Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is in the South Island of New Zealand, near the town of Twizel. Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain, and Aoraki/Mount Cook Village lie within the park. The area was gazetted as a national park in October 1953 and consists of reserves that were established as early as 1887 to protect the area's significant vegetation and landscape.[1]

Even though most of the park is alpine terrain, it is easily accessible. The only road access into Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is via State Highway 80, which starts near Twizel, at 65 kilometres (40 mi) distance the closest town to the park, and leads directly to Mount Cook Village, where the road ends.[2] The village is situated within the park, however, it consists only of a hotel and motels, as well as housing and amenities for the staff of the hotel and motels and other support personnel.[3]

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
IUCN category II (national park)
LocationSouth Island, New Zealand
Nearest townMount Cook Village
Coordinates43°44′S 170°6′E / 43.733°S 170.100°ECoordinates: 43°44′S 170°6′E / 43.733°S 170.100°E
Area721.6 km2 (278.6 sq mi)
Governing bodyDepartment of Conservation


Upper Mueller Glacier, from Mueller Hut
Hooker Valley Pano MC
The Main Divide with Mt Sefton and The Footstool, from Hooker Valley. On the right side in the background is Aoraki / Mount Cook

The park stretches for about 60 kilometres (37 mi) along the southwest-northeast direction of the Southern Alps, covering 722 km2 (279 sq mi) on the southeastern side of the main spine of the Alps.[4] The valleys of the Tasman, Hooker, and Godley glaciers are the only entrances into this alpine territory that lie below 1,000 m (3,300 ft).

Glaciers cover 40% of the park area, notably the Tasman Glacier in the Tasman Valley east of Aoraki / Mount Cook.[1] Eight of the twelve largest glaciers in New Zealand lie within Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, all of which terminate at proglacial lakes formed in recent decades due to a sustained period of shrinking.[5]

In the area surrounding Aoraki / Mount Cook, the Tasman Glacier, Hooker Glacier, Murchison Glacier, and Mueller Glacier all terminate in lakes, while further north in the park, the Godley Glacier, Classen Glacier, Grey Glacier and Maud Glacier also end in proglacial lakes. Tasman Lake and Hooker Lake are easily accessible via walking tracks and are the only two of these lakes that have official names. At an area of 7 km², Tasman Lake is the largest of the proglacial lakes and hosts boat trips for tourists.[6][7]

Of New Zealand's 20 peaks over 3,000 metres, all except Mount Aspiring / Tititea lie in the park.[8] These include New Zealand's highest mountain, Aoraki / Mount Cook, at 3,724 metres. Other prominent peaks include Mt Tasman, Mt Hicks, Mt Sefton and Mt Elie de Beaumont. The mountains of the Southern Alps in general are young, less than ten million years old, and are still building. Uplift in the region of the national park is at the rate of 5–10 mm per year. It's estimated that approximately 25 km of uplift has occurred, however the rate of uplift has been countered by erosion.[9]

The park borders Westland Tai Poutini National Park along the Main Divide. Together they form part of Te Wahipounamu South Westland World Heritage Site, recognised for its outstanding natural values.[1]

Flora and fauna

Mount Cook Buttercups with Hooker Valley in the background
Mount Cook Buttercups with Lake Hooker in the background

More than 400 species of plants make up the vegetation in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, which include more than 100 introduced plant species such as the colourful Russell lupin, the wild cherry and wilding pines. Under normal circumstances, forest grows to about 1,300 m, however, most parts of the park are either at higher altitudes above the tree line or in the proglacial valleys such as the Hooker Valley and Tasman Valley, where the rocky soil of the valley floors and moraine walls do not support forest growth. As a result, the only pockets of forest and native bush in the park are along the southern edge of the Hooker Valley and the lower slopes of Sealy Range.[10]

The plant life in the majority of the park consists mostly of alpine plants. Between 1,300 m and 1,900 m and in the valleys, the vegetation is predominately snow tussock grassland, as well as golden speargrass, large mountain daisies/tikumu (Celmisia semicordata, Celmisia coriacea), and Mount Cook lily, (Ranunculus lyallii), the largest buttercup in the world.[1] All of these plants flower in the warmer months from November to February – early in the season in the valley floors, and late at higher altitudes. At the highest rocks of Aoraki / Mount Cook, around 14 species of lichen have been found.[11]

