Mt Cook was amazing! We had great weather and did some incredible hiking. The wilderness here in NZ is astounding. We have only been able to scratch the surface. You could hike for weeks with out ever seeing another person. Since we have the van we have limited ourselves to day hikes. We have been making notes to ourselves for next year when we plan to do some multi-day treks. Mt Cook is not even over 4000m but due to the latitude and high annual snowfall it has some incredible glaciations. While at Mt Cook, I climbed Mount Kitchner. It is just over 2000m (not even as high as Boccalatte) but it felt like I was at the top of the world. The climb went up a rarely traveled buttress which makes the knife edge on Kahtadin look tame. I had initially planned to climb along the ridge and meet Luci at a hut on the other side. When I got to the summit of Kitchner the sight of the ridge I had planned to cross nearly made me pass out. It was all ragged and crumbly. I decided to take a different route down a couple hundred meters and back up to the hut. The hut (Mueller) was just built last year. It has a porch on it that gave me some good ideas for an addition to our hut in the alps. Unfortunately, I lost a bunch of the pictures due to a scratched disc.
After the hike, I saw a guy in the parking lot with an AMC Volunteer Trail Crew shirt on. As it turns out he also worked at the south pole this season. We both knew about each other via mutual friends. So, he rode with us to Wanaka where we met up with other fellow Antarcticans from NH. From Wanaka, Luci and I did another hike that took us up a Glacier carved valley to the flanks of Mt Aspiring; NZ’s largest mountain outside of the Mt. Cook area.
Though less than 100km away as the crow flies, our next destination Milford Sound in the Fjordland, is a full day’s drive away. We picked up a bunch of hitchhikers who have been helping to cover the cost of gas. Though Milford Sound itself was anticlimactic with the rows and rows of tourist busses, the drive was stupendous. It is in a temperate rainforest with 2500m glacier capped peaks that drop straight into the ocean. The streams are a crystal blue color and the trees are giants. It is one of the most pristine places I have ever been in my entire life. I went for a hike up to Gertrude Saddle which was a short but grueling hike. At the top of the saddle I had views which typify the area; steep glacier capped mountains, long white clouds, and a fjord at the bottom. We spent the night on the northern shore of Lake Te Anau where we were witness to a very colorful sunset.
We are now back in Wanaka. Luci went to Yoga class and I am getting ready for the next move. Today we plan to drive over Haast pass to the west coast. Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are next on our itinerary.
Tags: New Zealand 2004