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Mt. Cook 

"Visitors were mostly runholders and their friends."

Waimate Advertiser February 4 1899
Reference: Papers Past Images online.

A Trip to Mt. Cook.
I started away from home in the beginning of December, to visit my friend, Mr. Schlapfer of "Tasman Downs" and to see Mt. Cook, the glory of the Southern Alps.  I took my bicycle, and rode up via Bluecliff, round the intake of the Otaio water-race, over the hills, past Mr. Squire's, past the Pareora water-race intake, round by Cannington and over into Cave. The ride through rough, was a most enjoyable one.  I started away from home about 9 a.m. and reached the Cave about 4 p.m.; by going that way you have to take off your boots and socks and wade though the rivers, but they are fortunately not deep, and the cool water, quite a refreshing feeling.  Arriving at the Cave I got a good road to Fairlie, reaching there about 6 p.m., and put up at the Gladstone Hotel for the night.  Fairlie is the terminus of the railway on the Mount Cook road. From thence you travel by coach. It is a quiet little town and its beautiful situation, bracing air, freedom from dampness and its many facilities from communicating with other centres should make it a splendid health resort. I started away from Fairlie about 6 o' clock next morning and rode to Burke's Pass, where I breakfasted. It is a lovely ride in the calm cool morning for the roads were in perfect cycling condition. You have hills and gorges on each side of you, and here and there a running stream gliding gracefully along or leaping and plunging over large boulders and broken rocks. After you leave Burke's Pass and get to the top of the incline there before you stretches the great Mackenzie Country, dry barren and broken-looking. The day became very hot, and so I took it easy, as I expected a friend to join me at Tekapo.  Tekapo is situated about 27 or 28 miles from Fairlie.  The country between it and the Pass is very barren. Nothing seems to grow there but a few scanty tussocks, and you may see an old merino sheep running, as if it were for dear life across the plain. There are two small rivers to cross, on the road between Tekapo and the Pass. 

Just when you feel you would like a change of scenery, you ascend a bit of a hill, and there before you is Lake Tekapo in all its glorious beauty, hemmed in between the hills, with the sun shining on it casting a flood of light across its very midst, and being reflect and re-reflected in a sheet of glory. At the opposite end, you can see the mighty Mount Cook, towering high above its sisters, snow-veiled and glacier bedecked tops and sides. It is a sight well worth travelling as far again to see; a sight which impresses itself upon the mind for future contemplation. You see the great, mighty, and glorious works of Nature, quiet, peaceful, and still, all lying or standing before you. in smiling beauty. One feels compelled to dismount, and stand and gaze at the grand panoramic view. On resuming you ride you have a delicious spin along the lake's lower edge to the Tekapo Hotel. There is a splendid bridge over the river. The water is very deep and blue. The bridge was built eight years ago by the Mackenzie County Council, to replace the punt formerly used. Mr. Robson, proprietor of the Tekapo Hotel, is a splendid host, and does all in his power to make visitors comfortable. He also keeps the Post and telephone office, and it is connected with Fairlie by telephone. 

After staying there for a few hours, Mr. Schlapfer arrived, and at about 5 p.m. we drove away for "Tasman Downs," distant about 17 miles. The country is undulating, and for the half of the way seems to be very poor land, but improves greatly as you get nearer the Tasman river. When you do get to the river the land becomes very good and fertile. I was quite surprised to see how green and good the grass and oats and turnips looked on "Tasman Downs" and "Braemar." It seems as if you land in another country after having travelled through so much dry and barren plain. Going from Tekapo to Tasman Downs" is uphill, until you get to the highest point in the Mackenzie country, which is called the Irishman, and then you descend about 800 feet in eight miles. From Mr. Schlapfer's place a grand view can be obtained of Mount Cook, which is about 25 miles distant, and looks particularly beautiful on a clear moonlight night. Mr. Schlaphfer has made a great deal of improvements on his property. He has cultivated the most valuable property, as sheep fatten quickly there. It lies just at the head of Lake Pukaki, and is bounded by a rabbit fence, which extends all the way from mount Cook to Lake Pukaki. 