The native vegetation continues to be under threat by introduced plant species ranging from non-native trees through to lupins, broom and non-native grasses. These are mostly contained in the valley floors of the Tasman and Hooker Valley, since they are the most accessible parts of the park.[12]

There are about 35[13] to 40 species of birds in the park and include the kea, the only alpine parrot, and the well-camouflaged pipit. The tiny rock wren/pïwauwau, a threatened species, is the only permanent resident high on the mountains.[13] It is unrelated to the rock wren of North America. Small insectivores such as the riflemen/tïtitipounamu and the New Zealand fantails/pïwakawaka live in the low forest and scrub, along with small numbers of two larger birds, the wood pigeon and morepork. Introduced species such as finches and sparrows live throughout the bush near Mount Cook Village. The black stilt or kakī, rarest wading bird in the world, lives in the braided riverbed of the Tasman.[1]

The park is home to many invertebrates, including large dragonflies, crickets, grasshoppers, 223 recorded moth species and 7 native butterflies.[14] A black alpine weta, also known as the Mount Cook flea is found above the snowline. The jewelled gecko lives in the park but is rarely seen.[1] Introduced red deer, chamois and Himalayan tahr can be hunted.[15]

View across Mount Cook Village to Hooker Valley, Mt Sefton and Mount Cook
Mount Cook Village in front of Aroarokaehe Range, in summer
Frozen Mueller Glacier Lake and Mueller Glacier in front of Mt Sefton
Frozen Mueller Glacier lake in winter


Temperatures in Mount Cook Village range from −13 °C (9 °F) to 32 °C (90 °F), and typically fall just over 1 °C for every 200 metres of altitude.[16]

Rainfall is similarly variable, with the driest months receiving around 300 mm (12 in) precipitation per month, but recorded maxima of 537 mm (21.1 in) in one day and 1,447 mm (57.0 in) in a single month. Snow falls on about 21 days per year.[16]

During the coldest months of the year, Mueller Glacier Lake, Hooker Lake, and Tasman Lake usually freeze over at least partially.

The weather conditions in the park, in particular at higher altitudes can be unpredictable and change rapidly.[17] Anyone venturing further than the walking tracks is strongly advised to notify their intentions at the Visitor Centre on the day you start. This is part of a formal intentions process that operates in the park and is used to initiate formal search operations.[18]


Hooker Valley in front of Mount Cook Range
Hooker Valley towards Mount Cook Range, from Hooker Valley Track

The park is popular for mountaineering, hunting, tramping/hiking, skiing and ski touring. The Department of Conservation administers activities in the park, including the White Horse Hill camping ground.[20]

Mount Cook Village is the start of several walks ranging from easy walking tracks such as the popular Hooker Valley Track to tramping tracks like the steep track to the Sealy Tarns. Some of these tracks also offer guided walking tours, and the nearby Tasman Lake hosts boat trips for tourists.[21] The park contains close to twenty huts, mostly in alpine terrain. The huts range from basic shelters to serviced huts, with the most accessible hut being Mueller Hut, which can be reached from Mount Cook Village within 4 hours.[18]

A visitor centre in the village features interpretation exhibits about the area's natural environment and history as well as an artwork collection.[22]


Aoraki-Mount Cook from Tasman Lake outlet
Aoraki / Mount Cook, from Tasman Lake

The spectacular peaks of the Aoraki / Mount Cook region have attracted climbers from all over the world for the last 100 years. The dramatic nature of these mountains provides a rare challenge. The combination of heavy glaciation, tremendous vertical scale and unpredictable weather means that they are not readily won. To climb successfully here requires skill, fitness, patience, and a great respect for the mountains. Mountaineering on the Aoraki / Mount Cook massif is a hazardous activity.[23]

Other mountaineering routes include crossing the Aroarokaehe Range via the Copland Pass, the Mount Cook Range via the Ball Pass, and routes crossing the Tasman Saddle further north. All of these routes still require significant alpine mountaineering experience.

On the opposite side of the Hooker Valley, Mt Ollivier was Sir Edmund Hillary's first major climb, in 1939, and since the establishment of a tramping track to Mueller Hut, not far below the summit, is now one of the easiest accessible mountains in the park.

