The Maori name for Mt Cook is Aoraki, meaning Cloud Piercer. Lucky for us we were there when there where no clouds for Mt Cook to pierce, and what a spectacular sight it was. The bright blue sky set off the pure whiteness of the snow on mountains which seemed to rise and rise and rise above us. Alps, in fact, is a more appropriate term than mountains.
Approaching Mt Cook National Park from the west, before turning off the main road you see the snow capped mountains of the park across the unbelievably blue Lake Ruataniwha, here with light cloud clinging to them.
Yellow grassy hills with patches of sun and heavy grey clouds still hanging on to the mountain peaks in the valley leading to Mt Cook.
A narrow foot worn path through the dry grass and rocky flats at the base of the snowy Southern Alps.
Patches of snow remain on the tussock grass in the valley at Mt Cook, with blue skies above and only light traces of cloud; A small pool of water in the grassy valley, reflecting the high snowy peaks above.
The quite moving Alpine Memorial, with the very white and snowy Mt Sefton beneath blue skies above; Plaques on the Alpine Memorial dedicated to those who have lost their lives to the mountains, sadly these mountains claimed the lives of two more climbers the weekend we were there.
Mt Sefton and The Footstool covered in snow, with Mueller Lake and the rocky dry grassland landscape below.
Woody and spiky scrub, a large grey boulder and the snowy peak of Mt Sefton: a landscape of contrasts; A rocky winding path through the scrubby alpine landscape with the snow on Mt Sefton almost glowing white beneath the blue sky.
A couple pose and take photos on a swingbridge over the milky Hooker River, with snowy Mt Sefton and blue skies above.
Two hikers cross a swingbridge on the Hooker Valley Track, Mt Sefton as always looming large, white and magnificent in the near distance.
A grey and woody spiked bush, with snow-covered Mt Cook in the background; Two hikers follow the winding boardwalk through the scrub and grasses below the snowy peak of Mt Sefton.
The snowy Mt Cook beneath blue skies with a shallow reflective pool in the grassy landscape.
Looking through the dirty window of the Stocking Stream Shelter to Mt Cook, the wooden window frame covered in old graffiti; The small, rough wood Stocking Stream Shelter in the scrubby alpine landscape with snowy peaks looming above.
A helicopter flies up the snow-covered face of Mt Sefton, with someone hanging at the end of a long rope beneath. On a perfect sunny day like this we assumed this was search and rescue training, but sadly learned days later reading the newspaper that this helicopter was on its way to retrieve the body of the climber who died in the mountains the previous day.
The terminus of the Hooker Glacier at the base of Mt Cook, both barely reflected in the glacial lake due to a slight breeze on the water; Grey rocks surround the milky-coloured Hooker River as flows through the distinctive grassland of this alpine landscape, with snowy peaks and blue skies ever-present above.
A well-placed bench seat overlooking The Footstool covered in snow, with the strong rays of the last light of day and clouds just beginning to roll in over the tops of the mountains.
A gravel path surrounded by rocks and traces of snow appears to lead straight into Hooker Lake, Mt Cook standing tall on the other side; Early morning sunlight on the scrubby trees and tussock grass of the valley, as well as highlighting the peaks of the mountains above.
A duck takes an early morning stroll along a path as the run reaches the snowy peaks of the mountains but the valley remains in shadow; Icebergs on the Blue Lakes, broken from the glacier at the other end.
A small bird sits on top of spiky bushes trying to catch the early morning sun, the snowline very clear on the mountains in the distance.
Yellow tussock grass with woody trees and snowy peaks; A man stands of the edge of the rocks and looks out at the large icebergs on the Blue Lakes, their size is impressive.
Out of the National Park and driving east, the snow-covered Mt Cook peaks through the pine trees on the other side of the amazingly blue Lake Pukaki.
All images and text ©Jess Gibbs 2013