Aoraki/Mount Cook (70,696 hectares) is New Zealand’s great alpine park. It has the highest mountains and the largest glaciers. Aoraki/Mount Cook Village and all visitors to the park are dwarfed by the immensity of the landscape that surrounds them. Aoraki/Mount Cook was formally established as a national park in 1953 from reserves that were established as early as 1887 to protect the area’s significant vegetation and landscape. This park is located in the central part of the South Island, deep in the heart of the Southern Alps. Aoraki/Mount Cook village lies within the park with Twizel the nearest town outside.
Aoraki Mount Cook is New Zealand’s highest mountain at 3754 metres. There are 27 other mountains in this alpine backbone which peak at over 3050 metres, and hundreds of others not far short of that, all making up the famous Southern Alps.
Sir Edmund Hillary
A statue of Sir Edmund Hillary is situated at the Aoraki/Mount Cook Village with views in the background of Mount Cook which he climbed in 1948. Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, KG, ONZ, KBE (20 July 1919 – 11 January 2008) was a New Zealand mountaineer, explorer and philanthropist. On 29 May 1953 at the age of 33, he and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers known to have reached the summit of Mount Everest. They were part of the ninth British expedition to Everest, led by John Hunt. He was named by Time magazine as one of 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
Hillary became interested in mountaineering while in secondary school, making his first major climb in 1939, reaching the summit of Mount Ollivier. Harry Ayres, along with Mick Sullivan led Hillary and Ruth Adams up the south ridge of Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak, on 30 January 1948. He served in the RNZAF as a navigator during World War II. Before the successful expedition in 1953 to Everest, he had been part of a reconnaissance expedition to the mountain in 1951 and an unsuccessful attempt to climb Cho Oyu in 1952. As part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition he reached the South Pole overland in 1958. He would later also travel to the North Pole.
Following his ascent of Everest he devoted much of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he founded. Through his efforts many schools and hospitals were built in this remote region of Nepal.