Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand

The Aeronautical Conquest of the Southern Alps


a short walk
Wayne McMillan next to the Pegasus of the Mount Cook Ski Planes that has just landed in the heights of the Southern Alps.
Zigzag Mist
Mist fills a gorge in the Southern Alps on New Zealand's South Island.
Lake Pukaki-Southern Alps-New Zealand
The Great Southern Alps
Peaks overlooking the Southern Alps, around Aoraki Mount Cook.
To Command
Wayne, one of the Mount Cook Ski Planes pilots in the cockpit of his Pegasus.
a fearless refuge
A cabin erected almost balanced on a cliff below Aoraki Mount Cook.
Tasman ice
The rugged top of the Tasman glacier, right in the Southern Alps.
walk in the heights
Passengers on a Mount Cook Ski Plane on a snowy plateau in the vicinity of Aoraki Mount Cook.
Southern Alps Shades
New Zealand's Highway 8 runs along the shores of Lake Pukaki, against the backdrop of the Southern Alps.
rock vs snow
Semi-snow covered cliffs in a canyon below Aoraki Mount Cook.
Tasman Glacier below
Mount Cook Ski Planes plane flies over the top of the Tasman Glacier.
Altitude poses
Mount Cook Ski Planes passenger couple are photographed on the mountain above the Tasman Glacier.
The Great New Zealand Glacier
the curving ice river from the Tasman Glacier, the longest glacier in New Zealand.
track in sight
Mount Cook Ski Planes Ski Planes about to land on the Mount Cook runway.
Tasman Lake
Large lake formed by the melting of the Tasman glacier, enlarged by the Southern Hemisphere summer.
New Zealand Ceiling
The sharp summit of Aoraki Mount Cook, the highest mountain in the Southern Alps and New Zealand.
In 1955, pilot Harry Wigley created a system for taking off and landing on asphalt or snow. Since then, his company has unveiled, from the air, some of the greatest scenery in Oceania.

On the other end of the line, in the fashion of good managers, Richard Royds sounds as diplomatic as he is pragmatic. “Are you in Twizel? Great! It's close enough. Come walking over here. You may have to wait a while but I should get you something soon.”

We had recently added NZ$250 to a still short list of speeding tickets in the downunder. We make an effort not to go overboard in haste.

After Flying Low, Over the Southern Alps

Still, after 25 minutes, we parked in front of the Mount Cook Ski Planes offices at Mount Cook Airport. Better than promised, with 25 more losers, we are boarding the Pilatus Porter PC6 from Mount Cook Ski Planes.

In a taxi, Wayne, the pilot in charge of the flight, gives us and two Asian couples – one Indian, the other Japanese – a brief safety briefing. Then, against the wind, as the rules dictate, we soar above the frigid waters of Lake Tasman.

Lake formed by the Tasman Glacier, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Large lake formed by the melting of the Tasman glacier, enlarged by the Southern Hemisphere summer.

As we ascend, Roaring Forties concentrated down the long canyon onward slam into the aircraft and cause passengers to cling more tightly to the front seats.

Wayne remains undaunted and unruffled: “It's okay, don't worry. I have been working this route for a long time, for too long, I dare say.

This wind is here almost always. If planes don't let me down, I won't let them down either.” secures while retouching the stick and adjusting knobs and knobs. “Do you know what bothers me? This heat.

Ski plane over Tasman Glacier, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Mount Cook Ski Planes plane flies over the top of the Tasman Glacier.

They came at the right time. Some 20 years ago, ice occupied a large part of what is now a lake, down there. If these summers continue like this, it won't be long, only the top will remain, where we will land.”

A Tasman Glacier Flight Above, Aimed at Aoraki Mount Cook

Pilatus Porter penetrates an unexpected cloudiness but breaks free in three stages. In an already completely clear sky, we lost the coziness of the valley and approached the most imposing peaks and fjords in the Southern Alps, Tasman, Dampier, then Teichelmann.

Mist, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Mist fills a gorge in the Southern Alps on New Zealand's South Island.

Shortly after, we also identified the aoraki Mount Cook slightly prominent due to its higher altitude and the prism shape of the summit, at that time sheltered by a curious lenticular cloud.

Lenticular Hat, Mount Cook, New Zealand

Summit of Aoraki Mount Cook accompanied by a lenticular cloud.

We went around New Zealand's Queen Mountain twice. Repetition allows us to admire the sumptuousness of the Southern Alps and, to the west, the wild coastline of the Tasman Sea, much more visible than we ever thought possible, considering the altitude at which we flew.

