|Table of contents|
3 Summit Attempts
4 The Southern Alps
5 Tasman Glacier
The mountain is located within the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. The park was formally declared in 1953, and in combination with Westland National Park, is one of the United Nations World Heritage Parks. The park contains more than 140 peaks standing over 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) and 72 named glaciers which cover 40 percent of the park's 70,011 hectares (173,000 acres).
Mount Cook is also known as Aoraki, meaning "Cloud Piercer" in the Kai Tahu dialect of the Maori language. In "canonical" Maori the name would appear as Aorangi. The more modern name honours Captain James Cook, who first surveyed and circumnavigated the islands of New Zealand in 1770.
The first recorded European attempt on the summit was initially attributed to the Irishman Rev. W. H. Green and two Swiss mountain guides on 2 March 1882, but it was subsequently established that they were 50m short of the true summit. On 25 December 1894, New Zealanders Tom Fyfe, James (Jack) Clarke, and George Graham, all from the South Island town of Waimate, successfully reached the summit via the Hooker Valley.
It remains a challenging ascent, with frequent storms and very steep snow and ice climbing to reach the peak. Strictly speaking, it is a triple peak, with the north peak being the highest, and the central and southern peaks being slightly lower. A traverse of the three peaks was first accomplished by New Zealand's most famous mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hillary.
Mount Cook was 20m (65 feet) higher until a large section of rock and ice fell off the northern peak in January 1992.
The Southern Alps
The Southern Alps on the South Island are formed by tectonic uplifting and pressure as the Pacific and Australia-Indian plates collide along the island's western coast. The uplifting continues, raising Mt. Cook an average of 10 mm (slightly less than half an inch) each year. However, erosive forces are also powerful shapers of the mountains. The severe weather is due to the mountain's jutting into a trade wind pattern known as the Roaring Forties, which is characterized by powerful winds that run roughly around 45 degrees south latitude, south of both Africa and Australia, so that the Southern Alps are the first obstacle the winds encounter after South America as they blow easterly across the Southern Ocean.
The average annual rainfall in the surrounding lowlands is around 300 inches (760 cm). This very high rainfall leads to temperate rain forests in the coastal lowlands and a reliable source of snow in the mountains to keep the glaciers flowing. This includes the Tasman Glacier, which is 27 km (17 miles) long and as much as 3 km (1.8 miles)wide.