Mt Cook, New ZealandAoraki Mt Cook History

Aoraki Mt Cook | Regional Information | Activity Highlights | Scenic Highlights | History

Discover the staggering beauty of New Zealand's tallest peaks. With the largest glaciers in New Zealand, Aoraki Mt Cook is an experience you will never forget.

Aoraki Mt Cook History Overview

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Lake Tekapo, Aoraki/Mt Cook lilly, Aoraki/Mt Cook and Canterbury, New Zealand
Aoraki/Mt Cook Lilly
Photographer: Rob Suisted

Aoraki Mt Cook was known originally to the Maori as Aoraki. It was later renamed to Mt Cook by European settlers. In 1998 the mount was renamed to Aoraki/Mt Cook to incorporate its Maori heritage.

The mountain itself is a sky-scraping 3,754 metres tall. It has been climbed several times by different mountaineers, including the famous Sir Edmund Hillary.

Steeped in history and legend, Aoraki/Mt Cook stands tall and proud in the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park.

Early History of Mount Cook

According to Maori legend, Aoraki and his three brothers were the sons of Rakinui, the Sky Father. They were on a voyage around Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother, when their canoe was stranded after striking a reef in the ocean.

Aoraki and his brothers climbed onto the top their canoe. The cold south wind froze them, and turned them into stone. Their canoe became New Zealand's South Island, which was then called Te Waka o Aoraki.

Aoraki, the tallest of the brothers, became the highest peak. His brothers and crew became the other mountains of the Southern Alps.

First Ascents of Mount Cook

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Sir Edmund Hillary
Sir Edmund Hillary
Photographer: Unknown

Mt Cook was first climbed by Tom Fyfe, Jack Clarke and George Graham, on Christmas Day, 1894.

On 3rd December, 1910, Emmeline Freda Du Faur became the first woman to climb Mt Cook. Her attempt was also the fastest ascent to that date.

In 1949 New Zealand's most famous mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hillary, along with Harry Ayres, made the first ascent up the challenging south ridge on the south peak. They also completed the grand traverse. On May 29, 2003, a bronze statue of Sir Edmund Hillary was unveiled outside The Hermitage, Mt Cook, looking out to the mountains Hillary climbed.

Renaming the Mount

In 1998 a settlement between Ngai Tahu and Crown saw the official renaming of the mountain from Mt Cook to Aoraki Mt Cook. This was to ensure the importance and the significance of the mountains Maori heritage was not lost.

Several other South Island locations were also appended with their Maori name at this time, however Mt Cook was the only place to have its English name preceded by its Maori name.

Under the settlement the Crown agreed to return title to Aoraki/Mt Cook to Kai Tahu, who would then formally gift it back to the nation.

Useful Aoraki Mt Cook Links

To help plan your Aoraki Mt Cook holiday choose from the main categories below

Aoraki/Mt Cook Region Information

Aoraki/Mt Cook Tourism Operators


Mainstay New Zealand Hotels Rent a Dent Motel Association of New Zealand Choice Hotels Ski New Zealand
Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferry


Travel Competition

Online Games

Tourism Jobs

Find Tourism and Hospitality jobs at THATJob

Find a Job

Post a Job