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

“On a Mish” #35 Learning the Ropes (Part Two). Aoraki / Mt Cook Winter Travel Training. Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park.16.7.2011. A long time ago Aoraki and his brothers clambered onto their overturned Waka (canoe) and were then turned to the rock, snow and ice that make up our largest mountains on the great land that is now known as Tai Waipounamu / South Island of Aotearoa / New Zealand. The brothers had learnt a harsh lesson and now this lesson is on display for all to see. And it was in the shadow of Aoraki that I would be learning my own lessons and hopefully I would come away from it with knowledge over being turned to rock, ice and snow…

I was in the first group of vehicles that had been allowed to travel on state highway 80 to Aoraki Mt Cook Village. The snow increased the closer we got to the village, and by the time we were at 750m (village height above sea level) the snow was lining the sides of the road like a great wall of white. The area was frozen in time and thankfully I was one of the few who was living life in a place that does everything to prevent it. I could tell I was going to learn a lot about staying alive in the hills in a very real life setting.

My accommodation on the first night was an experience I will never forget. The weather had wiped out bookings and I was very happy to accept a room upgrade at the iconic Hermitage Hotel. Ever since the first attempt on New Zealand’s highest peak in 1882 there has been the need for accommodation for both climbers and sightseers. In 1884 the first Hermitage Hotel was opened and I can say that the 2011 version of the hotel was very comfortable and my room upgrade meant I was staring straight up the Hooker Valley at the glacier coated pyramid low peak of Aoraki Mt Cook. My curtains stayed open the entire time I was at the hotel!

During the evening I went and had a meal at the Panorama Restaurant. The view mixed with the food was unforgettable and the only way my venison would have tasted any better would be if I was enjoying it over a campfire in the wild. As I chomped I gazed and thought back to the people of the past who had done exactly the same thing and then put their feet onto the summit of Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest mountain.

In the morning we met in the hotel lobby and in a small corner we found the AGL homebase. My time staying at the Hermitage was over and it will go down as one of the best hotel experiences I have ever had. The biggest peaks alway attract people who want to stand on top of them and AGL have been taking humans up Aoraki not long after it was first climbed, with the guided trip of one particular Australian woman going down as one of the most legendary climbs in New Zealand history. I wasn’t here to climb Cook but I was here to learn how to. For me school was in and I was keen to learn as much as possible…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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