Aoraki / Mt Cook

Beauty of highest mountain of New Zealand.



4/30/20234 min read

From Honza's diary:

After a detour to Lake Tekapo and agreeing to work for the winter at Mt. Dobson, we were greeted by the surroundings of Zealand's highest mountain, Mount Cook (Aoraki in Maori), covered with snow and glaciers all year round, which rises to a height of 3724 m.a.s.l.

We planned a three-day crossing over the Ball Pass saddle on the side of the Mt Cook massif, which separates the two glacial valleys of Hooker and Tasman. The weather wasn't bad, but the next day they said it was cloudy, so we waited for a longer window of good weather at the free campsite on the other side of Lake Pukaki. The bet on the weather forecast turned out to be a mistake again, as the next morning was perfect. We blamed ourselves for the fact that we could run up the hills a long time ago, so we at least went around the lake to the village of Mt. Cook. It didn't even surprise us that as soon as we got there, it got cloudy and it started raining. But the stay at the paid campsite was made pleasantly special by a chance encounter with a few friends from the orchard.

The next afternoon, after the rain, we set off around Mueller lake on an unmarked route up to the Tewaewae and Huddleston glaciers. I had spotted a wonderful place to sleep there - the Sefton bivouac right at the foot of the glacier. The road was quite exposed in places and it took us more than two hours to climb the three kilometers and 800 meters up. But it was definitely worth it!

We haven't seen such a magical place in a long time. And we even fit into a bivouac with a British-Indian couple and didn't even have to set up a tent. We later lent the tent to another pair of Czechs who came after us.

The next day it was still beautiful, so after breakfast and watching the Kea parrots, we went down to Hooker Lake. The only thing that made us nervous, were the views of the Ball pass, which seemed to be covered with snow (or glacier?). In the instructions for the unmarked crossing of the pass was written that crampons are necessary. Fortunately (perhaps more to Iwy's displeasure) I found out from a friend that it was once possible without crampons.

I came up with options to go through it myself, but Iwy didn't want to let me alone. In the end we came up with a compromise of driving around to the other side of Tasman Lake and climbing under the saddle to Caroline's hut along the Tasman Glacier. If the saddle turns out to be passable, I'll walk it back to the village of Mt. Cook. Iwy who’s hip is still bit stiff will go with me and see how it goes.

Of course, everything turned out completely differently. At the end of Tasman lake there was a huge washout, which we climbed for about an hour along a path over rocks and jungle. In the late afternoon, we only reached the Ball hut, where we were supposed to start climbing, but we didn't really want to do that anymore. In addition, out of four beds, two mattresses were free, which we took as a sign.

A cheerful couple of Irish people from Dublin were already resting at the cottage, with whom we had a good chat and played cards in the evening. So there was nothing left for me, but the transition, which usually takes two to three days to give in a day. The next morning I started climbing towards Ball pass at dawn. Iwy decided to join the Irish, climb with them only to Caroline hut and then return to the cars together.

I continued from Caroline up to the pass with about a two-hour lead. It was constant wandering and climbing between rocks. But already after noon I was at the top and my reward was a wonderful view over the surrounding glaciers to both valleys. Then all that was left was to start sliding down the other side through the snow and debris to the Hooker Glaciet. As I had hoped, crampons really weren't needed. After a few more hours, I was already descending into the valley, but paradoxically, the most demanding part was waiting for me.

The slope above the lake, where the road originally led, was washed out in almost ten places, and each time one had to claw his way up the slope to the rocks, which meant a lot of extra height meters. Hooker lived up to its name, by the end my feet were pretty sore. After 11 hours of walking, I finally trudged to the parking lot, knowing that this crossing would be difficult to overcome. But let us be surprised.

From Iwy's diary:

The climb to the Sefton bivvy made me bit more sore than I expected and my hip hurted as hell. I must have put a lot on my backpack, because it didn't work for me at all. In addition, the Brittish guy snored terribly at night, so sleeping was not very good too. But the evening and the morning were beautiful and the surrounding views can hardly be compared with anything else.

The descent and trip to Hooker Lake was also cool. The transition over Ball pass from below looked quite threatening, so I considered the option from the other side around Lake Tasman to be better. Unfortunately, lack of sleep and women's days affected me and I did not enjoy the trip very much. Especially when we then had to scramble around the huge washout and then searched for a way in the rubble a few more times. But we arrived at the Ball hut before sunset. The evening with Irish couple was great, and actually the second day too, when we went up together. Great views, great weather, so what more could you ask for.

But I shouldn't have said that because I messed up everything and Jessica and I both had stomachaches the whole way. Fortunately, I didn't have to solve it with Ibalgin. In addition, we got pretty burnt despite the sunscreen, but otherwise it was really a blast. On the way to the car, we picked up an even older couple of Australians, so I enjoyed all different accents of English. We arrived quite late, the sun was already setting. I managed to catch up with Honza exactly at the moment when he also arrived from his route. Shabby, but with a huge smile from ear to ear.