The initial purpose of the flight was fulfilled. Wayne points again to the ice bed of the Tasman Glacier that we flew over to the formation zone.

There, he reverses the direction of flight once more, lowers the ski-plane and lands on surface snow. Against the slope and friction, the plane does not take long to come to a standstill.

Pilot Wayne McMillan and Mount Cook Ski planes, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Wayne McMillan next to the Pegasus of the Mount Cook Ski Planes that has just landed in the heights of the Southern Alps.

Wayne takes advantage of the silence and announces with a heavy kiwi accent: “Here are the great New Zealand sets. Have fun". We were, on a majestic mountain glacier, just a few hundred meters above the peaks that countless climbers had aspired to climb.

Revolutionary Innovation Now at the Service of Mount Cook Ski Planes

A few decades ago, this easy access to the top of the mountain range also proved to be a huge achievement. The person responsible was the founder of Monte Cook Ski Planes, the company that had granted us the privilege of adventure.

In 1953, Harry Wigley, a former New Zealand Air Force pilot, was already taking scenic flights around Aoraki Mount Cook and over the glaciers.

Around that time, he realized the need for a retractable ski system that would allow planes to take off from normal runways and land on snow.

Wayne, Mount Cook Ski Planes Pilot, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Wayne Mc Millan, one of the Mount Cook Ski Planes pilots in the cockpit of his Pegasus.

Fixed skis already existed but an international investigation revealed that the retractable system had not yet been developed.

On the other hand, stationary skis could only be used part of the New Zealand winter, in seasons when the Monte Cook airfield had its runway covered with snow.

Wigley didn't conform. He invested hundreds of hours in creating a wheel that would stand out through the ski during take-off and landing on asphalt.

And a way for the ski to descend during the flight to allow landings on the high snowfields of the Tasman Glacier.

Passengers, scenic flights-Southern Alps, New Zealand

Passengers on a Mount Cook Ski Plane on a snowy plateau in the vicinity of Aoraki Mount Cook.

On September 22, 1955, Harry Wigley landed there the first ski plane – an Auster – equipped with the new system.

One of the most famous passengers to benefit from it was Sir Edmund Hillary who, seven years earlier, had conquered his beloved New Zealand roof, but nevertheless failed to visit.

Later, the concept and design were perfected and the skis were given plastic bases and hydraulically operated.

The introduction of a more powerful aircraft, the Cessna 180 allowed Mount Cook Ski Planes to operate year round and carry more fortunate passengers like us.

The Landing High Above the Tasman Glacier

The Indian couple is the first to leave. They take a few steps and, in a cold but romantic micro-climate, possibly on a honeymoon, they embrace. Japanese youths move away towards lush rock shapes and have themselves photographed in comic and eccentric poses.

Couple next to ski plane, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Couple is photographed by the ski plane of Mount Cook Ski Planes, above the Tasman Glacier.

We started to climb the ice field with the aim of peeking again beyond the highest edge of the mountain range.

Wayne lives his routine and little strays from the Pilate Porter.

He tells us we wouldn't have time for that, so we've given up on the little expedition.

Instead, we let ourselves be dazzled by the white grandeur of the scenery and the insignificance to which the colored aircraft were subject.

Tasman Glacier, Southern Alps, New Zealand

the curving ice river from the Tasman Glacier, the longest glacier in New Zealand.

Return to Starting Point, via the same route as the Tasman Glacier

Around it, at an altitude of 3.000 meters, stretched the vast base of the largest ice river in Oceania, 27 km long, 4 km wide and no less impressive 600 meters thick.

The day was drawing to a close and the smudge of light that hit the valley was diminishing to the eye like the tenuous heat that had hitherto caressed the passengers.

Wayne checks his watch and gives instructions to return to the plane. We glide over skis and snow once again with surprising smoothness and return to the heights delimited by the valley.

Ten minutes later, we're running on the aerodrome's abrasive tarmac.

Landing view from cockpit, Southern Alps, New Zealand.

Mount Cook Ski Planes Ski Planes about to land on the Mount Cook runway.

The dynamic landing device was working perfectly again.

Thus, we complete another part of the feat that Harry Wigley insisted on accomplishing.

