A Trip to Mount Cook 1889

Mountain lilies shine
Far up against the snow,
And ratas twine
On the wooded slopes below.
Rata and clematis
Sweet as bush may hold ;
While honey-loving wild birds kiss
The kowhai's cup of gold....

Emigravit by  Mary Colborne-Veel.

Timaru Herald Tuesday 9 April 1889 pg4
Reference: Papers Past Images online.

From a narrative of a trip to Mount Cook written by Mr Tomas Coull, a visitor this season, for the Dunedin Star.

Mr Coull, says of the railway ride from Timaru to Fairlie Creek:
"This being branch line it is not familiar to ordinary travellers, and we were much gratified at seeing the splendid corn-growing country through which it passes. The farms are well cultivated, and the homesteads, with their belt of trees and green enclosures, gave every indication of comfort, and home-like aspect, and was to all appearance like travelling through the Southern Counties of England. The Coaching Company had to put on three coaches to covey the party from Fairlie Creek. After Burkes Pass, entered a portion of the Mackenzie Plains the largest in the colony. These plains slope from about 3000ft to 13000ft above sea level. The upper part is formed by moranic acclamations, forming large ridges running parallel to the course of the river above the lakes. The lower portion has alluvial beds from former glaciers. We could see a cloud of dust rising in the distance and were told it was caused by a team bringing down wool from some station. After a ride of thirteen miles from the pass we came upon a magnificent view of Lake Tekapo, which in the brought sunlight shone a deep turquoise colour, caused by the glacial silt mixing with its waters. After lunch at the Tekapo Hotel, a stage of 36 miles is commenced. Passing Balmoral Station, gradually descending to Irishman Creek, we obtained our first view of a portion of Mount Cook. The Maryburn River is then crossed, and next object of interest is Simons Pass, from whence a most a most extensive view is to be obtained of the Northern portion of Otago. There is a station there belonging to one of the land companies. The homestead is surrounded by a splendid belt of trees of most luxuriant growth, and grand paddocks all around. The road winds through Dover Pass, and soon Lake Pukaki bursts into view, with Mount Cook in all its grandeur rising from its further end.

After skirting the shores of this lake for a few miles our destination for the night was reached in the shape of a small accommodation house kept by the ferryman, Mr Riddle, on the bank of Lake Pukaki. The resources of the little hostelry were taxed to the utmost. Our party numbered about four-and-twenty and half-dozen or more tourists had just come down from Mount Cook on their return journey. There were only some eight or ten beds among the lot of us. These had to be given up to the ladies, so the dining room and the kitchen were utilised and rigging up with stretchers and shake-downs of all patterns. A station-holder made up a bed in front of the bar with cushions from the coaches, and we all got provided for somehow, the landlord giving up his room to us, doing the duty of a night watchman, together with his wife, on the occasion. Mr Riddle did his best in the difficulty, but it was amusing to see him rushing about with blankets and rugs, looking perplexed and anxious as to how we were to be stowed away. While these preparations were going on, and after a good tea had been partaken of, chairs were brought out in front of the hotel, a large circle was made, and varied experiences related. There were not many New Zealanders among the party. Australians, Britishers and Americans, most of them doing the colony.

The next stage is one of 40 miles to the Hermitage "as rough a bit of road as any in the colony." The first step is to ferry the coaches and teams across the Pukaki river. The road leaves the Lake till Rhoborough Downs are reached, and after reaching the summit it zigzags down to the lake again, and skirts it for about five miles, to the boundary of Glentanner run. "There we came upon what was once a homestead, with a dilapidated enclosure containing a few fruit trees and elder bushes. Here we alighted for a picnic lunch and to rest the horses. The lunch consisted of a biscuit tin of provisions, placed in the coach at the Pukaki hotel for the passengers. Alas! when it was passed round it was found to be a tin of all sorts- meat, sandwiches, biscuit, pieces of cake and bread, all mixed up delightfully by the shaking of the coach. It was like a dip in the lucky box as to what we fished out. Some of the more knowing of the party had a nice little luncheon basket, filled with delicacies. The lake, with its black swans and numerous waterfowl, lay at our feet; pipes and cigars were brought out by those who smoked, and a stretch on the tussock was very enjoyable.