After spending a while there, we took horses, and rode to the Hermitage. After riding, and about 15 miles up, we had to ford the Tasman river. This was rising rapidly , and the water was muddy. My horse got down into a deep stream, and had to swim for it. The water is very cold, as it rises out of the Tasman and Hooker glaciers, about about four miles up from where we crossed. We got through safely at last after a good deal of tacking about in search of fords. Our lady companion, Mrs Schlapfer, deserves a great deal of praise for her pluck in crossing the river in the state it was in. When we got through to Birch Hill station, owned by Messrs Burnett and Munro (brother of Mr. Munro, at present Rabbit Inspector in Waimate), where we received every attention. next morning it rained, but in the afternoon it cleared up a little, and we resumed our journey to the Hermitage. The Hermitage is a large and very commodious accommodation house, well finished inside, and very snugly situated. It is at present run by the Government, and the management is in the hands of Mr. Alex Ross. What strikes me as not being calculated to induce sight-seers to visit some of our beautiful New Zealand scenery, is that the price for accommodation should be so extortionate. A meal costs 2s 6d, and the same is paid for a bed. Surely that is no inducement for visitors to come, and perhaps be the means of enlarging upon the colony's facilities for settlement. After we arrived at the Hermitage, we had a look round for a short time, but it was raining, and we could not see much. We spent an enjoyable evening, and  Mr. Schlapfer being able to play both the violin and accordion, of course the inevitable chance must come off. Now and again you would be startled by the roar and crash of an avalanche. next morning we took a stroll over the the Hooker bridge, and had a look at the Hooker glacier, one solid mass of ice, rugged and broken, extending from Mounts Sealy and Sefton down to the bridge. What a most magnificent view was before us. On the slopes of Mts Sealy and Sefton you saw the great glaciers glistening in colors green, blue and white. You could hear the roar of the avalanches, awe-inspiring and awfully grand. There it was, standing in grand solitude, defying interference from any outside agency! From time immemorial it has been and will be so till the end of time! Around to your right is the mighty Mt. Cook, mistress of all the mountains, the Queen of the Southern Alps, towering above the rest, catching the first streak if daylight, and seeing the last of the dying day! There she stands; like a goddess veiled in white, watching all around her from coast to coast. Sometimes she smiles, and sometimes her brow is clouded as if she is angry and at other times she is hid from view as if in silent moderation! Her silence is her beauty! Ice and snow were to be seen everywhere. The great Tasman glacier, stretching along for miles and forming a great plain of ice, lies at the foot of Mt. Cook. The Tasman river rises out of it and flows into Lake Pukaki, and then down into the Waitaki. 

We left the Hermitage about 11 a.m. on Saturday, 17th December, and had lunch with a friend from Waimate, Mr. Jas. Smith, who is looking after the Mt. Cook road during the tourist season. There is a great deal of money spent and wasted on theses roads. The fords are no sooner repaired than they are washed away again. A great deal of this could be avoided if the Tasman river were made crossable, and the route to the Hermitage made via Braemar. The road is excellent compared with the present one, and there would be about fifty miles of road saved. We got to Mr Acland's Glentanner Station in the evening, and were courteously received and made very comfortable. On Sunday it rained very heavily and we were obliged to stay until Monday morning, when we resumed our journey, arriving at the Pukaki Hotel about 2 p.m. finally reaching Tasman Downs about 8 p.m. The ride around the lake was lovely. After two or three days rest I started for home, which I reached on Friday 23rd. It was quite a treat to come back to the green fields and beautiful crops and again to see "Home, Sweet Home."

A journey to Mount Cook in 1882
One hundred years later. Some things don't change!

South CanterburyGenWeb Home Page

Evening Post, 1 February 1902, Page 2
Our pleasures at Mount Cook were largely increased by the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. A. Ross, who are in charge of the Hermitage. That is a splendidly kept home for all who stay there. It contains 30 rooms, and possesses every hotel convenience. The charge, 10s per diem, or 2 5s per week after the first fortnight, are very reasonable when it is remembered that all the stores there have to be conveyed from Fairlie, and that the cost of this conveyance is -25 per ton. - The institution is worked by the ; Government to encourage a tourist traffic. There is a good bi-weekly coach service, from Fairlie. For some years past rather wore than a hundred tourists have stayed at the Hermitage each season. Of Mr. J. Clark, the guide, we cannot speak too highly. We placed ourselves under his charge in our Tasman and Sealey Range trips and his care and courtesy largely contributed to our enjoyment. Ho anticipated all our wants and provided for them. Those who secure his services when at Mount Cook will act wisely.

