Winter treks are challenging for sure. But the beauty of snow landings are so irresistible like a magnetic pull. Interestingly, many places show off their beauty after a fresh snowfall. Trekking is the best teacher as well. It teaches us about the importance of life, it’s overwhelming beauty and how to survive. Take a break from your busy schedule to touch the snow and breathe fresh air.

Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand standing at an amazing 12,218 feet with a real beauty of permanently snow-capped and ionic peaks. Mount Cook is also known as Aoraki, which is its Maori name meaning, “cloud piercer”. It encompasses 19 peaks over 3000 meters. It is flanked by the Hooker Glacier to the west and Tasman Glacier to the east. Let’s figure out what the winter activities in Mt. Cook are!

Trekking at Mt. Cook

1. Hooker Valley 

It starts from the White Horse Hill camping area and takes you along the photogenic Hooker River between the mighty peaks. It is relatively a flat hike and covers over 3 picturesque suspension bridges and ends at by showcasing the rawness of New Zealand’s mighty mountain, Mt. Cook. It is preferable to go either early in the morning or at sunset as the valley is extremely crowded during the day. The valley is just eight minutes drive from the village. 

Distance: 10km Duration : 3 hrs 
Elevation: 100m 

2. Tasman Glacier and Blue Lakes Walk 

This is a really short track starting from the Blue Lakes car park. It takes you through the Tasman Lake where icebergs are the common attractions. It is preferable to visit the valley during summer as you can see icebergs floating in the glacial water. A couple of greenish blue ponds which appears in between the track are worth stopping and soar over the Southern Alps on a stunning scenic helicopter flight. You are not allowed to bring your dogs and the track surface has rocky steps. 

Distance: 1km Duration : 1hr 
Elevation: 100m

3. Kea Point 

Kea Point is the best option if you are looking for an easy walk and a picture perfect hiking. The track begins from the White Horse Hill Campground where the Hooker Valley track, Sealy Tarns and trail to Mueller hut begin. During the walk, you can witness the most beautiful sunset with bright red long lenticular clouds covering the sky. 

Distance: 2.8km 
Duration: 1hr 
Elevation: 200m 

4. Mueller Hut 

Mueller huts are one of the backcountry huts in New Zealand. The route extends up to Mount Oliver and is one of the longest distant hiking in the Mt. Cook. On the way, you will be treated with the sight of Ngakanohi Glacier and the Mueller Glacier. Once you reach the final destination, the view waiting for you is a 360 vantage point which shows the extension of Mount Cook towards North, Mount Kitchener and Mount Sealy towards the south. 

Distance: 10.4 km 
Duration: 6-8 hrs 
Elevation: 1050m 

5. Red Tarns 

The track starts at the public shelter on Browen Drive in Aoraki/Mount Cook Village to cross the bridge over Black Birth Stream and then climb steeply to the Red Tarns. It has breathtaking panoramic views as you ascend from the valley. The sunset in the valley during the summer season is magnificent. 

Distance: 4 km 
Duration: 2 hrs 
Elevation: 300m

Accommodation

The Department of Conservation provides 17 huts in the park. White Horse Hill Campground is the best place you can stay which is operated by the Department of Conservation. The greatest advantage is that it is the starting point for most of the tramping. Even though the place has unbeatable beauty and tourist attractions, there are only a few hotels running. Glentanner Park is located just 18 km from Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park. 

It offers a range of Mt. Cook accommodation with unlimited tent sites and many outdoor activities like flight-seeing, snow landings, glacier trips, 4WD Argo tours, mountain biking, ice climbing, hikes and many more. 
Hermitage Hotel, a big hotel with an interesting history, small market, souvenir shop and a couple of dining options. It is located adjacent to Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre and just 350m away from the National Park Visitor Center. It offers 24 hours reception and a tour desk to organize local activities.

Must-Do Activities in Mount Cook

1. Heli-skiing 

The heart of the Southern Alps, Mount Cook has the largest Heliskiing area in New Zealand. Heli-skiing is off-trail, skiing or snowboarding reached by helicopter, instead of the ski lift. It has lines to suit from Mount Cook National Park to the shores of Lake Pukaki and the Ben Ohau Range. It is professionally guided by Alpine Guides and flown by the Helicopter Line.

2. Heli- Hiking 

This adventure is only reserved for experienced and interested mountaineers. You can explore glacial ice formations on a professionally guided hike for up to 3-4 hrs. The scenic helicopter flight and glacier landing are included. You can fly from the Mount Cook airport over the gorgeous Tasman Glacier Lake and ice formations. Glacier boots, ice crampons, and a waterproof jacket are required. 

3. Snow Shoeing 

The snowshoe expedition is a 2-3 trip for climbing up 850m to private Caroline Hut. From the Hut, you can snowshoe up Kaitiaki Peak and experience the stunning adventure of Mount Cook and many more peaks.  

 4. Stargazing 

The mountain has the biggest dark sky reserve in the world. It is the best place for stargazing as there is no light pollution. You just need to look up to the sky and can see beautiful galaxies and is a rare thing if you are living in urban areas. And the best part is, the night sky is clearer in the winter! 

5.Argo Tours 

The Tasman Glacier has a spectacular range of photographic spots awaited for the travelers. The Four Wheel Drive Tours are the best way to explore the valley. The 4WD travels through the avalanche areas and alpine flats where you will be stunned by the beauty of the mountains and peaks. The activity operates all year around. 

Departure time: Winter – 9 am and 12.30 pm
Summer – 9 am, 12.30 pm and 3.30 pm 
Duration: 2.5 hrs 
Departure point: The Hermitage Hotel, Mount Cook Village 

Interesting Facts

  • Heaven of Birds: The valley has a wide variety of species. It is a home for almost 400 species 35 to 40 species birds live in the park. Kea, the only alpine parrot, and the well-camouflaged pipit are found in the park.
    The valley has a wide variety of species. It is a home for almost 400 species 35 to 40 species birds live in the park. Kea, the only alpine parrot, and the well-camouflaged pipit are found in the park.
  • Cloud Piercer:  The valley is also known as the ‘cloud piercer’ as it is consistently covered with snow and ice. Mount Cook provides a beautiful color combination of contrast turquoise water of Lake Pukaki and Tekapo, which lie beneath its eastern flank.

    No one should ever miss this sensory experience. December to February marks the peak season to visit the mountain as the ice are hard and avalanches less likely. The season is preferable for extreme climbers. While autumn season, between March to May is the splendid time to witness the spectacular autumn colors and for walking the mountain trails. So just zip up your jackets, put on your hiking boots and get on to accomplish your bucket list and feel like a conqueror of the world!

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