Nelson to Wharariki, Abel Tasman NP, New Zealand

The Maori coastline on which Europeans landed

Abel Janszoon Tasman explored more of the newly mapped and mythical "Terra australis" when a mistake soured the contact with natives of an unknown island. The episode inaugurated the colonial history of the New Zealand. Today, both the divine coast on which the episode took place and the surrounding seas evoke the Dutch navigator.
Annapurna Circuit: 1th - Pokhara a ChameNepal

Finally, on the way

After several days of preparation in Pokhara, we left towards the Himalayas. The walking route only starts in Chame, at 2670 meters of altitude, with the snowy peaks of the Annapurna mountain range already in sight. Until then, we complete a painful but necessary road preamble to its subtropical base.
Wanaka, New Zealand

The Antipodes Great Outdoors

If New Zealand is known for its tranquility and intimacy with Nature, Wanaka exceeds any imagination. Located in an idyllic setting between the homonymous lake and the mystic Mount Aspiring, it became a place of worship. Many kiwis aspire to change their lives there.
North Island, New Zealand

Journey along the Path of Maority

New Zealand is one of the countries where the descendants of settlers and natives most respect each other. As we explored its northern island, we became aware of the interethnic maturation of this very old nation. Commonwealth as Maori and Polynesia.
Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

The Divine Earth Shard of the Banks Peninsula

Seen from the air, the most obvious bulge on the South Island's east coast appears to have imploded again and again. Volcanic but verdant and bucolic, the Banks Peninsula confines in its almost cogwheel geomorphology the essence of the ever enviable New Zealand life.
Mount Denali, Alaska

The Sacred Ceiling of North America

The Athabascan Indians called him Denali, or the Great, and they revered his haughtiness. This stunning mountain has aroused the greed of climbers and a long succession of record-breaking climbs.
napier, New Zealand

Back to the 30s - Calhambeque Tour

In a city rebuilt in Art Deco and with an atmosphere of the "crazy years" and beyond, the adequate means of transportation are the elegant classic automobiles of that era. In Napier, they are everywhere.

Altitude Sickness: the Grievances of Getting Mountain Sick

When traveling, it happens that we find ourselves confronted with the lack of time to explore a place as unmissable as it is high. Medicine and previous experiences with Altitude Evil dictate that we should not risk ascending in a hurry.
glaciers

icy blue planet

They form at high latitudes and/or altitudes. In Alaska or New Zealand, Argentina or Chile, rivers of ice are always stunning visions of an Earth as frigid as it is inhospitable.
Christchurch, New Zealand

New Zealand's Cursed Wizard

Despite his notoriety in the antipodes, Ian Channell, the New Zealand sorcerer, failed to predict or prevent several earthquakes that struck Christchurch. At the age of 88, after 23 years of contract with the city, he made very controversial statements and ended up fired.
Mount cook, New Zealand

The Cloud Piercer Mountain

Aoraki/Mount Cook may fall far short of the world's roof but it is New Zealand's highest and most imposing mountain.
Fiordland, New Zealand

The Fjords of the Antipodes

A geological quirk made the Fiordland region the rawest and most imposing in New Zealand. Year after year, many thousands of visitors worship the sub-domain slashed between Te Anau and Milford Sound.
Tongariro, New Zealand

The Volcanoes of All Discords

In the late XNUMXth century, an indigenous chief ceded the PN Tongariro volcanoes to the British crown. Today, a significant part of the Maori people claim their mountains of fire from European settlers.
New Zealand  

When Counting Sheep causes Sleep Loss

20 years ago, New Zealand had 18 sheep per inhabitant. For political and economic reasons, the average was halved. In the antipodes, many breeders are worried about their future.
Napier, New Zealand

Back to the 30s

Devastated by an earthquake, Napier was rebuilt in an almost ground-floor Art Deco and lives pretending to stop in the Thirties. Its visitors surrender to the Great Gatsby atmosphere that the city enacts.
bay of islands, New Zealand

New Zealand's Civilization Core

Waitangi is the key place for independence and the long-standing coexistence of native Maori and British settlers. In the surrounding Bay of Islands, the idyllic marine beauty of the New Zealand antipodes is celebrated, but also the complex and fascinating kiwi nation.
Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, the Queen of Extreme Sports

In the century. XVIII, the Kiwi government proclaimed a mining village on the South Island "fit for a queen".Today's extreme scenery and activities reinforce the majestic status of ever-challenging Queenstown.
Lion, Elephants, PN Hwange, Zimbabwe
Safari
PN Hwange, Zimbabwe

The Legacy of the Late Cecil Lion

On July 1, 2015, Walter Palmer, a dentist and trophy hunter from Minnesota killed Cecil, Zimbabwe's most famous lion. The slaughter generated a viral wave of outrage. As we saw in PN Hwange, nearly two years later, Cecil's descendants thrive.
Hikers on the Ice Lake Trail, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Annapurna (circuit)
Annapurna Circuit: 7th - Braga - Ice Lake, Nepal

