New Zealand (3,754 m) – Sacred Mountain of the Maori and Highest Peak in New Zealand
Mount Cook, located close to the center of New Zealand’s south island, is the tallest peak of this nation as well as the South Pacific. It is also one of the most sacred places of the Maori tribesmen, and has been a place of religious pilgrimage since pre-European times. It is named in honor of James Cook, and is also known as Aoraki, a personage in Maori mythology.
According to Maori legend, New Zealand’s south island was originally a canoe sailing around the world with four brothers who were sons of two deities. After catching on a reef, the canoe and the brothers were turned to stone. The youngest, Aoraki, became the mountain. Mount Cook was first explored by Europeans in 1642 by Abel Tasman. It was first scaled in 1894, with a more famous climb by Edmund Hilary in 1948.
Mount Cook stands at the heart of New Zealand’s beautiful “Southern Alps”, named in honor of the Alps in Europe. It is one of the most popular outdoor recreation areas in a country well known for its love of the outdoors. Although popular with hikers, it is a difficult climb thanks to the year round glaciers on the peak. It is located about 100 miles west of Christchurch in the middle of Aoraki National Park.