Even as you drive into Mount Cook, the incredible views stun you. You’ll pass many lookouts filled with vistas that will have you wondering if New Zealand can possibly get any more beautiful. Actually… it can!
SOME HARD WORK TO BEGIN
Lanna and I started from the carpark on a warm day in late March. The Department of Conservation (DOC) was doing track maintenance so we had a 40 minute wait while the helicopter shuttled and dropped gravel for the walkway. This wasn’t a bother as we had amazing views of the many glaciers rolling off Mount Sefton and The Footstool.
When a fuelling break for the heli gave us a chance to pass, we started up without further ado along the Kea Point track which has the turnoff for Sealy Tarns. Within minutes after taking the Sealy Tarns branch, the elevation takes a turn for the steeper side and the hard work begins.
The view from the carpark!
STEPS, STEPS, STEPS
Smiles soon turned to sweat as the countless steps were taken one by one to get up to the Sealy Tarns. I won’t lie, it’s steep going and will have you huffing and puffing. You could see other people fall behind as they became tired and fatigued.
The track is in excellent condition however and I could only imagine the countless hours of labour and heli flights to get all the materials and construction done. Of course, there’s a reason some tracks are kept to these standards; the Mueller hut hike is very popular!
Normally, staying in the hut would be the way to go but for weeks the place had been booked out completely, so we brought out tent! This is why having a good tent with you in New Zealand is the way to go. It gives you options.
The pack weight was heavier carrying our trusty two man tent, but all that would be worth it once we reached the top… I hoped.
THE SEALY TARNS!
If you don’t like steps you’ll be happy to know they don’t go on forever. Once you reach Sealy Tarns the track takes an abrupt change and you will find yourself scrambling over rocky ground. Erosion channels from thousands of feet and plentiful water runoff can make this difficult in the rain.
With snow and ice this would be a different again!
Be sure to actually stop at the Sealy Tarns (Tarns are mountain lakes or pools). They have an impressive view over the Hooker valley and Mount Cook. And if you like the view here, it keeps getting better as you go up!
The endless uphill soon reaches its crescendo and you hit a little saddle with a tempting good view onto the south aspect of Mount Sefton. Grab your pictures here and continue on, it gets even better up the top and there’s not too much further to go!
THE END IS IN SIGHT
Making your way around the rocky outcrops and short cliffs by following the orange stick markers, you’ll see Mueller hut around a corner and probably find that extra energy. We certainly did!
With a quick stop at the hut to have a little look, we headed out closer to Mount Sefton to find a flat spot for the tent. There were many to choose from and we settled for a nice one that had been reinforced with a little wind break wall made from smaller rocks.
With our four season tent, I knew from looking at the forecast that the wind would pick up in the early hours of the morning, so we strengthened the tent against the oncoming gusts in preparation.
If you are carrying a 2/3 season tent, it’ll be important to take the wind into account.
Many a tent has been shredded from the roaring gales that sweep down from the peaks and blast the nylon fabric to bits. Stay closer to the hut if this is the case (its a bit more sheltered there), and carry a compass and check the weather before going to make sure you avoid the mistake of pitching in a bad spot!
WHAT A VIEW!
The place we picked was just fantastic! I could never tire of these views! Surrounded by magnificent mountains and glaciers, we had the place to ourselves to enjoy.
I love the way I feel in the mountains. So small and humbled at the bigger things, yet excited and energized for adventure.
All the hard work was now done, and we settled down for some dinner. I had also snuck some cider in small plastic bottles up as I knew these little treats are just 100 times better after some outdoor adventure.
Having done winter camps before, we carried our winter down sleeping gear so we would be snug during the cold night.
And we definitely were! My Sea to Summit Talus 3 was so warm I had to stay unzipped most of the night. I’ve done camps on the snow before with this bag and its super warm. I highly recommend them!
All throughout the night there was also the sound of rockfall and avalanches. Loud rumbles and crashes are a good reminder that alpine terrain is worthy of respect. It’s important to always be aware of these when heading outdoors. The DOC visitor centers are great for sharing their knowledge and condition updates.
After a windy breakfast the next day, we packed up, and started down for the long descent. Going downhill is sometimes easier, but after a while, the legs burn just the same! Those steps you might curse going up are actually really good coming down.
Steps, steps and more steps.
Back at the car for an early lunch, we spent the rest of day relaxing to recoup our energy for more hikes the next day, after all, Mount Cook has plenty on offer!
WANT TO DO THE MUELLER HUT HIKE?
Hell yes you do! It has to be one of the best hikes in Mount Cook and a must do for everyone on an adventure holiday to New Zealand!
TIMES/LENGTH: Allow 4-5 hours going up, 2-3 hours coming down.
START LOCATION: Start at the Kea Point track and take the Sealy Tarns turnoff from the Hooker Valley carpark HERE.
EQUIPMENT: Overnight hiking gear and plenty of water. If you cannot get a booking in the hut, bring a tent.
► You can book a spot in the hut HERE. Remember its always busy in peak periods (November-April).
► Camping in a tent is fun and there are quite a few spots to pitch a tent. Bring a groundsheet as its all sharp rocks mostly.
► Snow can make this hike difficult or dangerous and requires relevant experience and skills. Check with the DOC visitor center in Mt Cook before starting.
► It can snow at any time of the year!
► Navigation is straightforward but snow can obscure the top section with the orange markers.
► The weather in New Zealand is not to be messed with. Respect it and always check before starting a trip!
► You can get more info from DOC about the Mueller Hut hike HERE.
So are you excited yet? Seriously, the Mueller hut hike is one of the best trips you can do in Mount Cook. New Zealand is the perfect place for an adventure with its jagged, snow capped mountains, deep valleys and crystal clear water.
It’s an adventurer's dream come true!