While on the South Island of New Zealand. we had hoped to take on a good hike in the Mt. Cook National Park area, but we had only a short time in our itinerary and the forecast was not promising, but we kept to our schedule and headed over the pass from Queenstown to Aoraki – Mt. Cook passing through the more arid lands of Otago.
At the entrance into the National Park, the meltwaters of the Tasman and Hooker Glaciers become the Tasman River which flows into Lake Pukaki, dammed by terminal moraines to the southeast. The blue color of the lake is the result of glacial flour suspended in the water. The road to Mt. Cook follows the shoreline of the lake to the braided river near the foot of the Southern Alps.
Three swingbridges are crossed on the way over to Hooker Lake. Strong winds added some extra sway to the bridges as we crossed them. The rain and wind picked up as we worked our way into the valley below Mt. Cook. A few flowering shrubs and flowers could be seen along the way.
After pushing on through the weather, we turned back before the end of the trail since we were getting very wet and we couldn’t see anything above anyway. We chose to return back to our campground at the end of Lake Pukaki which was to the east, out of the rain. The 11 000 peaks of the area were receiving most of the rain and leaving the valleys beyond and the surrounding hills not very far away much drier.
Mt. Cook is 3724 m high (12 218 feet), the highest peak in the Southern Alps. Nearby are 13 other peaks of 3000m or more. There are 3000 glaciers (of 1 square hectare or larger) near the crest of the range, with the largest being the Tasman Glacier (27km long). The Tasman Glacier sits between Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman. A terminal lake sits at the foot of the glacier which is the source of the Tasman River. It is joined by the outflow from the Hooker and Mueller Glaciers which runs in braided streams into Lake Pukaki.
If we had come to the trail on a fine day, we may have seen Mt. Cook at the end of the Hooker Lake trail as shown in this photo. (Wiki Commons – Atanamir)