Otago Witness, 26 June 1907, Page 71
Tourist (looking over a steep precipice): "I suppose people fall down here often, don't they?" Guide:- "No; once is enough for most of 'em."

Geography of New Zealand for Senior Pupils in the Public Schools ... - Page 63
by J. R. Macdonald - New Zealand Description and travel - 1903 - 118 pages
Alpine Climbing. In 1882 the Rev. W. S. Green, a celebrated Alpine  climber, accompanied by two Swiss guides, visited New Zealand for the
purpose of climbing its highest peaks. After great difficulty the party reached a point within 40 feet of the summit of Mt. Cook. Several
attempts were subsequently made from time to time by parties of New Zealanders, none of which was successful until Christmas Day, 1894,
when Messrs. Fyfe, Graham, and Clarke gained the summit. In 1895 the famous Alpine climber, Mr. E. A. Fitzgerald, accompanied by the Swiss
guide, Zurbriggen, climbed Mt. Tasman and Mt. Sefton.
    The Hermitage. At the foot of Mount Cook a large accommodation house, called the Hermitage, is maintained by the Government for the
convenience of tourists.
    Branches from the Southern Alps. The Southern Alps send off a number of branches to the east and south, the whole system covering a wide area in the middle and south-west of Canterbury. The chief of these ranges are the Two Thumb Range, Kirkliston Range, Hunter's Hills, and the Ben Ohau Range.  Two-Thumb Range lies east of Mount Cook, and is continued south into the Hunter's Hills. There are several low saddles in the range.
    The Two Thumb Range extends due south from the Southern Alps.
    The Kirkliston Range is a continuation of the Two Thumb Range, extending south as far as the Waitaki River. These ranges are from 5,000 to 6,000 feet in height. Hunter's Hills lie east of the Kirkliston Range, in South Canterbury, and reach a height of 5,000 feet.
    The Ben Ohau Range extends north and south from Mount Cook to Lake Ohau, with peaks ranging from 6,000 to 8,000 feet in height.

Otago Witness, 31 January 1906, Page 36
FAIRLIE. January- 29. A serious accident happened to Friday's coach on the road to Mount Cook. The horses shied at a bag of coal left on the road by the owner of a traction engine, and bolted. The vehicle capsized, and was wrecked. The only passengers were Mr and Mrs LeCren, of Dunedin and Miss Gillingham, of Timaru who miraculously escaped will) some some bruises. The passengers were left two hours in a drenching rain five miles from Balmoral station until help was obtained.

Otago Witness, 19 September 1906, Page 76
Is it worth all the hard work and risk to undertake a journey to Mount Cook on a bicycle? My answer is that to anybody fond of out, door exercise who loves mountain scenery and Nature in all her grandeur and majesty, it will prove one of the most enjoyable holidays possible � a holiday that will live in the memory for over: a something in life - that will bring a joy and a gladness, and tend to lift one out of the ordinary routine of life. Some day I hope to visit Mount Cook with more leisure, when doubtless there I will be revealed to me wonders that as yet I only dream of. � M.I.F.

New York Times By Julian Grande.; Aug 26, 1923; p. E12;
On March 2 we reached the Hermitage, a comfortable but rather barrack like structure provided by the New Zealand Government. The weather on March 6 was very fine. My two guides and myself agreed simulteously on one particular route to take, but when we reached it we discovered it was one long frozen cornice, in parts the ice so sharp that it had to be cut away before any advance was possible. Here the greatness of Peter Graham as a guide was seen rising to its full height. The neighbouring peaks resounded to his ice axe and his steps were as sure as any steps which the famous Melchor Anderegg or Christian Amer ever cut. We reached the summit of the Triad range at 2 p.m. I had with me a full=page photograph which appeared in The Spere (London) in march 1911, of Miss Constance Barnicoat, a New Zealander, the daughter of the late Hon. John Wallis Barnicoat, showing her climbing the Great Schreckhorn on Jan. 28 11911. I now named this highest peak of the Traid Barnicoat Peak. My guides placed the picture in an empty box with a note recording our ascent and left it there. The naming of the peak after my late wife received cordial approval of the New Zealand Government.

