The other night, Kyle and I spent 6 hours walking through a fairy tale. And when I say fairy tale, I mean that the scenery we were hiking through didn't seem like it could be real. This walk is absolutely sunning in the daylight but at night, especially this close to a full moon, it's none other than a real-life fairy tale.
The full moon was 3 days away and since the weather forecast wasn't optimal for the next couple of days, we took advantage of a clear night and hiked Hooker Valley. The drive from the hostel to the start of the track had us "ooooo-ing" and "ahhhh-ing." The snow was glowing in the moonlight and the anticipation of what we were about to experience had us dying to get out there (especially since a few clouds were starting to roll in). No torches needed, the light of the moon was enough to guide us along the path.
What I began to notice was how protective these mountains feel at night. During the day you look up at them in awe. They have such a commanding presence. You feel as if you are nothing more than a guest in their territory, and they expect your respect. But come nightfall, it's as if they transform into guardian angels. Like spirits coming to life, they make you feel that they are there watching over you. The draw-dropping effect these mountains evoke turns into mystical experience that leaves you wanting to soak up every ounce of magic that surrounds you. We were so entranced by the iridescent glow of the white snow against the dark mountains that we could hardly advert our eyes.
We approached a point with a great view of Mount Sefton and Kyle couldn't wait any longer to get his camera out. He was holding off as long as he could until we got a little closer to Mount Cook, but at this point he seemed to be boiling over with excitement. The temperature was great for a late night walk, but the key is to keep moving so you don't get too cold too quickly. We had built up a good amount of body heat so it was a good place to stop for a minute and thank god we did. We heard sounds of an avalanche and lo and behold, there it was right as Kyle was shooting a picture!
This moment was even more special for me because it was the first avalanche I've spotted since living in Mount Cook Village. Everyone else had seen one… or two… and now it was my turn! Super epic especially since it dropped off that little cliff towards the base of the mountain.
The mountains were a sight to behold but once we got closer to running water, there was a whole new dimension added to the fairy tale. In the softer, silvery light of the moon, the opaque river water shimmered as it flowed over and around the rocks that interfered with its path.
As we neared Hooker Lake, we could definitely feel the air getting colder. Once we made it to the end of the walk, it was like we were standing in a freezer. By this point it was 1:30 AM and I was a walking ice cube. We sat down to take some pictures and sip on some wine– after 3 sips each we both said "blehh" and dove into the backpack for our chocolate. Surprise, surprise. Wine after wandering through Hooker Valley for 3 hours was not the best idea. Our other downfall was bringing cold water instead of hot water. I'm not sure how we didn't foresee the need to warm ourselves up once we reached a glacier lake, but hey, we have now learned our lesson.
We sat on the stone wall next to the giant picnic tables and let the mountains speak for themselves. The visual of the lake against the backdrop of Mount Cook told a story of prominence. We were surrounded by something great, something strong and wise. There is so much to learn from mountains. Whether its the sun or moonlight that illuminates their steep, rugged shape, one can only marvel at their existence. It has a humbling effect that helps you let go of any worries and allow the spirit of your surroundings to fill your heart and soul.
We walked down to the glacier lake to get a closer look at the ice burgs and by now I was ready to get moving again. Kyle snapped a few more pictures and then I was back on the track faster than you can say Hooker Valley. Although Kyle wanted a bit more time behind the camera, I was in desperate need of some more body warmth and we still had at least an hour and a half walk back to the start of the track.
By now, most of the clouds had cleared and we had a breathtaking night sky to guide us back to the van. It was amazing to see the moonlight illuminating different areas of the mountains as the night passed by. Many times along the track, especially when crossing the bridges, we simply had to stop and stare. The rivers were now glowing brighter (if that was even possible) and looking back at the mountains behind us was almost inspiring enough to want to turn back and do the walk all over again– key word being almost. We got to the car around 4:30 AM and we found Orion's Belt in the sky!
In 4 weeks time we will go back to Hooker Valley for another midnight stroll under the light of a full moon. It's the most magical experience we've encountered in New Zealand we highly recommend going for it if you have the opportunity! Never wait for "tomorrow night," the weather may have some crazy, exciting plans that don't exactly work in your favor 😉