16.12.20. Day 1.
Drove from Pleasant Point along SH 8 to Lake Tekapo. Attended the opening of rebuilt Lake Tekapo School & school pool. Having taught at the school recently, Leah enjoyed catching up with friends, staff & parents. In the school foyer we admired George Emson's mural photo of stormy Lake Tekapo & surrounding Alps. We often saw George Emson's Alpine pics on TV1 weather reports. We overnighted at Lake Tekapo Campsite in one of the posh new cabins. Sunset over Lake Tekapo & Alps reminded us of all the Alpine walks we'd done by Lake Tekapo over the years, especially at Mt Hay Station & Mt Gerald Station. As it was Covid pandemic time the only tourists were locals. In S Canterbury we hadn't seen a tourist bus for many Covid months.
Drove from Lake Tekapo to Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park. En route, we stopped at the Lake Pukaki lookout to admire distant Aoraki / Mt Cook & Alpine ranges. Coffee bought at the Salmon Farm kiosk was expensive crap! Next door, old hydro-electric historical info boards had been revamped into new Ngai Tahu historical info boards with a window view over Lake Pukaki & Alps.
En route to Mt Cook village, beside Lake Pukaki, we stopped at the biggest lavender farm in the S hemisphere. We sat on wooden chairs among rows of lavender bushes for happy snaps. By the farm carpark, a food caravan & a shipping container shop touted food & lavender wares. Mt Cook village: We booked into Alpine Lodge for 2 nights. The reception man said the hotel was about half full with Kiwi guests during Covid times, better than no guests at all. We wandered Governors Bush Track, about 1 hour walk through native bush. Descriptive signs along the way gave us an idea of Alpine flora we could see in the park, like parsley trees, snowberry bushes... Had fish & chips supper at The Hermitage cafe. Due to Covid, the cafe & restaurant was about quarter full. The cafe & our hotel bedroom had grand window views of Mt Cook & Mt Wakefield below.
Checked out the DOC info centre: Lots of displays & details about Mt Cook wildlife & historical & current climbing in the Mt Cook region. Tourist shop too. The DOC foyer gave daily updates about avalanche dangers & current weather conditions. Wind forecast: 40km/h for our Hooker Valley walk.
Drove to Mt Cook campsite carpark for our Hooker Valley walk. Starting from the campsite saved us an hour or so walking to / from our hotel. Although Mt Sefton peak was cloudy, we had good views of its icefalls. We passed the dead mountaineers' memorial. After crossing the rocky, bushy terminal moraine, from the DOC path near the first suspension bridge (swingbridge) we had a grand view of Mueller Glacier Lake, but no sign of receding Mueller Glacier round a moraine corner, just steep, lateral moraine walls & waterfalls from icy peaks above. The wind whipped up dust devils above Mueller Glacier Lake moraine walls.
Mountain walls both valley sides, the well maintained DOC path continued up windy Hooker Valley, over numerous wooden steps, 2 more swingbridges, a long, winding boardwalk & a small, wooden footbridge near 2 longdrop toilets. Smarter, durable concrete, longdrop toilets were being built nearby. Along the way many Alpine flowers bloomed: Wahlengbergias, celmisias, Mt Cook lilies, bush snowberries.
Snowy Mt Cook loomed over receding Hooker Glacier at the end of its glacier Lake. At the other end of Hooker Glacier Lake, a DOC sign, red & white print, warned:
Glacier Lake - Mutiple Hazards Exist.
Unstable Icebergs. - Icebergs can move & spin violently at any moment. Keep a safe distance.
Glacier Terminal Face is very unstable. - Ice can break off from above or rise violently from below. Keep a safe distance.
Extreme Cold. - The water is only 3 degrees Celcius.
Surge Wave. - Ice can calve off the glacier & create a large wave.
Thin Ice. - When the lake is frozen, ice is not safe to walk on.
Your safety is your responsibility.
Lunch at the DOC wooden table beside Hooker Glacier Lake: The wind was so strong we held onto our daypacks to stop them blowing away. Using my binoculars, I checked out Hooker Glacier's terminal face, a high striated ice wall, grey moraine stones on top. No snow on top of the glacier, as it was high summer. A small iceberg was grounded near us in shallow awater near a lateral moraine where the path continued deeper into the Alps below Mt Cook. Despite Covid, we'd encountered many trampers on the Hooker Valley walk, 10 km return, approx 4 hours return including lunch. The walk rose gently from the campsite, only 124 vertical m, 800m - 924m.
Completed our circular trek: Mackenzie Basin, Twizel: Bought honey at the honey farm. Near Lake Ruataniwha: Bought fresh salmon at the Salmon Farm, had sushi lunch there. Past Benmore, down Waitaki River Valley, via Omarama & Otematata, past hydro-electric lakes Benmore, Avimore, Waitaki to Kurow for cafe tea. Over Elephant Hill. Down Waimati Gorge to Waimati. N1 to Timaru, SH8 back to Pleasant Point.
Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.