"The world begins to feel very small when one finds one can get half round it in three months." Samuel Butler, January 27 1860, on arrival at Lyttelton, NZ from London on "The Roman Emperor" which sailed September 1859. He'd originally been booked on the "Burmah", which disappeared without trace. Samuel Butler described the peak in 1860. "It rose towering in a massy parallelogram, far above all the others. It is well worth any amount of climbing to see. No one can mistake it. The moment it comes into sight the exclamation is, 'That is Mount Cook!' -not 'That must be Mount Cook!' " A landslide on the east face on December 14, 1991 dropped the Aoraki / Mount Cook height of its height by 10 metres (33 feet) bringing it down to its current height of 3754 metres or 12,316ft. Butler said "Scenery is not Scenery - it is "Country" - if it is good for sheep, it is beautiful, magnificent and all the rest of it; if not, it is not worth looking at."

The credit of the first ascent of New Zealand's highest mountain was secured by South Canterbury men. Fyfe, a plumber and a guide at the Hermitage, was the first to climb Mt Cook,12,349 ft. An announcement had been made that an Englishman and a Swiss mountain guide were about to attempt the climb but the trio, Tom Fyfe, James (Jack) Clarke, and George Graham, three Waimate men, for the sake of national pride resolved to beat them and they succeeded 25 December 1894. Thomas Webster Fyfe, father of Tom, came to Timaru on the 'Echunga.' 


Mt. Cook from a spot near the Hermitage - November 2009

Mt. Cook from a spot near the Hermitage- November 2009

Postcard by N. Seaward

Around the bend from the 2nd swing bridge, Hooker Valley, Mt. Cook just jumps out. At least walk to here.


AORANGI, the holy, the highest! Aorangi that cleaveth the cloud !
Lord of the Alps, Aorangi�to thee have the mountains bowed :
To thee and the fair Ice Queen, with her foot on the glacier low,
Throned and crowned together with the mist and the driven snow.
Hark ! in the roar of the water, the avalanche loud and deep,
Bride of the great Aorangi, she speaks, and the wild winds sleep� "
Aorangi, the white Heaven-piercer! Aorangi, my chosen and king !
Wed to me ages agone with a starry crown and a ring-
Yea, on our marriage morning the heavens were nigh to the earth,
And Eden was blossoming newly to greet her master's birth.
But the blast blew over Eden, and the wail of the soul that dies ;
Aorangi, the "Heaven-piercer," the Maori name for Mount Cook.

And Eden's exiled dwellers creep at thy foot like flies.
But thou hast no part with them�none with the clay and the mould ;
Young wert thou never on earth, and never shalt thou be old.
Time ruleth the world below, but ever thy pearl-white crest
The fond sun flushes to opal for victor and king confessed.
Thy lot is with the immortals that know not to wither or die.
And mine is with thine entwined, for but in thy life live I.
Hear I the singing torrents melodious at my feet
For listing thy far-off music, of thundering dread but sweet ?
Nay ! When the sun is at zenith, and in the clear air like steel
Burnish thy pinnacles holy, and the dancing sandbanks reel
Over the waste of stone, my face is ever to thee�
Over the dark ice-caves where the fierce rivers strive to be free,
All in the mystic twilight of the gold and the shimmering rose,
Ever and ever to thee and thy glorified mantle of snows.
Yea, in the hallowed night, when the pale sweet stars out-glide,
Leaning and whispering softly to thee from the azure wide�

Yea, ever their silvery glory that girdles the heavens afar
Passeth from me as a shadow : thou art my sun and my star.
Now is the time of the tempest; the demons that ride on the storm
Hide with their wild war-banners of cloud thy all- glorious form,
Look on me out of the storm with the calm of immutable will;
Low and little I am beside thee, but faithful still."
Aorangi, the Alpine king, from cavernous depths profound
Speaks, and the torrents, his children, are hushed at the soul-heard sound�
"Beloved and bride of my soul! thy spirit is perfect with mine :
We are one in a mystic communion, one in a marriage divine.
Lay on thy queenly brow the icy diamond crown,
With crystalline clasp thy veil of fleeting diaphanous down
Bind on thy beautiful breast, that all may hail thee the bride
And the queen of the great Aorangi, thee and none else beside!"

by Jessie McKay

Auckland Star, 20 June 1885, Page 3
In Search of Mount Cook.
A writer in the Melbourne "Argus," who is describing his holiday in New Zealand, gives the following amusing account of his ineffectual attempts to discover Mount Cook.

