Ultimate Queenstown

Mt Cook - A must do side trip!

Mt Cook - A must do side trip!

Posted by Dave Fahey: 20th May 2014 @ 11:21:21

Last weekend Kate and myself hit the road, escaped the Queenstown bubble and spent a couple of days hiking around a mind blowing corner of New Zealand. I would hate to think of the number of times I have ventured the road from Queenstown to Christchurch. Each time passing the turnoff to Mt Cook and making the comment, which I’m sure we’ve all made, next time.

Arriving at the turnoff we were immediately greeted by the stunning blue, glacial waters of Lake Pukaki glistening in the Autumn sunlight. Unfortunately, the jewel on the crown, Mt Cook was hiding under a veil of cloud. It did however seem to be our lucky day. Within five minutes of ascending the valley towards the highest peak in the rugged Southern Alps, the suns powerful rays shattered and dispersed the low level cloud, unveiling Aoraki’s snow-capped peaks.

As we neared the foothills and Mt Cook village the sheer size of the surrounding mountains kicked in. The near vertical mountains seem to erupt from nowhere and as the native beach forest make way to dramatic hanging glaciers, it’s hard not to call this beautiful country home.

With heads swivelling from side to side like tourists in our own country we pulled into the Hermitage, our accommodation for the evening. As we rose up the south tower in the glass front elevator we were greeted by 180 degree panoramic views which unlocked all the hidden gems of this sheer glacial valley.

With bags dumped and walking shoes on it was time to go exploring. There is an endless amount of walks to do in the area and the only real limiting factors are your time, fitness and experience in the mountains. As we were there for a relaxing weekend away climbing mountains wasn’t on the agenda, but we were keen to maximise views.

On our first afternoon we drove to both road heads and went for short walks including a wee walk to the Tasman Glacier Lake. With camera in hand we were keen to get some pics and with clear skies and no wind the mountainous environment put on a show. As we sat down with a beer in hand looking up towards Tasman Glacier it was hard not to slip into a state of pure relaxation.

On day two we woke early with a slightly fuzzy head due to a beautiful bottle of local Pinot Noir and delicious three course meal at the Hermitage. Our waiter for the night had told us the Hooker Valley was well worth a look and the glacial lake at the foot of Mt Cook had an abundance of large ice bergs floating in it. It was another beautiful clear day and was well worth being on the trail early to see the crisp early morning frost disperse as the first rays of sun spread across the valley. It even trigged a number of icefalls filling the valley with a deep rumble. The track is well cared for making it capable of covering good distance quickly.

As we arrived at the Hooker Glacier Lake it was clear to see that its beauty has by no means been oversold. Flat mirror like water reflected the large icebergs floating in the lake truly amplifying their size and enriching their deep blue colour. We were fortunate to have this area to our self for half an hour or so as we chilled out in the early morning sun. The decision to rise early was more than justified as we passed a steady stream of people walking in the opposite direction upon our return. Traversing back down the valley the unanimous decision was that a return to Mt Cook in the near future was imminent and a trip to Mueller Hut was essential.

All and all an amazingly relaxing weekend was had in what has to be one of the most stunningly beautiful and dramatic parts of New Zealand. So next time you’re planning a trip to Queenstown, a side trip to Mt Cook is a must do.

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