Learning the Ropes (Part Three) – Aoraki / Mt Cook Winter Travel Training

“On a Mish” #35 Learning the Ropes (Part Three). Aoraki / Mt Cook Winter Travel Training. Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park.17.7.2011. After years of climbing I really understand the draw of the biggest peak on each part of our planet. To some, the experience of topping out on a mountain where no other is higher is one that pulls them in and puts them in a position where it is their turn to roll the dice with Aoraki. I have always dreamed of climbing Aoraki Mt Cook, however before I could attempt to climb New Zealand’s largest I needed to learn the ropes in a real life lesson…

After meeting our guide Dave we all relocated to the equally as useful (just slightly smaller) YHA Hostel. This would be our base until we ventured into the very snowy hills behind the village. You couldn’t really get a better classroom and, along with three others, I was ready to be schooled on winter back country travel.

After a day of going over map work and avalanche safety, we then practised self arresting on the gentle slopes outside of the Hermitage Hotel. It was difficult to take the situation seriously when you have kids in toboggans laughing their way to the bottom of the small rolling hill. We knew things would be more serious when we hiked to the location of our snow cave.

After a good night’s sleep at the YHA Hostel we readied ourselves for a hike up above the Red Tarns. The Red Tarns track is like the Sealy Tarns track’s unknown brother. It is just as spectacular, just less visited. With the track completely covered in snow we knew that we were most likely going to be the only ones there. We shouldered packs and, thanks to the village’s proximity to the hills, we could walk straight from the motel to the mountains.

As expected, the snow had buried the track, but what wasn’t expected was bumping into a young mother returning from a ‘morning walk’ with her baby strapped on her front. She had hiked in her crampons up to the Red Tarns and she reported that the track was usable in places, and in other places the snow was stable and an easy alternative. It was great to see the young getting involved however I do know a few people who might disapprove of her actions!

We now knew that most of the way up was all good, and with the aid of snow shoes we began to gain altitude on the Red Tarns track. With height came ever increasingly epic views of Aoraki Mt Cook. And this, along with everything else that was going on, made the cost of the course well worth it, and things were only going to get better when we prepared the mountainside as our accommodation for the night…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

Subscribe To my newsletter