Annapurna Circuit – The Painful Acclimatization of the Ice Lake

On the way up to the Ghyaru village, we had a first and unexpected show of how ecstatic the Annapurna Circuit can be tasted. Nine kilometers later, in Braga, due to the need to acclimatize, we climbed from 3.470m from Braga to 4.600m from Lake Kicho Tal. We only felt some expected tiredness and the increase in the wonder of the Annapurna Mountains.
Visitors in Jameos del Água, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain
Architecture & Design
Lanzarote, Canary Islands

To César Manrique what is César Manrique's

By itself, Lanzarote would always be a Canaria by itself, but it is almost impossible to explore it without discovering the restless and activist genius of one of its prodigal sons. César Manrique passed away nearly thirty years ago. The prolific work he left shines on the lava of the volcanic island that saw him born.
Boats on ice, Hailuoto Island, Finland.
Adventure
Hailuoto, Finland

A Refuge in the Gulf of Bothnia

During winter, the island of Hailuoto is connected to the rest of Finland by the country's longest ice road. Most of its 986 inhabitants esteem, above all, the distance that the island grants them.
Ceremonies and Festivities
Pueblos del Sur, Venezuela

The Pueblos del Sur Locainas, Their Dances and Co.

From the beginning of the XNUMXth century, with Hispanic settlers and, more recently, with Portuguese emigrants, customs and traditions well known in the Iberian Peninsula and, in particular, in northern Portugal, were consolidated in the Pueblos del Sur.
Family in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Cities
Discovering tassie, Part 1 - Hobart, Australia

Australia's Backdoor

Hobart, the capital of Tasmania and the southernmost of Australia, was colonized by thousands of convicts from England. Unsurprisingly, its population maintains a strong admiration for marginal ways of life.
young saleswoman, nation, bread, uzbekistan
Meal
Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan, The Nation That Does Not Lack Bread

Few countries employ cereals like Uzbekistan. In this republic of Central Asia, bread plays a vital and social role. The Uzbeks produce it and consume it with devotion and in abundance.
Culture
Jok​ülsárlón Lagoon, Iceland

The Chant and the Ice

Created by water from the Arctic Ocean and the melting of Europe's largest glacier, Jokülsárlón forms a frigid and imposing domain. Icelanders revere her and pay her surprising tributes.
Bungee jumping, Queenstown, New Zealand
Sport
Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, the Queen of Extreme Sports

In the century. XVIII, the Kiwi government proclaimed a mining village on the South Island "fit for a queen".Today's extreme scenery and activities reinforce the majestic status of ever-challenging Queenstown.
travel western australia, surfspotting
Traveling
Perth to Albany, Australia

Across the Far West of Australia

Few people worship evasion like the aussies. With southern summer in full swing and the weekend just around the corner, Perthians are taking refuge from the urban routine in the nation's southwest corner. For our part, without compromise, we explore endless Western Australia to its southern limit.
Maksim, Sami people, Inari, Finland-2
Ethnic
Inari, Finland

The Guardians of Boreal Europe

Long discriminated against by Scandinavian, Finnish and Russian settlers, the Sami people regain their autonomy and pride themselves on their nationality.
Got2Globe Photo Portfolio
Got2Globe Portfolio

life outside

Missions, San Ignacio Mini, Argentina
History
San Ignacio Mini, Argentina

The Impossible Jesuit Missions of San Ignacio Mini

In the century. In the XNUMXth century, the Jesuits expanded a religious domain in the heart of South America by converting the Guarani Indians into Jesuit missions. But the Iberian Crowns ruined the tropical utopia of the Society of Jesus.
Singapore, Success and Monotony Island
Islands
Singapore

The Island of Success and Monotony

Accustomed to planning and winning, Singapore seduces and recruits ambitious people from all over the world. At the same time, it seems to bore to death some of its most creative inhabitants.
Era Susi towed by dog, Oulanka, Finland
Winter White
PN Oulanka, Finland

A Slightly Lonesome Wolf

Jukka “Era-Susi” Nordman has created one of the largest packs of sled dogs in the world. He became one of Finland's most iconic characters but remains faithful to his nickname: Wilderness Wolf.
José Saramago in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain, Glorieta de Saramago
Literature
Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain (España)