Another mountain popular for mountaineers of intermediate skills is Sebastopol, the closest mountain to Mount Cook Village. At 1,468 m height, it is only 750 m above Mount Cook Village, with the lower half of the ascent following the Red Tarns tramping track.[24] Sebastopol offers one of few view points taking in both the Hooker Valley and the Tasman Valley.

Area history

Icebergs floating in Tasman Glacier Lake, Aoraki Mount Cook in the background
Icebergs in Tasman Lake. Aoraki / Mount Cook in the background

At the end of the most recent ice age, around 13,000 years ago,[25] the Mueller Glacier, Hooker Glacier, and Tasman Glacier were all tributaries to a much larger glacier covering all of Hooker Valley and Tasman Valley in hundreds of metres of ice and reaching as far as the extent of today's Lake Pukaki,[26] up to 40 km (25 mi) south of Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park.

As the glacier retreated, it filled the hollowed out valleys with rocks and gravel, leaving behind the flat-bottomed valleys seen today.

  • 1642 – Aoraki possibly sighted by Abel Tasman and crew members[27]
  • 1770 – Captain Cook named the Southern Alps
  • 1851 – Captain Stokes of the survey ship HMS Acheron gave the name Mount Cook to Aoraki
  • 1884 – First Hermitage built under the direction of Frank Huddleson
  • 1894 – First ascent of Aoraki / Mount Cook, on Christmas Day, by Jack Clarke, Tom Fyfe and George Graham
  • 1910 – Freda du Faur became the first woman to climb Aoraki / Mount Cook
  • 1911 – The vital swing bridge is built in the Hooker Valley
  • 1913 – First ascents of the footstool and Mt Sefton made by Freda du Faur's climbing party
  • 1913 – Hermitage first ravaged by floods in January, then destroyed beyond repair by floods two months later
  • 1914 – First fatal accident, when three men caught in avalanche on Linda Glacier
  • 1914 – Second Hermitage opened, on different site
  • 1957 – Second Hermitage razed to the ground
  • 1958 – Third Hermitage built (later extended to become the current Hermitage hotel)
  • 1960 – First school opens, Aoraki Mount Cook School[3]
  • 1961 – Passenger flights begin by Mount Cook Airline, now part of Air New Zealand Link
  • 1975 – State Highway 80 is sealed, improving access to the national park[3]
  • 1982 – Mark Inglis trapped in snow cave
  • 1991 – Avalanche of 10 million cubic metres of snow and rock causes 10 metres to be lost off the top of Aoraki / Mount Cook[28][29] Two decades of erosion of the ice cap exposed after this collapse reduced the height by another 30 m to 3,724 m, as revealed by new GPS data from a University of Otago climbing expedition in November 2013.[30][31]
  • 1998 – The Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act officially recognises the original name, renaming the mountain Aoraki / Mount Cook[32]


Rodolph Wigley's Mount Cook Motor Co was formed in 1906 to provide services to the area from the railhead at Fairlie.[33] A small airfield, Mount Cook Aerodrome, 5 km (3.1 mi) southeast of Mount Cook Village has been served by the Wigley family's New Zealand Aero Transport Company and successor Mount Cook Airline sporadically since 1921.

Road access into the park is via State Highway 80, along the western shore of Lake Pukaki. The road ends at Mount Cook Village, with a connecting road leading to the White Horse Hill camping ground. Another small road leads to a car park near Tasman Lake, the start of a short walking track and the Ball Hut Route.

