Mount Cook, also known as Aoraki, is the tallest peak in New Zealand. Sitting in the middle of New Zealand’s South Island, it reaches an elevation of 12,218 feet. The wind-torn peak rests on a particularly active fault line, which according to Wikipedia gives a good shake every 100 to 300 years. Considering the last major tremor was purported to be in 1717, simple math indicates that the mountain is due for another change in elevation soon.
Massive geologic development happening in real time is only one of the challenges in climbing Mount Cook. The Linda Glacier is peppered with crevasses and the extended glacier traverse is followed by technical rope and ice ascents. The climb is considered challenging by even the most experienced mountaineers.
For the hazards of this particular Southern Alp, one of the rewards is the Plateau Hut. Elevated above the rocky crags at the base of the Linda Glacier, the hut serves as base camp for summit attempts of Mount Cook. It takes about a day and a half of serious walking to reach the shelter, then another 5,500 feet of technical climbing to reach the summit. Many people blow off the access walk – opting for a helicopter or ski plane ride directly to the hut.
The National Park service outfits the Plateau Hut with 33 bunks, water, toilet paper, and cooking fuel. Beyond that, you’re pretty much on your own. There are no reservations ($40NZ/night), but a mandatory check-in at the Mount Cook Visitor Center will give you a head’s up on vacancy.
Weekend Cabin isn’t necessarily about the weekend, or cabins. It’s about the longing for a sense of place, for shelter set in a landscape…for something that speaks to refuge and distance from the everyday. Nostalgic and wistful, it’s about how people create structure in ways to consider the earth and sky and their place in them. It’s not concerned with ownership or real estate, but what people build to fulfill their dreams of escape. The very time-shortened notion of “weekend” reminds that it’s a temporary respite.
Photo: Tim Donnelly