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I was finally there. Standing bewildered under the shadow of an imposing Mount Cook I had the chance to face the ancient Hooker Glacier itself. The thick clouds did not permit me to view Aoraki at all its grandeur and all I could do is imagine the unspeakable height of its iconic summit; 3.724 m. is not a meager feat. Small icebergs were floating within Hooker Lake upsetting the perfect reflections of the tallest mountain of Southern Alps and its so-called guardian, Mount Sefton. Hooker Valley Track is definitely one of the most scenic yet easy half-day hikes in New Zealand.

It was here, on Hooker Valley and more specifically on Mt. Cook that Sir Edmund Hillary perfected his mountaineering skills to conquer Mt. Everest itself, the tallest mountain of the world. I was so eager to learn what’s so captivating about Aoraki that makes alpinists risk their lives to summit it. Will the “cloud piercer”, as called by the Māori, live up to its fame? Besides, who would miss the opportunity to see a glacier lake, have fun crossing swing bridges and watch real icebergs floating around?

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Oceania New Zealand Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park