About an hour’s drive south of Lake Tekapo is Mt. Cook National Park with Mt. Cook Village. Mt. Cook or Aoraki in the national language of the Maori is with 3724 m the highest mountain in New Zealand and therefore only a little lower than the Austrian Großglockner. This area was always a fixed point of my trip through New Zealand, so I was very happy to arrive when we arrived here. I wanted to get as close as possible and as high as possible to the mountain, but an climb itself was out of the question. The attraction, that certain something had already radiated from the mountain, but I was neither logistically prepared, had no suitable equipment and my physical shape with the injured leg was not the best. That the Aoraki is not without its problems is shown by the long list of fatally injured or missing persons: 238 people did not come back when trying to climb it, two Germans and one Australian in 2015. Axel Naglich, the extreme skier from Kitzbühl, who had managed the longest ski descent from Mt. St. Elias, had already tried to descend from the Aoraki 4 times and had to give up every time.
On the first day we had bad weather as predicted by the forecast. On the approach we couldn’t see anything, but because of the glacier lake we could at least guess the giant in the background. Somehow with this landscape and these conditions memories from my last Himalayan tour came back to me.
Bad weather was also predicted for the following days, the more surprising was the view out of the window at 5 am the next morning.
Clear skies and sunshine – perfect conditions for an ascent in the snow. We had already made inquiries the day before about the current situation in the mountains. According to the national park administration there had been some fresh snow in the last days, crampons, picks and gaiters were recommended to us for an ascent to the nearby Müller-Hut. Since this equipment was easily rented on the spot, we should be able to climb well prepared.
During the evening in the accommodation it had turned out in a loose conversation that another American and a Frenchman joined our plan for the next day. The “International Expedition Team” was then complete when a mountaineer from Hungary, who had set off alone, joined us on the ascent.
The ascent to the Müller-Hut was completely harmless, a little exhausting because it was very steep, but the beautiful view in beautiful weather compensated the strains by far. Crampons and picks would not have been necessary.
The group was moving quite fast, so the hut was reached in less than 3 hours. At this time of the year you are self-catering there, i.e. the hut is not occupied and you have to bring your own food and drinks.
After the weather was so wonderful and we started relatively early, the ascent to a smaller peak above the hut was no longer a special challenge. From this peak you really had a wonderful panoramic view over the New Zealand Alps.