Mount Cook

Mt Cook main
View of Mt Cook
Photo by: C.M. Lynch, Creative Commons

Mount Cook, also known as Aoraki, is New Zealand’s highest mountain standing 3,754 meters high. It is a popular destination for tourists visiting the country, especially for mountain climbers. The mountain can be found in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, which is included in the United National World Heritage Parks. The 700-sq kilometer park itself features more than 140 peaks and 72 named glaciers. The mountain’s base camp is Mount Cook Village, which also serves as the park’s tourist center.

Mt Cook is an ascent for the more experienced climbers. It is frequently visited by storms and takes steep ice and snow climbing to reach the peak. The mountain has three peaks – Low Peak, Middle Peak, and the High Peak – lying south and east of the main divide.

Aoraki means “Cloud Piercer” in a dialect Maori language. Abel Tasman, for whom the Tasman Glacier found east of the mountain was named, was the first European believed to have discovered the mountain in 1642. Mt Cook was then named after Captain James Cook, who was the first explorer to circumnavigated New Zealand in 1770. Cook did not see the mountain in the course of his exploration. The mountain’s official name was Aoraki/Mount Cook with respect to its historic Maori name.

The first climbing attempt at Mt Cook was made by Rev. William Green, Swiss hotelier Emil Boss, and Swiss mountain guide Ulrich Kaufmann in 1882 but it was later agreed that they were 50 meters short of the true summit. In December 1894, Tom Fyfe, James Clarke, and George Graham of New Zealand were the first climbers to successfully reach the summit. They made their way up via Hooker Valley and the north ridge.

Vast amounts of rainfall nurtures temperate rainforests in the coastal lowlands and keep the glaciers flowing. These glaciers include the Tasman and the Murchison glaciers to the east and the Hooker and the Mueller glaciers to the south.

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