Formed in 1953, Mt Cook National Park covers some 70,728 hectares. Within its borders lie New Zealand’s highest peaks, 14 of which are over 3000m with Mt Cook or Aorangi (the cloud piercer) rising majestically to 3757m.
Popular activities in the park include mountaineering, heli-skiing, ski touring, white water kayaking, glacier walking, glacier lake tours, scenic flights, hiking and easy strolls on well formed tracks up the Hooker and Tasman Valleys.
Access to Mt Cook village is via highway 8 which traverses the tussock covered, desolate McKenzie basin, then joins highway 80 which follows the shore line of the turquoise-blue glacial lake, Pukaki. It’s colour is due to what is termed “glacial flower”, where the friction from the glacial ice in both the Tasman (NZ’s longest at 28 km) and Hooker glaciers on the rock has ground it into a fine “flower”. This is then washed into the lake. Whilst a lot settles, some is held in suspension, causing the lakes intense colouration. On some days the colour is so intense you would swear some joker had been putting dye in it!
Weather: Confronted with the step flanks of the Southern Alps, weather fronts moving in from the Tasman Sea are forced to rise suddenly, causing them to drop most of their moisture on the western slopes of the Alps. As the air mass moves eastwards, it looses height, gains heat, and moves across the eastern plains as a warm, dry and often gusty wind: known in Canterbury as a “nor’wester” – the bane of many.
Weather changes can happen swiftly in the Alps. Our weather is typified by sudden changes, which can be severe, with river levels rising rapidly, sometimes metres per hour! Before venturing forth into the Southern Alps its best to cheek out the local weather forecast then seek advice from locals as to what it means and how it might affect your trip. Always travel with extra rations just in chase you are delayed by bad weather and flooded rivers.
Mt Cook Webcam
Glacier Explorers, based at Mt Cook, offer a fascinating tour of Lake Tasman aboard their small, yellow speedboats. The lake has formed over the last 25 years at the terminal end of the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand’s longest at around 27 km. The tour starts at the Hermitage Hotel with a 20 minute drive to the Blue Lake Shelter, in the Tasman valley. From the car park there is a 20 minute walk across old moraine to the lake. After a safety briefing you board the small, bright yellow surf boats which zoom you around the lake, stopping to study the large, very active ice cliffs along the way.
Glacier Explorers Website
Phone 0064 (03) 435-1077