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Posts Tagged ‘dreams are made of this’

Immediately after finishing the Mt. Fuji challenge, and without further ado, I started my next challenge: the Alps to Ocean route in New Zealand on 30th December 2020.

This brought me to the end of the year and helped me to reach my Conquer 2020 goal of 2,020 kms.

And off we go….from one mountain on an island to another mountain on an island…

Imagine crisp alpine air, snow-capped peaks, glaciers, milky lakes and starlit nights. The training ground for Sir Edmund Hillary’s climbing skills in preparation for Everest. The legendary story of Aoraki and his three brothers. These are just some of the highlights of Mount Cook.

Stage 1

At 12,217ft (3,724m) tall Mount Cook is located on the South Island and the tallest mountain in New Zealand. It sits within the Mount Cook National Park which runs 37mi (60km) in a southwest-northeast direction. Home to more than 400 flora and fauna the national park is part of the Te Wāhipounamu South Westland World Heritage Site. The park is also home to 35 species of birds, including the only alpine parrot called Kea.

When I was looking into Mount Cook, I was wondering about the 98ft (30m) height discrepancy between different written sources. Further investigations revealed that in 1991 an avalanche of 350 million cubic feet (10Mm³) of snow and rock followed by twenty years of erosion had shrunk the mountain’s elevation by 98ft (30m).

Of the twelve largest glaciers in New Zealand, eight of them are within the park with Tasman Glacier being the longest at 15mi (24km). The glacier terminates in the Tasman Lake which up until the 1990s never existed. The lake was formed due to rapid glacial melting whilst the glacier itself continues to recede annually by as much as 2,697ft (822m). It is anticipated that within a few decades the glacier will be completely gone and the lake fully formed.

The lake’s primary outflow is the alpine braided Tasman River which flows south for 16mi (25km) through the Tasman Valley and into Lake Pukaki. The glacier, lake and river were named after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who in 1642 was the first European to sight the northwest coast of NZ’s South Island.

My journey begins at the base of Mount Cook, northwest of the river. Needing to cross the river to connect to Rotten Tommy trail, I took a short helicopter flight. The aerial view of this glacially-fed river and Mount Cook was a sight to behold. From Rotten Tommy, I took a southward bound route alongside the Tasman River. Although part of the route was quite rough and I had to cross several creeks, eventually the track changed to gravel road and made it easier to navigate towards my first overnight stop. Being a clear and sunny day, I had the treat of seeing Mount Cook in the distance rising above the lower snow-capped peaks in the National Park.

Before I go let me tell you about the Ngāi Tahu legend. The story goes that once the “Gods existed in the midst of a great sea of nothingness” and Raki, the Sky Father and Pokoharua-te-po, his wife had four sons, all living in the heavens. Raki left his wife to be with Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother, and together they created the world. Aoraki, the eldest son of Raki, along with his three brothers came from the heavens with a canoe in an attempt to persuade their father to return to their mother. Upon seeing him together with his new wife, the brothers knew Raki would never return. The brothers decided to go home but unfortunately their canoe wouldn’t rise and following strong winds and rising seas, the canoe overturned tipping the brothers into the water. Climbing atop the upturned canoe they waited for help. As time passed with no help coming, they eventually turned to stone. The canoe became the Southern Island and the brothers became the Southern Alps with Aoraki (Mount Cook) being the highest peak.

It all sounds absolutely amazing. I’m really going to have to seriously consider planning to walk these routes for real as part of my Project 101, especially if I want to see that glacier before it disappears completely – I’ve got just over 4 years to save…

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