24 hours in the mountains by Lee Cook
I am fortunate enough to live in Mount Cook village at the foot of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki (cloud piercer in Maori) Mount Cook. I had been planning a trip overnight to plateau hut on my days off from work for a while. One morning my friend who is the manager of Mount Cook Ski planes rang me and said we are good to go. I was both excited and nervous, the previous weeks temperatures had been -20 and I had no idea what to expect. I hurriedly packed my bag and triple checked my camera gear.
After an exhilarating flight through the Southern Alps we landed on the plateau. The pilot told me to be back at this spot the following day and then quickly departed. I cautiously made my way over to the hut with the eerie silence of being alone. When I got to the hut I realised I was alone, not a single soul for 20km. I immediately started to scope out the area, trying to identify bulges where hidden crevasses may be. Particularly at night, moving around was going to be a risk without being partnered up on a rope. Mount Cook has had over 230 deaths and not to be taken lightly. I decided to head up glacier dome and was greeted with spectacular views at sunset of the Tasman glacier. I was in and out of the hut all night shooting star trails. I was thankful the hut was empty, the last thing i wanted was to disturb a mountaineer trying to get some sleep.
In the morning the wind had really picked up with gusts reach well over 100km/h. I headed down to the Hochstetter Icefall which was the most dangerous part of my journey. The moving ice fall is steeped in ice columns and hidden crevasses engulf the area. Coupled with the storming gales I felt hugely uneasy about what I was doing. As I reached the bottom I noticed an obvious bulge and plunged my ice axe into the snow. Underneath was nothing but dark gloom. This was far enough!
The whole experience was one of the best things I have ever done. To be able to photograph such a wild and untouched environment alone was something I will never forget. Lee tells Shut Your Aperture.
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