After the present Glentanner homestead was passed, and then mountain after mountain, came into view. The Tasman Glacier came into view and several streams could be seen issuing from the glacier, forming the commencement of the Tasman river. Some of its feeders the Ball and Hochstetter Glaciers, shining out white and glistening. Passing birch Station, six miles from the Hermitage, the valley of the Hooker opens out to the left of the spur of Mount Cook. The Hooker and Mueller glaciers meet up this valley. It is proposed that a wire rope and cage should be put across the Hooker River to reach the Tasman Glacier. According to Von Haast, the face of the Tasman glacier is 200ft high; it is 25 miles in length and about two miles broad. The Hermitage is most picturesquely situated. Mr Huddlestone, the manager and promoter, is well acquainted with the whole of the lake and mountain districts both in Otago and Canterbury. On the day of our arrival he had been out with a traveller from Switzerland on one of the spurs of Mount Cook. Mount Cook is a panorama in itself. Every now and then avalanches of snow and ice are to be seen tumbling from its sides, accompanied by a roar like distance thunder. The following morning Mr Huddlestone conducted a large party to the Mueller and Hooker Glaciers. String boots are essentially necessary for this venture, as much walking is over stones of all shapes and sizes. Nails are provided at the hotel to roughshod shoes whose soles are smooth. Long poles are also taken as a help to balance. Thus accoutered, and provided with lunch, we wended our way up the valley in single file till we came to the stone moraine forming part of the Mueller Glacier, over which we clambered till we reached the top of one of the outlets. Here we could see water gushing out from beneath the ice in great force, and of a milky-white colour. A half-mile further on, we came to a large opening in the moraine. A few hundred yards opposite rose cliffs of ice from a 100ft to 200ft high. We could see far into an ice cave. Out party next glambered over a scrubby hill close to the southern slope of Mount Cook, where mountain lilies, edelweiss and all manner of Alpine plants were to be obtained. To the botanist, artist and geologist, there was a wealth of objects all round. We commenced to return. We only had been four or five miles. Following day under the guidance of Mr Huddlestone we went to see the clear ice and cliffs across the Mueller Glacier, which stretches ten miles, below snow capped ranges, at the foot of Mount Sefton but clouds began to gather on the mountain, which our guide told us meant rain. Crevices and ice caves are met on the way. Men are at present working on the road from Pukaki, improving the same and shortening the route.

The county councils have also arranged to erect a stone bridge across the Ohau, which will enable travellers to do the whole tour of the Lake district in a circular tour. If a stoppage of four days will enable the visitor to see the immediate surroundings as for ascending Mount Cook, most travellers will be content worth looking at it from near the bottom. Like many other things in life which one aspires to, it is out of the reach of ordinary mortals. In the days to come, the young athletes of New Zealand will be forming themselves into alpine clubs, and mountain climbing, as well as football and cricket, will form part of the training of the dwellers in this favoured land.


Timaru Herald Tuesday November 1889
Viscount Dunlo, eldest son of the Earl of Clancarty, left by the Albury train last evening en route for the Hermitage, Mount Cook. Mr Huddlestone went up with him, the first visitor of the season, and will drive over the coach line. Extensive additions are now in hand at the Hermitage, Mr Foden being the builder. Nineteen rooms in all are being added, these including a large dining hall, smoking room, ladies' boudoir, and a number of single beds. Mr Foden reckons on having them out of his hands early in January.


Evening Post, 9 October 1911, Page 3
TIMARU, 8th October, The Public Works Department has let a contract for the haulage of 300 tons of material for the Hermitage building and bridge over the Hooker. The contract will be carried out by traction, to Pukaki, but horses must be employed in 40 miles beyond there.


