Aoraki, or Mount Cook, is new Zealand’s highest mountain at 3724 meters. It actually used to be about 40 meters higher, however a major landslide in 1991 left the mountain a little shorter than before. Aoraki is part of the Southern Alps, almost directly in the centre of the South Island. It is a popular tourist destination, and also popular with climbers.
My partner and I visited in June and were lucky enough to have a clear winters day which allowed great views of the mountain. Some locals told us that the weather in the area is very changeable, and that the peak is not always visible. So we were lucky!
Aoraki, the Maori name for the mountain, means “Cloud Piercer” and was discovered in the 14th century. European discovery come a little later in 1851, as well as the name Mt Cook in honor of Captain Cook.
The mountain can be viewed from the Tasman Glacier observation platform and also from the Hermitage – where you can enjoy a rather ordinary lunch with amazing views of the mountain. There is also a museum dedicated to the mountain and those who have climbed it.
A great way to see the mountain is by helicopter. There are flights from the Mt Cook airstrip which run every day, weather permitting. A half hour flight is about $300 per person. Given the clear weather we had, we were very keen to take off and get up close with Aoraki. However, there is a minimum of 4 people to run a flight. The helpful people at the airstrip took our name and number and promised to call if another couple came along looking for a flight – we never got a call. So my advice if you want to do a flight, take a party of 4 people with you!
We are planning to visit Aoraki again – and take the flight.