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is the starting point of the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail to Oamaru. The 300 kilometre cycle trail has been constructed from 2010 onwards by the New Zealand Cycle Trail project. As of 2016 the cycle trail still includes 15 kilometres along public roads.[34]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park". Department of Conservation. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  2. ^ "Aoraki/Mount Cook, Canterbury – NZ Topo Map". NZ Topo Map. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Aoraki/Mount Cook Village: Long-term Community Plan" (PDF). Department of Conservation. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  4. ^ "Data Table – Protected Areas – LINZ Data Service". Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  5. ^ "New Zealand glaciers shrinking". NIWA. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Tasman Lake, Canterbury – NZ Topo Map". NZ Topo Map. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  7. ^ "Hooker Lake, Canterbury – NZ Topo Map". NZ Topo Map. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  8. ^ "Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park: Places to go in Canterbury". Department of Conservation. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  9. ^ "Aoraki/Mount Cook Education Resource" (PDF). Department of Conservation. 2010. p. 7. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  10. ^ "Nature and conservation: Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park". Department of Conservation. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  11. ^ "Aoraki/Mount Cook Education Resource" (PDF). Department of Conservation. 2010. p. 17. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  12. ^ "Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park Management Plan – 4. Park Policies" (PDF). Department of Conservation. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Aoraki/Mount Cook Education Resource" (PDF). Department of Conservation. 2010. p. 18. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  14. ^ "Aoraki/Mount Cook Education Resource" (PDF). Department of Conservation. 2010. p. 19. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  15. ^ "Aoraki/Mount Cook – hunting". Department of Conservation. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  16. ^ a b "Aoraki/Mount Cook Education Resource" (PDF). Department of Conservation. 2010. p. 8. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  17. ^ "Deadly Mt Cook lures Australian climbers". ABC News. 15 December 2008. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  18. ^ a b "Mueller Hut Route: Walking and tramping in Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park". Department of Conservation. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  19. ^ "Climate Data and Activities". NIWA Science. Retrieved 15 October 2013.
  20. ^ "White Horse Hill Campground". Department of Conservation. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  21. ^ Michael Fox (14 July 2013). "Government sees dollars in national parks". Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  22. ^ "Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park visitor centre". Department of Conservation. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  23. ^ Aoraki/Mount Cook Expedition | Summer 2014/15 Archived 2 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "Sebastopol, Canterbury – NZ Topo Map". NZ Topo Map. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  25. ^ "NZ study pinpoints the final cold snap of the last ice age". GNS Science. 27 September 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  26. ^ "Glaciation". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  27. ^ "2. – European discovery of New Zealand – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 11 May 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  28. ^ . The landslide carried with it another 40 million cubic metres of rock and ice.The impact caused an earth quake of 3.9 on the Richter scale. <P207 in search of Ancient NZ.Campball and Hutching.GNS science/Penguin.2011.> Michael J. Crozier. "Mt Cook landslide". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 3 May 2007.
  29. ^ T. J. Chinn; M. J. McSaveney (1992). "Mount Aoraki (Mount Cook) rock avalanche". Tai Awatea – Knowledge Net (More of Te Papa online). Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 3 May 2007.
  30. ^ "Height of NZ's tallest peak Aoraki/Mt Cook slashed by 30m". The New Zealand Herald. 16 January 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  31. ^ Otago-led study revises height of Aoraki/Mt Cook
  32. ^ Graham, Doug (13 October 1998). "Ngai Tahu Settlement Section 3: Aoraki/Mount Cook". New Zealand Government. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  33. ^ John McCrystal On the Buses in New Zealand: from charabancs to the coaches of today, Grantham House, Wellington, 2007
  34. ^ "Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail FAQ". A2O Charitable Trust. Retrieved 13 September 2016.

External links

Aoraki / Mount Cook

Aoraki / Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand. Its height since 2014 is listed as 3,724 metres (12,218 feet), down from 3,764 m (12,349 ft) before December 1991, due to a rockslide and subsequent erosion. It lies in the Southern Alps, the mountain range which runs the length of the South Island. A popular tourist destination, it is also a favourite challenge for mountain climbers. Aoraki / Mount Cook consists of three summits, from South to North the Low Peak (3,593 m or 11,788 ft), Middle Peak (3,717 m or 12,195 ft) and High Peak. The summits lie slightly south and east of the main divide of the Southern Alps, with the Tasman Glacier to the east and the Hooker Glacier to the southwest.There was a large rock fall in 1991 that turned the summit into a knife-edge ridge and reduced the height of the mountain by an estimated 10 m or so at that time. Aoraki / Mount Cook was measured in 2013 to be 3724 m, which is 30 m down from its pre-1991 rock-fall measurement.

