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Mount Cook

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Aoraki/Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand. Aoraki/Mt Cook is a peak in the Southern Alps, a mountain range that runs the length of the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. A popular tourist destination, it is also a favourite challenge for mountain climbers. The Tasman Glacier and Hooker Glacier flow down its slopes.

Following the settlement between Kāi Tahu and the Crown in 1998, title to Aoraki/Mt Cook was returned to Kāi Tahu, and it was then formally gifted it back to the nation. At this time, the name was also officially changed from Mount Cook to Aoraki/Mount Cook. As part of the settlement, a number of placenames were appended with their Māori name. Signifying the importance of Aoraki/Mt Cook, it is the only one of these names where the Māori name precedes the English.

Contents

Location

The mountain is located within the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. The park was formally declared in 1953, and in combination with Westland National Park is one of the United Nations World Heritage Parks. The park contains more than 140 peaks standing over 2000 m (6500 ft) and 72 named glaciers, which cover 40% of the park's 700 km² (173,000 acres).

The settlement of Mount Cook Village (also known as The Hermitage) serves as a tourist centre and base camp for the mountain. It is located 4 km from the head of the Tasman Glacier, 12 km south of Aoraki/Mt Cook's summit.

Name

Aoraki means "Cloud Piercer" in the Kāi Tahu dialect of the Maori language. Historically, the Māori name has also been spelt in the "canonical" Maori form: Aorangi. The more English name honours Captain James Cook, who first surveyed and circumnavigated the islands of New Zealand in 1770.

Summit attempts

The first recorded European attempt on the summit was initially attributed to the Irishman Rev. W. H. Green and two Swiss mountain guides on 2 March 1882, but it was subsequently established that they were 50 m short of the true summit. On 25 December 1894 New Zealanders Tom Fyfe, James (Jack) Clarke and George Graham, all from the South Island town of Waimate, successfully reached the summit via the Hooker Valley.

It remains a challenging ascent, with frequent storms and very steep snow and ice climbing to reach the peak. Strictly speaking, it is a triple peak, with the north peak being the highest, and the central and southern peaks being slightly lower. A traverse of the three peaks was first accomplished in 1913 by Freda du Faur and guides Peter and Alex Graham. Three years earlier Du Faur became the first woman to ascend Aoraki/Mt Cook.

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Aoraki/Mount Cook from LandSat

Aoraki/Mount Cook was 20 m (65 ft) higher until a large section of rock and ice fell off the northern peak in January 1991.

The Southern Alps

The Southern Alps on the South Island are formed by tectonic uplifting and pressure as the Pacific and Australia-Indian plates collide along the island's western coast. The uplifting continues, raising Aoraki/Mt Cook an average of 10 mm (slightly less than half an inch) each year. However, erosive forces are also powerful shapers of the mountains. The severe weather is due to the mountain's jutting into a trade wind pattern known as the Roaring Forties, which is characterized by powerful winds that run roughly around 45°S latitude, south of both Africa and Australia, so that the Southern Alps are the first obstacle the winds encounter after South America as they blow easterly across the Southern Ocean.

Forests and Glaciers

The standard tourist view of Aoraki/Mount Cook from the Hermitage hotel, Aoraki/Mt Cook Village
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The standard tourist view of Aoraki/Mount Cook from the Hermitage hotel, Aoraki/Mt Cook Village

The average annual rainfall in the surrounding lowlands is around 7.6 m (300 inches). This very high rainfall leads to temperate rain forests in the coastal lowlands and a reliable source of snow in the mountains to keep the glaciers flowing. These include the Tasman and Murchison Glaciers to the east and the smaller Hooker and Mueller Glaciers to the south.

External Links

de:Mount Cook nl:Mount Cook pl:Góra Cooka

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