On Hooker Valley Track To Aoraki Mount Cook New Zealand

Mount Cook New Zealand

“It’ll take around three hours!” said our tour guide.

Anticipating an easy amble to the foothills of Mount Cook, we set out on the popular Hooker Valley Track, four middle-aged folks with an average age of 51 years.

I volunteered to be ‘pack mule‘ for the group, lugging along a bag with 4 liters of water, some snacks and warm sweaters.

Quickly, we realized this was no walk down a rosy garden path!

The track sloped up, gently at first, then a bit more steeply. All around, mountains loomed and valleys rolled gently away to distant lakes and streams.

The walking path weaved and curved between thick shrubbery dotted with colorful blooms.

Hooker Valley Track Mount Cook New Zealand

Hooker Valley Track Mount Cook New Zealand Stream

Mount Cook New Zealand

At a bend following a sharp incline, we groaned. Right ahead was a short flight of 15 steps.  I determinedly began climbing. The view from the top was gorgeousand also heart-breaking.

Because while the valley opened up to reveal a bird’s eye view of the faraway lake, the surging river at the bottom of a deep gorge, and snow-clad peaks that made up a range of mountains used by Mt.Everest hero Sir Edmund Hillary to practice rock climbing in his native New Zealand… it also showed two more stairways ahead!

Oh, well.

After a short rest break, we all set off again.

The trek was fantastic.

Fast-running brooks with crystal clear water from melting glaciers. Unique shrubs and flowers. Rock formations that randomly became sorted into impressive and attractive patterns. And gorgeous clear weather with bright blue skies and woolly white clouds.

Mount Cook National Park New Zealand

 

Mount Cook New Zealand - Hooker Valley Track rock formation
Hooker Valley Track - Mount Cook New Zealand - flowers
Hooker Valley Track - Mount Cook New Zealand - flowers

 

Rock formations at Hooker Valley Track - Mount Cook New Zealand

 

Flowers at Hooker Valley Track - Mount Cook New Zealand

 

Hooker Valley Track - Mount Cook New Zealand - Scenic view
Boulder at Hooker Valley Track - Mount Cook New Zealand
Buttercup at Hooker Valley Track - Mount Cook New Zealand
Hooker Valley Track - Mount Cook New Zealand - Flowers

At several viewpoints along the way, we paused to take in the panoramic views.

Hear the distant gurgle of streaming water.

Sniff the subtle scents of blossoms.

Enjoy the untarnished freshness of clear mountain air.

Feel its delicious coolness caress our faces, now warm with exertion.

Hooker Valley Track - Mount Cook New Zealand - scenery

 

Hooker Valley Track - Mount Cook New Zealand scenery

 

Hooker Valley Track - Mount Cook New Zealand scenic views

Hooker Valley Track - Mount Cook New Zealand

 

Hooker Valley Track - Mount Cook New Zealand scenery views

My load grew lighter. Water bottles, and then bags of chips, emptied. Sweaters came off, and were tied around waists. Our steps became a bit slower, heavier, shorter.

But we plodded along.

Across four suspension bridges that swayed and rocked scarily as people locked step in walking along.

Hooker Valley Track - Mount Cook New Zealand suspension bridge

 

Hooker Valley Track - Mount Cook New Zealand bridge

 

Hooker Valley Track, Mt.Cook New Zealand bridge

Over wooden walkways thoughtfully built over the roughest, most uneven terrain.

Mount Cook New Zealand walkway

With occasional small detours, climbing up a pile of rocks to a vantage point that rewarded the effort with glimpses of Paradise.

Hooker Valley Track, Mt.Cook New Zealand - Mount Cook peak

 

Hooker Valley Track, Mt.Cook New Zealand bridge

Hooker Valley Track, Mt.Cook New Zealand

 

Hooker Valley Track, Mt.Cook New Zealand scenic views

Hooker Valley Track, Mt.Cook New Zealand

It’s at times like this one understands the truism, “It’s about the journey, not the destination”.

Frequent stops to click a snapshot, take selfies, gaze at our fellow trekkers, and drink in the raw majesty and sheer beauty of the scenery all around us… these are my most memorable moments.

Not where it took us, but what we did along the way.

That matters.

Hooker Valley Track, Mt.Cook New Zealand - views from the trail

 

Hooker Valley Track, Mt.Cook New Zealand views

 

Hooker Valley Track, Mt.Cook New Zealand

Nearly two hours after we started out, the end of the trail came into view.

At the foothills of New Zealand’s tallest peak Mt.Cook, soaring almost 4,000 meters above, lay the quiet, clear modest lake fed by a melting Hooker Glacier.

 

Hooker Valley Track, Mt.Cook New Zealand glacier

 

Ice floes still floated around. A few adventurous folks were kayaking through them.

A (drunk, or crazy, or both!) guy had actually jumped into the 10-12 C water, swum out to one of the ice blocks, and was diving off it!

We contented ourselves with a few photographs, a sachet of cold energy drink… and 15 minutes of an indulgent visual feast.

Hooker Valley Track, Mt.Cook New Zealand

Rested and refreshed, we began our long trudge back to the van.

Trotting briskly along, we took in the same sights, but from another angle, getting a different perspective.

 

Hooker Valley Track, Mt.Cook New Zealand

 

We stopped to dip our feet in the babbling brook. Observed, more closely, the patch of eroded mountainside where an avalanche had struck recently, damaging one of the suspension bridges (“wrapped it into a banana” said a local) and widening the gorge by 150 meters.

Ah, Nature’s power and fury!

Hooker Valley Track, Mt.Cook New Zealand avalanche

In a little over an hour, we were back where we started. In all, we had trekked 4.5 to 5 kilometers… EACH WAY!

Impossible, if we weren’t all fit and healthy.

Difficult, if we hadn’t prepped for it by regular exercise.

But completely worthwhile, because it let us enjoy Nature’s rich bounty in such plentiful abundance.

That’s just one among several reasons to exercise and stay fit. At the beginning of a New Year, that’s a worthy resolution to adopt, right?

Hooker Valley Track, Mt.Cook New Zealand

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