Copland Pass

The Copland Pass (el. 2,150 metres or 7,050 feet) is an alpine pass in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Known as Noti Hinetamatea by the indigenous Ngāi Tahu, the pass follows the route of the Makaawhio ancestor Hinetamatea and her sons Tātāwhākā and Marupeka.The Copland Pass is on a traditional tramping route connecting Mount Cook Village with the West Coast of New Zealand, 26 kilometres (16 mi) south of Fox Glacier. The Copland Pass is located on the Main Divide and is thus located on the boundary of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks.The Copland River on the western side of the Main Divide may have been named by the surveyor J. G. Roberts for Dr James Copland, an early settler in Otago. Edward FitzGerald and Matthias Zurbriggen crossed the Main Divide just 500 metres (1,600 ft) further south in February 1895 and that pass, with an elevation of 2,109 metres (6,919 ft), has been named FitzGerald Pass. A month later, the mountaineer Arthur Paul Harper was the first non-Māori man to cross the slightly higher Copland Pass (2,150 metres or 7,050 feet) and he named it for the main river draining its western side. Jane Thomson was the first non-Māori woman to cross the pass in 1903.Since the mid-1990s, the eastern climb towards the pass has experienced heavy erosion, and the Copland Pass has become extremely difficult to climb. The Department of Conservation advises that only parties with a "high level of mountaineering experience and appropriate mountaineering equipment" should attempt the crossing, and that numerous fatalities have occurred over the years. Furthermore, crossings should only be attempted from east to west. The Hooker Hut on the eastern side of the pass, which was on the traditional route for the crossing, is no longer accessible, but is stranded on an eroding moraine.

Hooker Glacier (New Zealand)

Hooker Glacier is one of several glaciers close to the slopes of Aoraki / Mount Cook in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. It is not as large as its neighbour, the Tasman Glacier, measuring 11 kilometres (roughly 6–7 miles) in length.

The glacier starts on the south-western slopes of Aoraki/Mt Cook, with its tributaries Sheila Glacier, Empress Glacier, and Noeline Glacier.

Hooker Glacier runs south from there until its terminus at Hooker Lake. The glacial water from the lake is the source of the Hooker River, a small tributary of the Tasman River, which flows into Lake Pukaki.

One of New Zealand's more accessible glaciers, the glacier and its terminus can be seen clearly from the end of the Hooker Valley Track. This easy walk to the glacier lake is the most popular in the region.For serious trampers and mountaineers, there are three huts along the glacier further up the valley: Hooker Hut, Gardiner Hut, and Empress Hut.

The current glacier lake only started to form in the 1970s, left behind as Hooker Glacier retreated.

Like many of the glaciers in the Southern Alps, Hooker Glacier is rapidly melting, with the glacier lake projected to grow as the terminus retreats until it reaches the glacier bed about 4 kilometres upstream from the current terminus.

Hooker Lake

Hooker Lake is a proglacial lake that started to form in the late 1970s by the recent retreat of the Hooker Glacier. It is located in the Hooker Valley, within the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand's South Island, just south of Aoraki / Mount Cook.

Hooker Lake's length has doubled between 1990 and 2013 from 1.2 kilometres to 2.3 kilometres, retreating by over 50 metres (160 ft) per year. The lake is expected to grow in length by another 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) as Hooker Glacier retreats further up the valley until the glacier's retreat will have reached the point where the glacier bed is higher than the lake's water level.Hooker Lake is one of the most accessible glacier lakes and can be reached all year round from the White Horse Hill camping ground near Mount Cook Village via the well-formed Hooker Valley Track. The walking track ends at a lookout point at the lake's shore, with a short path providing easy access to the shore.

In the warmer months icebergs can typically be seen floating in the water. The icebergs slowly drift from the terminus of Hooker Glacier at the northern end of the lake south until close to the shore. The lake's water temperature is typically lower than 2 °C (36 °F).

In winter, the lake freezes over, and at the coldest time of the year it can be safe to walk onto the ice.

Hooker Lake drains into Hooker River, its glacial waters coloured a blueish light grey due to the suspended glacial rock flour.

There are no boat tours on Hooker Lake, only on the larger nearby Tasman Lake.

Hooker River

The Hooker River is a river in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. It flows south from Hooker Lake, the glacier lake of Hooker Glacier, which lies on the southern slopes of Aoraki/Mount Cook. After 3 kilometers, it flows through Mueller Glacier Lake, gathering more glacial water, before joining the braided streams of the Tasman River, also an outflow of a glacier lake.

