24 hours in Aoraki Mt. Cook

When we began our drive to Aoraki (ow-rack-key) Mt. Cook, it was glorious and sunny.

About an hour before we got there, the rain began. It poured so hard that, even though the mountains are extremely close to the road, we could only see faint outlines.

We decided to huddle in the van for the evening, trusting the weather reports that it would improve the next day. We went for a couple short walks, but the next morning was the first real hike of the trip.

We started with a walk to Hooker Lake. It was mostly flat, with a boardwalk towards the end.

The lake itself was pretty awesome. But, as you can see from the pictures, pretty cold. The far end lapped against a glacier’s edge, and there were ice floes the size of our van sprinkled throughout. We didn’t go swimming.

After we had a quick lunch at the van, we started the climb up to Sealy Tarns. You know that part of Lord of the Rings where they climb the step hillside to the tunnel and almost get eaten by a spider? That was inspired by this trail. Hundreds of steps made of 2x10s wind up a mountain which the day before Olivia and I had mocked Trevor for wanting to climb. Every time we had to stop, which was pretty much every thirty seconds given the grade, we were so much higher and could see further. Finally we could see the lake shore where we had stood a few hours before, and still we climbed.

The Tarns were 2 small ponds on probably the only flat spot for a kilometer. It jutted out over the valley and gave us an awesome view of a glacier with waterfalls running off it.

Also, there was a kea at the top!! This is an endangered parrot that likes to steal food but is pretty cute when it’s not doing that. #backoffkea

It took a while to get down the mountain (thanks, bad knees!) but we all agreed it was a perfect use of the day.

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