This section doesn't describe a long-distance walk per se, but by combining three treks in the Mt Cook area of New Zealand you can create a five-day hike that takes in glaciers, mountain huts and some of the most stunning views you'll ever see. The weather is a constant threat round these parts and because of the snowy conditions you should definitely check in with the Department of Conservation in Mt Cook before heading out on trickier routes like the Ball Shelter Route, but these aren't mountain climbs, they're treks, and in the summer you shouldn't need special equipment.
The rewards are huge. The first day, a round trip from Mt Cook village to the Hooker Glacier, is a good warm-up and gives you a good feeling for the scale of Mt Cook and its neighbours. The two-day hike up to the Mueller Hut and back has to be the highlight; the views from the top are simply breathtaking, though it's quite an effort to get to the top and the route is pretty difficult to determine. Finally the walk to Ball Shelter is a delight, and the sights and sounds of the 3km-wide Tasman Glacier are really something else.
It's easy to see why the Maoris call the mountain Aoraki, or 'the son of the god of the sky'. Mt Cook is a breathtaking area, and even if you don't fancy climbing mountains or exploring glaciers, it's worth the drive simply for the view from the village (weather permitting). The walk into the Hooker Glacier is an easy day walk for most people, so at the very least I recommend you give that a go... and if you're adventurous, there's plenty more to see.
Because this section describes a collection of shorter walks rather than a long-distance trek, there isn't a route as such. However, if you want to spend five days exploring the Mt Cook area you could do a lot worse than follow the following itinerary, which combines mountain trudging and glacier hiking with a gentle introductory day.
|1||Mt Cook Village to Hooker Glacier and back||4 hours|
|2||Mt Cook to Mueller Hut||-|
|3||Mueller Hut to Mt Cook||2.5 hours|
|4||Road End to Ball Shelter||3.5 hours|
|5||Ball Shelter to Road End||3.5 hours|
I didn't make a note of how long it took to climb up to the Mueller Hut, but please note that the descent time included a lot of sliding down snow drifts, and it took us a lot longer to climb up!