Once a humble beekeeper, Sir Edmund Hillary came to know this mountain very well. For it was here that he would hone his mountaineering skills to become the first man, along with Tensing Norgay Sherpa, ever to reach the summit of the tallest peak in the world – Mt Everest.
Hillary was certainly an imposing figure, even in Bronze. The man was apparently very tall, and perhaps this is what gave him an edge over other mountaineers, when climbing with cramp-irons on his feet up vertical ice cliffs?
His statue stands at the Hermitage Hotel at Mt Cook, New Zealand, a place that came to be his second home. Known as Aoraki in the Maori tongue, I stopped here en route to Queenstown and took a walk around the Mt Cook vicinity.
Yes, I was mad enough to go to the South Island of New Zealand in the middle of winter!
Mt Cook is in the South Island of New Zealand and a stunning place of phenomenal beauty, yet a very unforgiving place.
There was a patch of blue sky in the far distance, which looked promising for my walk, but at this altitude, the weather can change exceedingly quickly so there was no guarantees.
So my walk entailed being extremely careful when I stepped, not wanting to fall on the ice like I did, once, in Norway. That little trick rendered me unable to walk properly for weeks.
The flora around the Hermitage area is very much alpine heath, struggling to survive in a harsh environment, although there are also sheep grazing here. The finest merino wool in the world, is in fact, grown a few kilometres away, at Mt Cook Station.
The sheep seem to have right of way here, at one point we had to ‘split the mob’ to get through.
In the area around Mt Cook, you can also see the most delightful blue snow/glacial fed lakes, like this one which form part of the hydro and irrigation scheme.
We had to walk back very quickly to the Hermitage, as the weather was closing in, fast.
Lunch was a quick bite in the hotel restaurant and whether it was due to the intense cold, I am not sure, but it tasted really delicious. And prices were very reasonable. They do have a monopoly as it is the only place to eat, for miles and miles, But oh! I would pay a lot more for such a meal when one can take advantage of that very special view.
We ate in front of these magnificent full length glass windows at the hotel admiring the view. You can also get an idea in the reflection of the windows….
There was then only a little time for my daughter to throw around some snowballs and slide up and down the slopes on a toboggan, which the lady at the hotel reception said we could use free of charge.
She was so kind, and it seemed that her manner was from a bygone era, when you do things for free, with no expectation of returning the favour.
(Great New Zealand hospitality!)
It is claimed by some, that New Zealand is a rather conservative place and that they are still a bit stuck in the past at the end of the world. Well if that is the case, it is not a bad way to be, is it?
And certainly not a bad place to be stuck, either.
All too soon, it was time to leave and I was left with the memory of these wild and extreme walks, I took, at Mt Cook.
Linking to Jo’s Monday Walk
Jo’s walk this week is to Carding Hill Valley
Footnote: Up to 1953, seven separate climbing expeditions had thus failed to reach the summit of Everest, but on May 29th, Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a native Nepalese climber who had participated in five previous Everest trips, were the only members of the party able to make the final assault on the summit. At 11:30 in the morning, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit, 29,028 feet above sea level, the highest spot on earth. As remarkable as the feat of reaching the summit was the treacherous climb back down the peak.Throughout the rest of his life, he worked tirelessly on humanitarian and fund raising projects, building schools, health clinics, and many aid projects for his beloved country of Nepal, (a country dear to my heart), until his death from heart failure in 2008.