63 Photos - Jan 23, 2014
Photo: First view of Aoraki/Mt. Cook looking north up Lake PukakiPhoto: A bit closer. The bus has been driving up the west side of the lake...at the north end is a sort of delta.Photo: Here's a hero shot among the wildflowers.Photo: The Hermitage Hotel. This is the third one, built in 1958. Rooms facing the mountain start at $350 per night.Photo: A bit of the history. The first one was destroyed by flood, the second by fire. Interestingly, a few years ago some folks created a NZ version of "The Shining."Photo: Plaque marking the location of the first hotel.Photo: What happened.Photo: Some of the ruins. This was at the campground.Photo: Where I was staying...the Alpine Lodge. About half of what a Hermitage room would have been. My room was second from the left on the upper floor.Photo: Here's the park map from the DOC brochure, which is available from this page: http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/national-parks/aoraki-mount-cook/activities/Photo: The view out my hotel room window (taken the first evening).Photo: The weather was supposed to turn bad the next day, so immediately after arrival I set out on this "4 hr return" walk.Photo: Along the way was Freda's Rock.Photo: She was the first woman to climb the mountain, in 1910. She did other climbing in the area, and would dress up for dinner at the Hermitage.Photo: This marker was a memorial to people who had died while climbing in the area. There were memorial plaques on all 4 sides as well as several books in the visitor center which documented each death.Photo: This trail was heading for Mt. Sefton.Photo: It was first climbed a few months after Mt. Cook.Photo: I hadn't heard this sound since my last visit to Palmer Station. Sometimes you could even see the fall. But when the ice broke off it just fell atop more ice at the bottom of the mountain, not into a lake.Photo: There is ice falling just to the left of center.Photo: Mt. Sefton.Photo: Looking NNE across Mueller Lake toward Aoraki.Photo: Looking south toward Lake Pukaki.Photo: The next morning I took the Hooker Valley track, which approached Mt. Cook and the Hooker Glacier/Hooker Lake below it. This walk had 3 swing bridges...Photo: ...which were getting worked on, adding stiffeners.Photo: Looking upstream at the river, Mt. Cook is in the background.Photo: Closer...here is Hooker Lake from another of the swing bridges.Photo: Hooker lake. The Hooker Glacier is at the far end, covered by rocks it is carrying. And there are icebergs.Photo: Another view of the icebergs.Photo: Where there are icebergs there must be bar ice (so named at Palmer Station where we'd collect it and bring it back to use at the bar).Photo: More potential bar ice.Photo: And a hero shot.Photo: Looking downstream at the Hooker River.Photo: That afternoon I rented a bike to travel the ~10km to see the Tasman Glacier. Here's an inset map of the walks to Tasman Glacier and the lake.Photo: Here's a view (taken the next day while on the Red Tarns walk) looking east toward the Tasman Valley Road (which angles off toward the upper right in this photo).Photo: Speargrass. I saw a lot of this.Photo: Fortunately identified here. Yes, the leaves are sharp.Photo: One of the Blue Lakes. Well, they were blue when they were named...Photo: The second one.Photo: And there's a third one I didn't get to...this view is from the path to the Tasman Lake overlook.Photo: Why they're now green.Photo: Tasman Lake, the glacier is at the far end, covered with rocks and gravel.Photo: And out in the middle of the lake (zoom in) we have...recreational boating!Photo: As well as a small iceberg.Photo: Looking toward the south end...somewhere down there the water is running out into the beginning of the Tasman River.Photo: A display illustrating the retreat of the glacier. The lake is new, formed after the glacier retreated. In the 1970's there were several small melt ponds, but by the 90's they'd merged into a single lake.Photo: Here's the pier where the boat tours are based.Photo: And some tourists getting ready for the trip. No, I didn't go...I've done this before, where there are much larger glaciers.Photo: Perhaps Palmer Station needs one of these to go with the new boat ramp.Photo: And downstream of the lake outlet, here's the Tasman River.Photo: Along the path to the river, mosses of various colors.Photo: The next morning I took the walk up to the Red Tarns, on the west side of the valley.Photo: Here's a mostly clear view of the mountains depicted on the previous photo. According to the guidebook, this walk climbed 300 meters, but based on the view from the top, after climbing hundreds of steps, it seemed like much more of a height gain. And as I climbed, the winds got stronger and gustier, heralding the approaching weather change.Photo: This view is from close to the top of the climb.Photo: The Red Tarns.Photo: A description of some of the red stuff. I didn't see any carnivorous plants.Photo: Another view from near the highest point of the trail.Photo: Back down at the village level...this is one of the water sources for the hotels etc.Photo: Photo: Inside the Hermitage Hotel was the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. There were exhibits about various aspects of his life, as well as about other area pioneers and the history of the hotel. Hillary trained for his Everest climb as well as for his South Pole trip in this area. This Ferguson tractor is a replica created a few years ago. A total of seven TE20 tractors were ordered for the 1956-58 Trans-Antarctic Expedition...three were taken to Pole and given to the program by Hillary (in return for having VX-6 fly the party back to McMurdo). They stayed around for awhile but eventually were returned. One is in the Canterbury museum in Christchurch; one is in the Ministry of Transport and Technology museum in Auckland, and the third is at the Massey Ferguson plant in Beauvais, France.

There were showings of a number of films as well as planetarium shows. I saw a 3D short film about Aoraki/Mt. Cook and a longer film about Hillary's life, featuring the Everest climb (the film was by Mike Single).Photo: Here's the view of Mt. Cook from my hotel window on the last afternoon. The rain stopped at some point in the evening, but the next morning it was very blustery, cold, and very rainy. The snow level had dropped to 1400 meters; this was quite visible (the village is at 765m).Photo: The statue of Sir Edmund Hillary in front of the Hermitage.Photo: The statue of Sir Edmund Hillary in front of the Hermitage. I forgot to photograph this during my main visit, so I grabbed these photos when my bus from Twizel to Lake Tekapo stopped here for an hour.Photo: Actually the statue wasn't very well displayed...it was not in front of the Hermitage or the Hillary Centre, but rather on a balcony on the floor above, only accessible from one of the restaurants. And partially behind glass.