Thursday, 4 February 2016

Hooker Valley Track- Aoraki/Mt Cook

Catch-up

After walking to Kea Point in the early morning I later walked the very popular Hooker Valley Track with David, up the Hooker Valley to the Hooker Glacier Lake where there are fabulous views of Mt Cook and the surrounding mountains.

The track starts near the White Horse Hill DOC Campground…


…and passes by the original site of the Hermitage Hotel where a plaque and information board mark the spot.


A little further on there are views back down the valley to the ‘new’ Hermitage Hotel.


We also pass Freda’s Rock where her now famous photo was taken; I try a similar pose. Freda du Faur was the first woman to climb Aoraki/Mt Cook, an amazing feat for 1910, and I’d say, especially so achieving it wearing that skirt! I saw a TV programme on Freda’s accomplishment awhile ago and I recall the researchers mentioning that she wasn’t given the acknowledgment she should have had at the time due to the fact that she was an un-married woman climbing with two male guides. It was even suggested that she might have been having a ménage à trois with them; after all they were sleeping in a tent on the mountain with no chaperones. Tut, tut!


As we start a gentle climb up the path, Mt Cook finally comes into view. This would have been my first sight up close had I not walked to Kea Point earlier in the day.


Our next stop is at the Alpine Memorial where there are far too many plaques remembering the people who have lost their lives on Mt Cook & the nearby mountains. Since these photos were taken, three more people have died in the area this summer.


The memorial overlooks Mt Cook village, the Hermitage and all the way down to Lake Pukaki on the horizon.


The Hooker Valley Track is 5kms long and is one of the most popular walks in the National Park. The track is well formed, rising and falling often as it crosses the ridges and humps of the old moraine walls. There are numerous steps to climb and three large swing-bridges to cross along the way.


While all the information says to allow 3 hours (return) to walk it, I would add an extra hour so you don’t have to rush and can stop and take in the fabulous scenery along the way. And even though it looks like it’s an easy walk, you do need to have sturdy footwear; not the jandals (flip-flops) I saw on the feet of a couple of people. I even saw a pair of high-heels on one woman. I bet she didn’t get far.  Also, take a snack or lunch and plenty of water; it’s hot work on a warm day. I gave some of my water to a couple of girls who had finished their one only small bottle well before they arrived at the end.

The Spaniard/Taramea were in full flower, their spikes stabbing at a few unwary people along the way.


Soon we have our first sight of the Mueller Glacier Lake below Mt Sefton. You’ll remember this is the lake I saw below the platform when I walked to Kea Point. Mueller Glacier is tucked around the corner to the left, as is Kea Point; behind and on top of the gravel moraine wall. The Hooker River flows out of the lake at the bottom right...


…where the first of the three swingbridges cross the river.


I bet you thought that was a fairly small river and swingbridge; the people, including David, give both of them some perspective here.


The river is a rough bubbling grey torrent as it flows beneath the bridge, some of those boulders are the size of small cars. Mt Sefton towers high above the lake behind.


It’s a great day for a walk. And there are plenty of people coming and going along the track. Many tourists are in the National Park just for the day and the pressure is on to complete all the short walks in the valley.


We approach the 2nd swingbridge, this bridge crosses the Hooker River just before it enters Mueller Lake…


The flow here is also a roaring torrent, both upstream…


…and towards it’s outlet into Mueller Lake. Once again it’s hard to get a sense of scale here, but across the lake on the lower plateau to the right, is the Kea Point lookout where I ended up this morning.


I took this photo from Kea Point earlier in the day- you can see the Hooker River outlet across the lake and in the background the swingbridge which I have only just spotted!


Once across the bridge, around a few corners and up and down a few rises, we finally have a clear view up the valley to Mt Cook.


And now I must apologise for the amount of photos I’ve included in this post……but you should have seen how many I started with!


The scenery in all directions is just jaw-droppingly spectacular; Mt Cook, the icing on the cake.


And of course a walk in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park wouldn’t be complete without seeing one of New Zealand’s most well known alpine plants, the Mt Cook lily itself, nicely placed for me to shoot with Mt Cook in the background.


The endemic Mt Cook Lily is not a lily at all, but a giant buttercup which can grow to over a metre tall with leaves the size of dinner plates. As we get closer to the head of the valley there are more and more flowering lily growing in amongst the alpine scrub.


Ahead of us the third swingbridge makes an appearance.


Mt Cook looms overhead as David strides it out.


There are many smaller streams entering the Hooker River from the surrounding mountains, one tumbles down a scree slide disappearing into the gravel midway down.


What a view! But DOC really should have thought about where they located the loos at Stocking Stream Day Shelter.


Now that’s a better shot.


A boardwalk crosses delicate alpine herb fields and tussock wetlands.


The third swingbridge crosses the Hooker River just below it’s outlet from the glacier lake…


…it is also a swift moving torrent of dirty grey water.


We’re getting close…


…one last haul up and over the top…


…and there’s the lake…and around the corner…


…there’s a whole heap of people! We’re definitely back in tourist country.


Selfies are being taken left, right & centre, some are sitting on the rocks lower down doing yoga or mediating, others just stand & take in the views. We feel a bit self-conscious when we take a space at the table and pull out our packed lunch & thermos while others are chewing on a muesli bar…or their nails. The beauty of towing our home behind us; we nearly always have a full pantry!


Across the lake we can see the dirty blue ice face of the Hooker Glacier.


Some have walked down to the lake edge for a paddle (brrr…..) and over to the river outlet at the far right. One of the guys brings back an ice block (berg) he’s rescued from the lake. We all have a hold and leave it in the middle of the table for fellow hikers to handle before it melts.


After an awesome hike to the lake in hot temperatures(for a mountain), the weather starts to close in and rain threatens, so we pack up and head back down the trail. I look back as the wind whips past us and rain and cloud overtake Mt Cook’s peak- known as the ‘cloud piercer’, I can see why.


We pass a steady stream of people still coming up the track and over the bridges- many with throw-away rain ponchos on, it’s a pity they weren’t just a few minutes earlier. While the walk is great I’m not so sure I’d be happy to find that the pièce de résistance, Mt Cook, wasn’t on view at the end. I guess most people have no choice; it is the luck of the draw.


And one last multi-photo frame with some of the native flowering plants I found along the way….well, almost all native. I have no idea how the blue ‘Granny’s Bonnet’ managed to find itself near the path on the side of a mountain.



8 comments:

  1. Magestic country.......love the Tut,tut.
    Ps on a previous blog there was an even rarer bird....the Shellie selfie....more please!

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    1. Haha, you are too kind Jimu!
      And re the tut, tut,- they really would have gone tut, tut had they known she was batting for the otherside. :)

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  2. Ps....dressing gown, optional...lol.

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  3. Marvel at the Mt Cook lily and other lovely alpine flowering plants we didn't get to see. Love to learn more about Nz's flora and fauna through your blog day by day.

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    1. Thanks offstone, glad you enjoy learning more about NZ, although I suspect you know alot more than many Kiwis.

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  4. Stunning pics Shellie, Would you consider selling me the Hooker Valley hut pic (the one after the text 'Now that’s a better shot.) as I have an empty spot on the wall that would look magnificent on, and my own pics of the track are nowhere near as spectacular as these! It would look brill as a framed poster! Thanks, Deb

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    1. Hi Deb, many thanks for your kind comments, I'm pleased you like that photo, it's one of my favourites too. And yes I do sell my photos, if you could send me an email I'll fill in the details- flyingkiwigirl@yahoo.co.nz

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