To Mount Aorangi
Oh, Aorangi! from thy towering height
Look down upon the earth, whose arm of might
Sustains thee high uplifted in the air!
'T'is vain- thy gaze is ever upwards bent,
In homage to the spacious firmament.
The thundering avalanche and glacier slow
Convey thy messages to earth below;
Thy lofty summit, rugged, bald, and bare
(Save from the snowy mantle, drawn close
Around thy massive shoulders), overthrows
The fleets of floating clouds, that swiftly steer
And cruise upon the ocean atmosphere.
Oh, "Piercer of the Clouds," sublime art thou-
A wreath of grandeur crowns thy noble brow!
        June 16 1890                 - Charles Rule

Photo taken from the air, Jan. 2008 by Lyn C.

Grey River Argus, 4 March 1912, Page 4
Messrs G. Fenwick, and Smith (Dunedin.) and Kerr (Timaru), leave this morning, for Dunedin. They intend to make the journey via the Hermitage, travelling to South Westland. Westport News.

Evening Post, 29 March 1913, Page 5
THE FLOODS AT THE HERMITAGE "Further from the postmaster at Fairlie and the postmaster at the Hermitage reports that water is flowing through the main passage of the Hermitage. May have to leave the buildings, as it is still raining, and the water is rising. At 10 o'clock last night all was safe. A portion of the building had listed over considerably; otherwise the main building was safe. The washhouse had disappeared on the water subsiding. Considerable damage was done to the road, but it is hoped to pack the mails out to-morrow or Monday. Later particulars from the Hermitage via Fairlie, show that partial communication by telephone had been restored. The manager-of the Hermitage reported a washout around the annex, and also that the water had left the inside of the building, and was spreading toward the Tasman. It was still raining hard and had been doing so for twelve hours. Six inches had then fallen.

In Mark Twain fashion: to ascend the peaks by telescope, a method certainly not without its advantages.

Ashburton Guardian, 19 June 1889, Page 3 NEW ZEALAND SCENERY
In the course of his address at Fairlie Creek on Saturday evening Mr A. E. G. Rhodes, M.H.R. for Gladstone, said : "The public of New Zealand are at last beginning to realise that one of the most valuable of our national assets is our natural scenery; every year the number of tourists who come to New Zealand from Australia and Europe is increasing, and I have no hesitation m saying that New Zealand is destined to become the Switzerland of the southern Hemisphere. I have spent a considerable time m Switzerland myself, and from my own knowledge of New Zealand can say that our mountain scenery is quite as grand as anything there. We have the advantage of being within a few days steam of Australia, with its wealthy and rapidly increasing population, who will be driven more and more every year to come over to New Zealand to invigorate themselves in our bracing mountain air. This county can boast of some of the grandest scenery in New Zealand, and we must take care that we get our share of the tourist traffic, and this can only be obtained by making oar district accessible. A bridge over the Ohau would enable through communication to be established from Lake Wakatipu to Mount Cook, and would enormously increase the number of tourists passing through Fairlie Creek on their way from Mount Cook to Timaru.

Star 30 November 1907, Page 4
The Tourist Department must have its little joke. The other day some of the members of the Antarctic expedition set out for Timaru and Fairlie and Mount Cook. They were all horribly out of form after their long voyage, and wanted some training, so after a perfectly proper train journey to Fairlie, they intended to walk from there to Mount Cook. There is not the slightest doubt in The Week's mind that the Tourist Department "stuffed" the pole-seekers with the idea that Fairlie lay at the edge of an ice-floe, of which Mount Cook was the centre. As the road is really more or less than three hundred miles long, lies through hot sand, and is the scene of pleasant nor'-west breezes of pure Mackenzie Country type, it seems probable that the explorers will wish that they hadn't, and will abandon their ice-picks and 'possum rugs at an early stage.

South CanterburyGenWeb Home Page
1882 trip  1899 trip