The Hooker River drains both the Hooker and Mueller Glaciers and is the principal ablation outlet for these ice masses. Its water is a milky bluish light grey due to the suspended glacial rock flour in the water. Hooker River along transports 20,000 m3 (710,000 cu ft) of sediment per year.

The entire run of Hooker River is within the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and easily accessible, as it flows through the flat Hooker Valley, the main tourism area of the park. The river is bridged three times by the pedestrian suspension bridges along the Hooker Valley Track, the most popular walking track in the area. A further track leads further downstream along the river to Tasman Valley Road, which crosses Hooker River on a small one lane road bridge just as the river enters the Tasman Valley.

Hooker Valley Track

The Hooker Valley Track is the most popular short walking track within the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand. At only 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) length and gaining only about 100 m (330 ft) in height, the well formed track can be walked by tourists with a wide range of level of fitness.The track is maintained by the Department of Conservation and has views of Aoraki / Mount Cook and access to the proglacial Hooker Lake, typically with icebergs floating in it. Hooker Valley Track has been named one of the 'best day walks in New Zealand'.The lookout point at the end of the Hooker Valley Track is the closest any walking track comes to Aoraki / Mount Cook, and reveals completely unobstructed views of the highest mountain in New Zealand, with Hooker Glacier in the valley below. There is also access to the shore of the glacial lake. The vegetation around the track is open alpine tussock, and as such the track offers clear views of the mountains surrounding the wide valley floor of the Hooker Valley.

La Perouse (New Zealand)

La Perouse, originally called Mount Stokes, is a mountain in New Zealand's Southern Alps, rising to a height of 3,078 metres (10,098 ft).

Mount Cook Village

Aoraki / Mount Cook, often referred to as Mount Cook Village, is located within New Zealand's Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park at the end of State Highway 80, only 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south of the summit of the country's highest mountain, also called Aoraki / Mount Cook, in the Southern Alps.

Being situated inside a National Park, it is not possible to own property in Mount Cook Village, however, because of the year-round operation of the hotel and motels, the village has a small permanent population of around 250. All buildings and facilities operate on concessions and leases from the government. The village has no grocery stores apart from a small in-hotel convenience store. The nearest supermarket is 65 kilometres (40 mi) away in Twizel, the closest town. There is a self-service petrol pump behind the hotel complex, however the fuel price reflects the remote location.

Mount Cook Village operates a small school with a roll as low as a dozen children, the only school in New Zealand inside a national park.

Mount Dixon (Mid Canterbury)

Mount Dixon is the 23rd highest peak in New Zealand, rising to a height of 3,019 metres (9,905 ft). It is located in the Southern Alps of the South Island, within Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, and only a short distance from its more illustrious neighbour Aoraki / Mount Cook. The mountain is a popular peak for climbers, and is used as a practice run for ascents of Cook.Mount Dixon was named by Noel Brodrick for the mountaineer, Marmaduke John Dixon (1862–1918).NOTE: The mountain should not be confused with Mount Dixon (North Canterbury), a lower peak of the same name close to the valley of the Hurunui River in North Canterbury, 100 kilometres (62 mi) to the north east.

Mount Hicks (New Zealand)

Mount Hicks (also known as Saint David's Dome) is a mountain in the Southern Alps in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park on the South Island of New Zealand. The mountain is 3,216 metres (10,551 ft) high. It is above the Hooker Glacier, in the vicinity of Mount Cook.

The mountain was first ascended in 1906. The starting point for ascents is the Empress hut. From the south face of Mount Hicks there are several possible routes, including the Dingle-Button route.

Mount Sefton

Mount Sefton (Māori: Maukatua) is a mountain in the Aroarokaehe Range of the Southern Alps of New Zealand, just 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) south of Aoraki / Mount Cook. To the south lies Mount Brunner, and to the north The Footstool, both more than 400 metres (1,300 ft) shorter.The mountain is prominently visible from Mount Cook Village in the Hooker Valley, with Tuckett Glacier flowing down the south-eastern side of the mountain and Mueller Glacier in the valley below it. With a height of 3,151 metres (10,338 ft), Mount Sefton is the 13th-highest peak in the Southern Alps, and the 4th-highest mountain in New Zealand when excluding peaks of little prominence that are closer than a kilometre to a higher peak.

