The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 3 (July 1, 1930)
Merry Winter Sports at Mount Cook and Tongariro
Merry Winter Sports at Mount Cook and Tongariro
Cheap travel arrangements and mountain thrills for the public are now supplied through the co-operation of the Railway Department with the Mount Cook Motor Company Ltd., and the Tongariro Park Tourist Company, Ltd. In a booklet prepared by the Railway Publicity Branch the following interesting particulars are included.
Many distinguished visitors to New Zealand have expressed great astonishment at the people's slowness to take advantage of the wonderful facilities for exhilarating winter sports at Mount Cook and the Tongariro National Park.
That well-known mountaineer, the Rt. Hon. L. S. Amery, formerly Secretary of State for the Dominions, said that he spent some of the most pleasant days of his life in the Mount Cook region.
“The wonderful opportunity which the whole of this alpine country offers to New Zealanders,” Mr. Amery remarked, “seems to me to have been hardly realised… . . But, after all, the attracting of tourists from outside is only a secondary matter to what the mountains can offer to New Zealanders themselves.
“I see no reason why, like the Swiss, the New Zealanders should not find their main recreation and training in mind, limb, and courage in their own beautiful mountains,” concluded Mr. Amery. “There is an unlimited scope there for holidays of infinite variety and interest, well within the means of every class.”
Similar remarks could apply to the Tongariro Park, which is now equipped with a fine modern Chateau.
“The Christmas Spirit.”
At the Mount Cook Hermitage there is ever a season of merriment, indoors and out. This hostel is renowned for its “Christmas Spirit.” Whether this joyousness proves more intensive in winter than in summer depends on the individual.
“I have visited the old and the new Hermitage in summer between thirty and forty times during the last thirty-six years, and I am satisfied that there is more pleasure to be found there in winter than in the summer,” declared the late Sir John Findlay. “The great building is most comfortable. The heating system is up-to-date, and thoroughly efficient and reliable, and the electrical installation for light, radiators, and cooking is one of the best in New Zealand.”
After the happy hours of ski-ing, tobogganing, skating, glissading, amid peerless scenes of sparkling majesty, the holiday-makers have the roaring log fires, songs and stories and radio music, and dancing, billiards, and cards.page 26
Cosy huts at the principal glaciers are bases for very thrilling glides and slides on far-reaching snowfields, and the fireside nights in those lonely outposts have their own special charm.
Norwegian and New Zealand ski experts are available for the coaching of novices, who soon learn how to glide swiftly over the snowfields.
“In the Valley of Wonders.”
The Mount Cook Hermitage has been praised as a marvel of organisation and equipment for the comfort, health, and happiness of tourists. Cosily built in the “Valley of Wonders,” 2,500ft. above the sea, it gives views of an inspiring stage on which Alpine Kings have permanent parts. Chief of these is Mount Cook, whose glistening triple tiara is peerless among the world's jewelled crowns.
This Hermitage is an ideal base for all manner of pleasant, exhilarating outings to suit the wishes of all visitors. Ambitious alpinists can have the utmost thrills among the glaciers, ridges and peaks. Other folk, not eager for the strenuous life, can have delightful, easy little picnics to many beautiful places.
Yet this refreshing retreat, far above the hurly-burly of common things, is only twelve hours from Christchurch or Dunedin, twenty-four hours from Wellington, forty-eight hours from Auckland, and less than a week away from Sydney or Melbourne.
That slogan for this hotel—“Thousands of feet above worry level”—is memorably true, but it calls for some additions. It is thousands of feet above germy dust and fluff, smoke, and fumes.
Visitors to the Hermitage eat well, sleep well, think well. When the morning sun sparkles on the diadem of Aorangi it gives an impression of the first day of a newly – made world, created in the night. This clear air makes a mockery of distances, so that remote peaks seem to leap at the observer.
The Hermitage has been described as “a miniature township.” It is a fully licensed hotel; it has a post office, with regular mail services and telephonic and telegraphic communications. It has a store with stocks of confectionery, tobacco, cigarettes etc., photographic films, post-cards, special photographs, and all manner of articles which a tourist may need. The photographic service includes “same-day” developing and printing.
All kinds of equipment required for winter or summer alpine outings can be hired at the Hermitage.
Fun and Frolic of a Party.
