Making sense of my photography hobby in retirement

Pilot Run – Hooker Valley, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

Six months after Valerie broke her leg skiing we had made our way to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park.  Mt Cook had been one of the stops we made during our honeymoon 45 years ago and we had only visited the Mt Cook Village once in the intervening years. Part of our plan to “complete” the holiday that was interrupted by weeks in hospital and months of recovery was to stay for two nights in the village on our way to Wanaka.

We had never before walked in the Hooker Valley that leads from the Mt Cook Village to the terminal moraine and glacier lake  at the foot of Aoraki Mt Cook, so we decided to (in Kiwi parlance) “give it a go”. It is not a difficult walk, but we had an encumbrance – Val was still walking with a limp and had only been off crutches for a month. Being a very determined person, she wanted to do the whole walk. Although it starts from the village, a shorter version starts at the Department of Conservation camping ground that reduces the posted return time by 1 1/2 hours. This is what we did, a pilot run for things to come.

Camping Ground, Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Department of Conservation Camping Ground, Hooker Valley, Mt Sefton (L) and La Perouse (R) in background

The DOC camping ground provides a magnificent view Mt Sefton and La Perouse with their ice fields tumbling down the granite walls into the Hooker Valley.  This makes a great place to start the walk, the most popular in the area.  A short 15 minute stroll up the valley brings you to the Alpine Memorial.  Aoraki Mt Cook is a technically difficult climb.  More than 200 climbers have lost their lives over the years attempting the ascent since the mountain was first climbed in 1894.

Alpine Memorial, Hooker Valley, Aoraki Mt Cook, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Alpine Memorial, Hooker Valley

The view of the Hooker Valley from the memorial is stunning.

Hooker Valley and Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Hooker Valley Panorama, Mt Sefton (L), La Perouse (C), Aoraki Mt Cook (R)

There are two swing bridges to cross during the walk, and the first one comes shortly after the memorial.  The hill above the bridge provides a view of the Mueller Glacier Lake at the base of Mt Sefton.

Swing Bridge, Hooker River, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Swing Bridge, Hooker River, Mueller Glacier Lake on Left

Mt Seton and the Mueller Glacier Lake, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Mt Seton and the Mueller Glacier Lake

The walk continues on up the Hooker Valley beside the river, with the occasional stretch of boardwalk …

Hooker River and Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Hooker River and Aoraki Mt Cook

Boardwalk, Hooker Valley, Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Boardwalk, Hooker Valley, Aoraki Mt Cook

… finally reaching the Hooker Glacier Lake at the end of the terminal moraine.

Hooker Glacier Lake and Terminal Moraine, Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Hooker Glacier Lake and Terminal Moraine of Aoraki Mt Cook

The walk is described as being of easy to moderate difficulty, and most people complete the round trip from the DOC Camp in two and  a half to 3 hours.  We took 5 hours, but had a very happy lady at the end – tired, hot, a bit sore, but very satisfied.

6 responses

  1. carol forrest

    superb photography as usual Chris. Awesome Val , marvelous to know you are moving along very well by the sounds of things :)

    February 13, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    • Thanks Carol. Val is making good progress now. She did several other walks while we were in the South Island and managed them quite well also.

      February 13, 2013 at 11:06 pm

  2. Helena

    Great pictures! My favorite one was the last :)

    February 13, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    • Hi Helena, Thanks for your comment. It is strange to see icebergs in a mountain lake in the middle of summer, but that’s nature for you. It has been a hot summer in New Zealand this year, which has caused a large snow melt leaving the mountains with reduced coverage. Chris G

      February 14, 2013 at 9:53 am

      • Helena

        I love mountains and rivers, I think it’s nice combination for photos :). I hadn’t noticed the ice bergs till you tell me, seriously haha. New Zealand is awesome, too bad that I can’t understand British accent so well :(.

        February 14, 2013 at 10:02 am

      • Trust me, accents may be difficult but once you get “tuned-in” it is much easier to understand :-)

        February 14, 2013 at 10:07 am

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