Even though most of the park is alpine terrain, it is easily accessible by road. Reserves were established here as early as 1887 to protect the area's significant vegetation and landscape. The National Park contains New Zealand's highest mountain Aoraki / Mount Cook, at 3,724m. Glaciers cover 40% of the park area, notably the 27Km long Tasman Glacier in the Tasman Valley east of Aoraki / Mount Cook. Eight of the twelve largest glaciers in New Zealand lie within the National Park. Mountaineers regard the area to be the best climbing region in Australasia, while less skilled adventurers find plenty of satisfaction with the mountain walks that lead to alpine fields and spectacular glacier views. Encounters with cheeky kea (mountain parrots) are part of the fun. Sir Edmund Hillary honed his climbing skills here before conquering Mt Everest.
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