The Douglas River (formerly known as the Twain River) begins on Mount Sefton.An early resident, Charles French Pemberton, named the area, whilst the geologist Julius von Haast named the mountain after William Sefton Moorhouse, the second Superintendent of Canterbury Province. The Māori name of the mountain is Maukatua, which translates as 'mountain of the gods'.Edward FitzGerald, with Matthias Zurbriggen as his guide, completed the first recorded climb to the summit shortly after Christmas 1894.

Mount Tasman

Mount Tasman (Horokoau in Māori) is New Zealand's second highest mountain, rising to a height of 3,497 metres (11,473 ft). It is located in the Southern Alps of the South Island, four kilometres to the north of its larger neighbour, Aoraki / Mount Cook. Unlike Aoraki / Mount Cook, Mount Tasman sits on the South Island's Main Divide, on the border between Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and Westland Tai Poutini National Park. It is the highest point in Westland District.

The Māori name (horo: to swallow; koau: shag or Phalacrocorax varius) is believed to refer to the swelling in the neck of a shag when it is swallowing a fish.

Mueller Glacier

The Mueller Glacier is a 13-kilometre (8.1 mi) long glacier flowing through Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in the South Island of New Zealand. It lies to the south of Aoraki/Mount Cook, high in the Southern Alps, and flows north. Its meltwaters eventually join the Tasman River.

The glacier was named after German-Australian botanist and explorer Baron von Mueller.Based on dating of a yellow-green lichen of the Rhizocarpon subgenus, Mueller Glacier is considered to have had a Little Ice Age maximum mass between 1725 and 1730.

Murchison Glacier

The Murchison Glacier is an 18-kilometre (11 mi) long glacier flowing through Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park in the South Island of New Zealand. Lying to the east of the Malte Brun range and west of the Liebig Range, high in the Southern Alps, it flows from the Tasman Saddle at 2,435 m mostly southwestwards to around 1,110 m. The Murchison River, which takes its meltwater, flows under the larger Tasman Glacier to the south.

Ranunculus lyallii

Ranunculus lyallii (Mountain buttercup, Mount Cook buttercup, or, although not a lily, Mount Cook lily), is a species of Ranunculus (buttercup), endemic to New Zealand, where it occurs in the South Island and on Stewart Island at altitudes of 700–1,500 m.The species was discovered by David Lyall, (1817–1895), a noted Scottish botanist and doctor.

Contemporary botanist Sir Joseph Hooker, (1817–1911), noted in his Flora Antarctica:

Among his many important botanical discoveries in this survey was that of the monarch of all buttercups, the gigantic white-flowered Ranunculus lyallii, the only known species with peltate leaves, the ‘water-lily’ of the New Zealand shepherds.--Joseph Dalton Hooker (1895) 33 Journal of Botany, p. 209.

It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 60–100 cm tall (the largest species of buttercup), with a stout rhizome. The leaves are glossy dark green, peltate, 15–40 cm diameter. The flowers are 5–8 cm diameter, with 10–20 white petals and numerous yellow stamens; flowering is from late spring to early summer.Notable sites for the species include Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and in other alpine areas of including the area around Arthur's Pass.

The flower (termed Mount Cook lily in this usage) was the logo of Mount Cook Airline until replaced by Air New Zealand's koru symbol. Other companies connected with the airline used the same logo until the Mount Cook Group was disbanded in 1989. The iconic flower has featured on New Zealand Post stamps as early as 1936 and repeatedly in later decades as part of sets relating to conservation and scenery.

Tasman Lake

Tasman Lake is a proglacial lake formed by the recent retreat of the Tasman Glacier in New Zealand's South Island.In the early 1970s, there were several small meltwater ponds on the Tasman Glacier. By 1990, these ponds had merged into Tasman Lake.

