 40% of the surface of the national park and is covered by glaciers that, together with the majestic elevation of its main mountain, make it a unique place in Oceania, it has captivated not only tourists and visitors but that also to athletes who find on its slopes a sacred ground for their practice.

On December 14, 1991, Mount Cook (then 3,764 meters high) suffered a huge avalanche that knocked 10 meters of rock and ice from its summit. Study leader Pascal Sirguey noted that over 20 years, the famed peak had continued to collapse.

The researchers first noticed the change when building a digital model of a nearby glacier. Interestingly, the results did not match the official height. When comparing photographs from the past and present, the difference in height became more apparent. To verify their suspicions, the team climbed the mountain with a GPS device. Indeed, it had lost height.

However, the researchers say that Mount Cook will not lose its place as the highest peak in New Zealand, as it remains 23 meters higher than the second-highest peak: Mount Tasman (Rarakiroa in Maori). Also, due to the movement of tectonic layers, it grows 10 centimeters every year.

Is Mount Cook Worth Visiting?

Mount Cook is worth visiting for its record and to enjoy the landscape and activities nearby. In addition to being a great tourist destination, it is a famous area for mountaineers with a great history of ancestry. It is also a mountain known for having been the external location of some scenes from the movie The Lord of the Rings.

Trekking / Hiking and mountain biking in an impressive landscape are some of the activities available to everyone. For those looking for other challenges, there are guided ski trips and helicopters that can take skiers to different parts of the park to live a different experience in the middle of nature.

The scenic flights are a unique opportunity to see the whole view of the park, nineteen peaks over 3,000 meters high, and its glaciers. At night, the view of the sky from the area offers one of the clearest views in the world. Being away from large urban centers, the night sky is shown in its full splendor.

If you want to sleep on Mount Cook, something that is totally accessible, you can do it in any of the accommodations in the town of Monte Cook Village. This is a great option and is the most acceptable if you want to stay in a hotel.

White Horse Hill Campsite is the most recommended since thanks to the campsite you have the best views of the country. This is located at the beginning of the valley. The track has a unique panorama of Mount Cook and the glacier. It is impossible to make a reservation in advance since you have to fill out a survey in the booth.

Apart from all the activities that can be done on Mount Cook, there is a list of different options as a complement to enjoy everything to the fullest in one of the most beautiful places in the country. It is recommended that you enjoy the scenery alongside Hooker Lake, where you can walk or hike. The trail begins in Mount Cook Village and will take half a day to return.