Sizzling on Mt. Cook….

It’s not everyday Mt. Cook can be seen so clearly.

Aoraki/Mt. Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand (a tad over 3700 meters, or 12,200 feet). One of the first people to climb Mt. Cook was Jack Clarke…but sadly, no relation (I think). Its more (most?) famous climber was Sir Edmund Hillary, who climbed the mountain in 1948 as a young teenager, and of course he is most famous for his ascent of Mt. Everest. The weather was spectacular this last weekend (a stunner, is what they would say here), and that was a perfect time to visit this amazing area of New Zealand.

Mt Cook, as seen from across Lake Pukaki.

The drive to the tracks (hiking trails) of the Mt. Cook area follows the shoreline of Lake Pukaki, the largest of 3 alpine lakes in the Mackenzie District. A number of trails begin near the White Horse Hill camping ground, including the Hooker Valley Track, which just has to be one of the most beautiful walks in all of New Zealand. It’s not long (only 10km up and back) nor arduous (you only gain 100 meters in elevation), so be prepared for more traffic than your normal Kiwi walks (but still way less crowded than most US trails with such easy access).

The Hooker River, which drains Hooker Lake…and at the base of the lake, Hooker Glacier. That’s a lot of Hookers!
You can see 5 people on the Hooker Valley Track in the is picture..that’s 5 more than usually seen on most New Zealand hikes.
Was the water cold? Nah….it was sweet, bro (Kiwi-speak for, it was a little cold)
The clear blue waters of Lake Pukaki, with Mt. Cook in the background.

I took over 50 photos on the hike….thank goodness no one uses film any more…and I must have stopped a dozen times on the hike up to Hooker Lake. Distance-wise the hike should only take 3 hours…but allow a lot more for pictures, playing around on the THREE suspension bridges you go over on the way up to the lake, and for just generally playing around in Hooker Lake, trying to grab ahold of part of an iceberg.

Lake Tepako, with its own special hue of blue.

About an hour’s drive from Mt. Cook (the trailhead) is Lake Tepako…which was basecamp for my long weekend. It’s another large alpine lake, surrounded by beautiful dry mountains. This area of the Mackenzie basin is a dark sky reserve…and it lives up to is name. When the sky is clear (it was all 3 nights there), you can see the Milky Way (easily) with your naked eye. Just incredible. Mt. John, just adjacent to Lake Tepako, is home to New Zealand’s largest telescope (and it’s no accident it was placed here).

Looking back at Lake Tepako, on the hike up to Mt. John
No kidding, the lake really is THAT blue!
California poppies…along the shores of Lake Tepako.

Lake Tepako is famous for several things…it is probably one of the most photographed lakes in New Zealand since in the Spring it is surrounded by millions of flowering lupins. It’s late summer here now, so I missed the lupin, but got in on the poppy bloom (and felt right at home, with those California poppies). Lake Tekapo is also home to the Church of the Good Shepard (which many people photograph in the nighttime, with the Milky Way in the skies above the church…but I was unable to capture that image).

Sunset in the Mackenzie basin, notable for the large trout that reside in the canals seen in the photo

There are several canals which bring water from these alpine lakes to other areas of New Zealand. In these canals are some of the largest trout you will ever seen (many over 25 pounds). I didn’t fish the canals on this trip, since that gives me an excuse to come back again some other time and try my luck.

One of the fun things to do on the shore of Lake Tekapo.
Sunset over Lake Tekapo, when the mountains turn almost purple.
A Classic Kiwi Sign…at Lake Tepako.
On the drive home, stopped at the beach…and admired the seagull’s choice of perches.

With three days of magnificent summer weather, I knew not to get my hopes up once I headed back to Dunedin. Sure enough, while the 25C (77F) days are a warm and wonderful memory, my current reality has been two straight days of rain and 15C (59F). But, hey, it was awesome while it lasted.

Kia Ora,


Published by dave clarke

I am different things to different people. Husband, father, doctor, teacher, friend, or if you're a fish, a fly fisherman. But really, I'm just a guy trying to learn about life, and if I'm lucky, maybe teach a little bit along the way. If I were a golfer (I'm not) I would be on the back nine of my life, or if I were a book, there would be more pages turned than not. Any yet, I'm far from finished creating chapters of my life. The goal of Next Chapters is inspiration, and I'm hopeful the traffic goes in both directions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: