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With its peak at an altitude of 3,754 meters (12,316 feet), Mt Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand.

The mountain is part of the Southern Alps along the western coast of New Zealandís South Island, and is located within the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. The park was formally declared in 1953, and in combination with Westland National Park, it is one of the United Nations World Heritage Parks. The park contains more than 140 peaks standing over 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) and 72 named glaciers which cover 40 percent of the parkís 70,011 hectares (more than 270 square miles). The Maori name for the peak, Aoraki (which means Cloud Piercer), is often used to refer to the mountain. The more modern name honors Captain James Cook, who first surveyed and circumnavigated the islands of New Zealand in 1770. Captain James Cook also discovered Australia in the same year.

The first recorded European attempt to climb the mountain took place in 1882, led by Irishman Reverend W.S. Green, but they were turned back by foul weather a mere 200 meters from the top. New Zealanders Tom Fyfe, Jack Clarke, and George Graham made the first successful ascent on Christmas Day, 1894, 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, Aoraki is a triple peak, with the north peak being the highest. A ďgrand traverseĒ of the three peaks was first accomplished by Freda Du Faur, Peter Graham, and Darby Thomson in January, 1913. New Zealandís most famous mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hillary, along with Harry Ayres, made the first ascent up the challenging south ridge on the south peak in 1949, then also completed the grand traverse.

The Southern Alps on the South Island are formed by tectonic uplifting and pressure as the Pacific and Australia-Indian plates collide along the islandís western coast. The uplifting continues, raising 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 top 10 meters calved off the northern peak in December 1991. The severe weather is due to the mountainís jutting into a trade wind pattern known as the Roaring Forties, which are characterized by powerful winds that run roughly around 45 degrees south latitude and run south of both Africa and Australia, so the Southern Alps are the first orthographic obstacle the winds encounter since South America as they blow easterly across the Southern Ocean.

This picture was taken from a light aircraft cruising at around 10,000 feet. The picture was taken to the south of the mountain with the aircraft over the Tasman Glacier at the time. This view is similar to what you can see if you visit the Mt Cook Villiage.

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Additional Photos by John Porter (JayP) Silver Star Critiquer/Silver Note Writer [C: 17 W: 0 N: 24] (381)
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