José Saramago's Basalt Raft

In 1993, frustrated by the Portuguese government's disregard for his work “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ”, Saramago moved with his wife Pilar del Río to Lanzarote. Back on this somewhat extraterrestrial Canary Island, we visited his home. And the refuge from the portuguese censorship that haunted the writer.
Kayaking on Lake Sinclair, Cradle Mountain - Lake Sinclair National Park, Tasmania, Australia
Nature
Discovering tassie, Part 4 - Devonport to Strahan, Australia

Through the Tasmanian Wild West

If the almost antipode tazzie is already a australian world apart, what about its inhospitable western region. Between Devonport and Strahan, dense forests, elusive rivers and a rugged coastline beaten by an almost Antarctic Indian ocean generate enigma and respect.
Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Autumn Homes
Autumn
Sheki, Azerbaijan

autumn in the caucasus

Lost among the snowy mountains that separate Europe from Asia, Sheki is one of Azerbaijan's most iconic towns. Its largely silky history includes periods of great harshness. When we visited it, autumn pastels added color to a peculiar post-Soviet and Muslim life.
Kukenam reward
Natural Parks
Mount Roraima, Venezuela

Time Travel to the Lost World of Mount Roraima

At the top of Mount Roraima, there are extraterrestrial scenarios that have resisted millions of years of erosion. Conan Doyle created, in "The Lost World", a fiction inspired by the place but never got to step on it.
Kigurumi Satoko, Hachiman Temple, Ogimashi, Japan
UNESCO World Heritage
Ogimashi, Japan

An Historical-Virtual Japan

"Higurashi no Naku Koro never” was a highly successful Japanese animation and computer game series. In Ogimashi, Shirakawa-Go village, we live with a group of kigurumi of their characters.
In elevator kimono, Osaka, Japan
Characters
Osaka, Japan

In the Company of Mayu

Japanese nightlife is a multi-faceted, multi-billion business. In Osaka, an enigmatic couchsurfing hostess welcomes us, somewhere between the geisha and the luxury escort.
La Digue, Seychelles, Anse d'Argent
Beaches
La Digue, Seychelles

Monumental Tropical Granite

Beaches hidden by lush jungle, made of coral sand washed by a turquoise-emerald sea are anything but rare in the Indian Ocean. La Digue recreated itself. Around its coastline, massive boulders sprout that erosion has carved as an eccentric and solid tribute of time to the Nature.
Mauritius Island, Indian voyage, Chamarel waterfall
Religion
Mauritius

A Mini India in the Southwest of the Indian Ocean

In the XNUMXth century, the French and the British disputed an archipelago east of Madagascar previously discovered by the Portuguese. The British triumphed, re-colonized the islands with sugar cane cutters from the subcontinent, and both conceded previous Francophone language, law and ways. From this mix came the exotic Mauritius.
The Toy Train story
On Rails
Siliguri a Darjeeling, India

The Himalayan Toy Train Still Running

Neither the steep slope of some stretches nor the modernity stop it. From Siliguri, in the tropical foothills of the great Asian mountain range, the Darjeeling, with its peaks in sight, the most famous of the Indian Toy Trains has ensured for 117 years, day after day, an arduous dream journey. Traveling through the area, we climb aboard and let ourselves be enchanted.
Society
Dali, China

Chinese Style Flash Mob

The time is set and the place is known. When the music starts playing, a crowd follows the choreography harmoniously until time runs out and everyone returns to their lives.
Women with long hair from Huang Luo, Guangxi, China
Daily life
Longsheng, China

Huang Luo: the Chinese Village of the Longest Hairs

In a multi-ethnic region covered with terraced rice paddies, the women of Huang Luo have surrendered to the same hairy obsession. They let the longest hair in the world grow, years on end, to an average length of 170 to 200 cm. Oddly enough, to keep them beautiful and shiny, they only use water and rice.
El Tatio Geisers, Atacama, Chile, Between ice and heat
Wildlife
El Tatio, Chile

El Tatio Geysers – Between the Ice and the Heat of the Atacama

Surrounded by supreme volcanoes, the geothermal field of El Tatio, in the Atacama Desert it appears as a Dantesque mirage of sulfur and steam at an icy 4200 m altitude. Its geysers and fumaroles attract hordes of travelers.
Napali Coast and Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii Wrinkles
Scenic Flights
napali coast, Hawaii

Hawaii's Dazzling Wrinkles

Kauai is the greenest and rainiest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. It is also the oldest. As we explore its Napalo Coast by land, sea and air, we are amazed to see how the passage of millennia has only favored it.