Tasman Lake has quickened the retreat of the Tasman Glacier. Initially it did so by undercutting the cliff at the end of the glacier, causing parts of the cliff to fall into the lake. Since 2006, however, a 50–60 m apron of submerged glacial ice projects out from the cliff, and icebergs periodically break off the apron and float away down the lake. Because more of the glacier is now in contact with the water, its rate of retreat has increased. By 2008 the lake was 7 km long, 2 km wide and 245 m deep, having almost doubled in area since 2000. It is expected to grow to a maximum length of about 16 km within the next one or two decades.Tasman Lake, the glacier and the surrounding mountains are part of Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. Taking a boat tour among the icebergs on the Tasman Lake is now a popular tourist activity. The small inflatable boats are not allowed closer than 1.5 km (0.9 mi) to the 50 m (160 ft) tall terminal face of Tasman Glacier for safety reasons. Tasman Lake can be reached by road from the nearby Mount Cook Village and a short walk from the car park at the end of the road.

Like many other geographic places in both New Zealand and Australia, it is named after Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman.

Tasman River

The Tasman River is an alpine braided river flowing through Canterbury, in New Zealand's South Island.

The river's headwaters are in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, where it is the outflow of the proglacial Tasman Lake. It is also fed by the glacial waters of the tributary Murchison River, from Murchison Glacier, and the short Hooker River, an outflow of the proglacial lakes of the Hooker and Mueller glaciers.

The Tasman River flows south for 25 kilometres (16 mi) through the wide flat-bottomed Tasman Valley in the Southern Alps and into the northern end of the glacial lake Pukaki, this forming part of the ultimate headwaters of the Waitaki hydroelectric scheme.

The Hermitage Hotel, Mount Cook Village

The Hermitage Hotel, Mount Cook Village is a hotel located inside the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, 65 kilometres (40 mi) north of Twizel.

The hotel and a lodge & motel complex also owned and operated by The Hermitage, form the main parts of Mount Cook Village, with the hotel being the only large building in the area. The current site, slightly elevated on the valley-side was chosen in 1913 for its unimpeded views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Sefton.Most rooms in the main hotel building facing north enjoy views of Aoraki/Mount Cook, as do the two restaurants through their large glass windows. The peak of Aoraki/Mount Cook is only 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) away, further up the Hooker Valley. Below the also clearly visible Mount Sefton is Huddleston Glacier, named after the original hotel developer Frank Huddleston, a surveyor and painter from Timaru, who was appointed ranger for the Mount Cook area in the 1880s.The Hermitage Hotel further houses the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, showcasing the region and its history. It includes a cinema showing related documentary films, and a museum in the foyer.

Organised tours on the nearby walking tracks, bus tours, and boat tours on the Tasman glacier lake use the hotel as their base, with tours leaving and returning at the main building's foyer and car park.

The village's only retail shop is also contained within the main hotel building, comparable to a very small dairy (convenience store) in its range of groceries. The nearest supermarket is 65 kilometres (40 mi) away in Twizel.

Westland Tai Poutini National Park

Westland Tai Poutini National Park is located on the western coast of New Zealand's South Island. Established in 1960, the centenary of the European settlement of Westland District, it covers 1,320 km², and extends from the highest peaks of the Southern Alps to a wild and remote coastline. It borders the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park along the Main Divide.

Included in the park are glaciers, scenic lakes, and dense temperate rainforest, as well as remains of old gold mining towns along the coast. Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier are two popular tourist attractions within Westland Tai Poutini National Park. The park offers hunting opportunities for red deer, chamois, and tahr, while helicopters allow hunters to access the rugged, mountainous areas. The popular Copland Track runs upstream from the Karangarua River bridge. Along with the mountain scenery visible from the track, there are hot springs at Welcome Flat Hut.

In 2010, over 4,400 ha were added to the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, consisting of a number of areas scattered throughout the park, the majority being to the east of Okarito Lagoon.

Climate data for Mount Cook Village, New Zealand (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 20.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 14.7
Average low °C (°F) 9.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 457.5
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 12.4 10.9 13.4 12.4 13.1 13.8 13.5 13.9 13.7 16.7 13.9 15.7 163.5
Average relative humidity (%) 75.1 78.6 79.5 79.3 81.7 83.2 80.7 80.4 72.4 72.5 73.8 75.7 77.7
Mean monthly sunshine hours 184.8 167.2 151.1 125.3 92.1 66.1 74.5 113.0 130.3 149.4 158.5 168.7 1,580.9
Source: NIWA Science climate data[19]
North Island
South Island
Stewart Island

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