The editor has before him a “Souvenir Diary of the Kirk Party” (about twenty excursionists who had a very bright time at Mount Cook last winter). Some of the fun and frolic is shown in illustrations, for which photos were supplied by Mr. A. A. Kirk. Here are some passages from the diary:—
“Sunday, 19th August, broke a beautiful sunshiny page 27 morning, one of Mount Cook's best. The scene which presents itself from the front door of the Hermitage can be fully appreciated only by those who have been fortunate enough to see it for themselves.
“With a view to testing our physical fitness and also to obtaining some practice in skiing, we decided to make the saddle of Mount Sebastopol our objective for the day. The climb at the start seemed steep, while the sun blazed down with tropical intensity. This seemed to puzzle several of our party, who had adorned themselves in their best winter garb.
“The saddle was soon reached, and here all comers tried their hands and feet at ski-ing. Some were first-timers; others had tried conclusions on the ski-ing field during the previous season. Needless to state, the latter were well versed in the orthodox slogans, and never failed to inform the new-chum that it was really quite simple. ‘Just bend your knees and lean forward,’ the advice went. ‘No! not like that; you'll fall. There! I said you would.’”
Ski-ing Skill Quickly Gained.
“The short time in which most of the party attained a moderate stage of proficiency was really amazing. When, two days later, we found ourselves on the Ball Glacier following the same pursuit, there were few, if any, who were not getting the maximum amount of fun and satisfaction out of this exhilarating pastime.”
Excitement on Ball Glacier.
“Twice we approached the top of the glacier, and twice we skied down to the base, a distance of about a mile and a half. By this time the snow was freezing hard, and the prospects for one final flutter down the glacier seemed too tempting to miss. Accordingly a competition was arranged, and free drinks were offered to the one who could ski right down the glacier and fall the fewest number of times.
“George started. Away he went like the wind. Could he conquer that first rise? Yes! And that broken part? Wonderful! Hullo! He's over! Away goes the next one, and others follow in quick succession.
“‘Fast,’ was no name for it; yet we were all surprised at our freedom from spills. Could it last? Hullo! Here's trouble! One lady is overtaking one of the men. A collision is inevitable. But no! Rather than crash she sails in behind him and, with clever presence of mind, catches hold of his shoulders, and both glide perfectly for fully a quarter of a mile, until at last the tension becomes too great, and over they go.
“Everybody covered the distance with only three spills each.”
Tongariro National Park.
A Marvellous Playground.
At last an old prophecy has been fulfilled. Many world travellers have predicted that Ton- page 28 gariro National Park, 150,000 acres, a domain of the State, in the heart of the North Island, will be one of the world's great playgrounds. Lack of accommodation for tourists has delayed the realisation of that expectation, but now this marvellous region is beginning properly to achieve its destiny, by the co-operation of the Tongariro National Park Tourist Co. with the Government Board concerned with this estate. The new Tongariro Chateau, is equally as well equipped for comfort as the Mount Cook Hermitage, and comes up to the standards of service desired by tourists of all countries. There is satisfactory provision also for folk who may choose less luxurious living than the Chateau offers.
This park, which is only ten miles from the Main Trunk Railway, is circled by motor roads, and is remarkably easy of access from all districts of the Island. “The Park is the grandstand of schools for education in wild nature—in geology, vulcanology, subalpine and alpine flora, glacial action, the action of running water on rock—all the processes of Nature that the highland country shows,” writes Mr. James Cowan in a very interesting illustrated book on this Park. “Steaming craters, sulphurous pits, a boiling lake, ice-cold lakes, glaciers, snowfields, alpine slopes inviting ‘snowmanship’ in sport, torrents and bubbling springs, rapids, and waterfalls, huge cliffs and rocky pinnacles, forests and wild fern gardens, mountain meadows bright with leagues of flowers — to enumerate the varied scenes of Tongariro Park is almost to make a catalogue of all New Zealand's landscapes.”
Moreover, Tongariro Park flanks the Thermal Wonderland of Taupo, Wairakei, and Rotorua, and the world's best waters for rainbow trout.
Sports of Tongariro Park.
During recent years well-organised sports have drawn numbers of joyseekers to the vast snowfields of Tongariro National Park. With the present arrangements for satisfactory accommodation, it is already a favoured resort for holiday making, and present indications point to its being increasingly visited now that a convenient train service supplies such excellent connections for visitors.