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The Southern Alps and Mt. Cook

(Reprint from News: January 25, 2002)

January 21, 2002

 

I spent a few days in the very pleasant town of Geraldine getting caught up with my website, then the skies cleared, so I headed back down to the Southern Alps to see Mount Cook National Park.  Not surprisingly, Mount Cook, the tallest peak in New Zealand at about 11,000', is located here and I'm really glad I waited until the sun came out to visit.  The campground -- like most other New Zealand campgrounds, just a grassy field without many facilities and no picnic tables, but very cheap -- was really packed, but I camped here anyway because the alpine surroundings were just so darn beautiful.

 

I made the 4-hour hike up to Hooker Glacier the next day, during which I passed approximately one-half of the entire population of Japan.  Once I got up to the glacier, I discovered that it was pretty dirty and not that interesting, but the hike through the alpine meadows was amazing and I was surrounded on all sides not only by Japanese camera-toting tourists, but also by cirques, aretes, moraines, and all kinds of other glacial landforms that I learned about at the University of Wisconsin.  If you like glacial landforms like I do, Mt. Cook National Park is a terrific place to visit, even if you're not Japanese.

 

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Above left:  After two rainy days in Geraldine, the skies cleared so I retraced my steps and headed back down to the "Southern Alps."  This time I could actually see them.

Above center:  The bright blue waters of Lake Tekapo.  That color is from the glacial "flour," or ground rock that's in the water.  This part of the central South Island is really dry, though the area a few miles west of here gets several feet of rain each year.  Talk about a rainshadow!

Above right:  I've seen tour buses everywhere on this trip.  There are LOTS of tourists in New Zealand now... including me.

 

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Above left:  Driving up to Mt. Cook, the tallest peak in New Zealand.  Lake Pukaki is in the distance.

Above center:  After I spent a month in New Zealand, the weather was finally nice enough so that I could set up my tent and camp.  This is in Mt. Cook National Park.

Above right:  The view from my campsite at Mt. Cook National Park.

 

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Above left:  On the way up to Hooker Glacier; this is one of many swing bridges that I've hiked across during the past few weeks.  They're a lot of fun.

Above center:  The Mueller River area was covered by a giant sheet of ice only a few hundred years ago.

Above right:  Flowers on the trail.

 

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Above left:  The dirty Hooker Glacier (right) and Mt. Cook.  Note the icebergs floating in the lake.

Above right:  Mt. Cook, at just over 11,000 feet, is about as high as Oregon's Mt. Hood.  It's also at about the same latitude, around 45 degrees.

 

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