From Dunedin it is easy to reach either; the north or the south of the island by sea or by rail. Consequently it is very conveniently situated for a tourist's headquarters. I made it mine, and it was hence that I started on my various trips. The first of these was my expedition in search of Mount Cook. This seems to imply that the mountain was lost, but that is not my meaning. I only wanted to see it. I asked a Dunedin friend how this was to be managed. Nothing simpler," he replied. "Take the train for Christchurch, and when, you are just beyond Timaru look to the left; and there you are. So I took the train, and sped northward by the express, at a rate of rather more than fifteen miles an hour. Past Blueskin, where I almost wished the train would go slower, as we rushed round the point on a narrow - ledge, with the sea boiling beneath; past farm and station, plain and hill; past Oamaru; past well-tilled fertile volcanic rises that recall Barrabool; past Timaru. And now, I thought, the time has come. I looked to the left, and there, far away in the distant heaven, half hidden by the gathering clouds, I saw a snow-capped range. "At last," with reverent eyes, I gazed at the far-famed mountain. Emotion found its vent in song.

Mount Cook is the monarch of mountains.
They crowned it long ago;
But whom they got to put the Crown on,
I really do not know

I was so delighted with the poetic effort, it had such a Byronic-albeit Smithic�ring about it, that I repeated it aloud, pointing to the mountain as I did so. "That ain't Mount Cook," said a rough voice behind me. ' It was the guard, who had come on to the platform unperceived. " You can't see him from here." " But was told you could. I have come here on purpose." " Well on a very clear day, if you know exactly where to look out, you might see him for about five minutes; but you couldn't to-day." My poetry had been wasted on a nameless but I wasn't to be beaten. So at the first stopping-place I determined to get some information. "Guard, could you take a little refreshment?" "I could, sir, only my inspector is on board ; but I could drink your health another time. Thank you." "Where should I go to see this blessed mountain ?" " Fairlie Creek is the railway ; station nearest to it. You had better go there." I went. As we were approaching the station I confided to a bucolic follow-passenger that I was going to see Mount Cook from Fairlie Creek. He smiled, and said, "You can't for the same reason that the Spanish fleet could not be seen�it's not in sight;" Noticing my look; of disappointment, he added : "But you go to Silver Creek ; that's your place." I went to Silver Creek, I walked there against a head hurricane. I inquired for Mount Cook. No Mount Cook. But I was told to get a horse and ride through Burkes Pass to Lake Tekapo, and then I would be all right. I got a horse. A sudden thought struck me as I was about to start. "Can I see Mount Cook from Lake Tekapo?" " Oh, dear, no. But if you get another horse and a guide there, and go to Blenheim, and if the weather should happen to be fine�" This was too much. I turned back without a Word. I never saw Mount Cook. Mount Harris is its proper name. "I don't believe there ain't such a mountain."

Auckland Star, 3 January 1891, Page 1
His Excellency the Governor (Earl Onslow) arrived at Timaru yesterday from Dunedin by the express, and his special car was attached to the express at Fairlie Creek. His Excellency is making a visit to Mount Cook.

Auckland Star, 22 July 1933, Page 10 Vivid names. Character of Mountains.
Rotten Tommy is merely the end of the Mount Cook range opposite the Hermitage, but the name has a tang of its own, and fittingly describes the tumbledown mass with its loose scree slopes. There there are the Thumbs, Jumbletop, Split open (Mathias region), Bastion Ridge, Cornerpost, the Amazon's Breasts (two snowy domes, one smaller than the other, in the Rakaia region, and the White Pyramid.

Sept. 2015