Looking for an amazing walk in New Zealand? Search no further! Head straight to Mt. Cook village for your next holiday and walk up to the Mueller Hut immediately.
Aled and I have been wanting to do this walk for years but only finally got organised to do it this past weekend. Weather was looking dodgy on MetService but we went for it anyways. Check out the stunning morning we woke up to on Friday:
Now if you want to sleep over in Mueller Hut, read this next bit carefully. There's only 28 bunks in the hut and DOC currently only sells tickets for the same night -- you can't book any further in advance. So if you really want to make sure you get a spot in summer, get to the DOC Visitor Center in Mt. Cook village by 8AM. The Visitor Center opens at 8:30.
With the MetService predicting showers for Saturday afternoon, I was determined to secure two bunks for Friday night so I dragged my tired butt out of the YHA and was there by 7:45 where I found that I was the line (along with a swarm of pesky sand flies). C'est la vie, no?
Once we got our tickets, we packed our backpacks and drove down Hooker Valley Road to the White Horse Hill parking lot, where the Kea Point/Sealy Tarns Track starts. After a five minute walk along the valley floor, it was pretty much straight up from there.
How many steps we climbed I counted not! But about an hour and a half later, we enjoyed a stunning view of the glaciated mountains from the picnic bench at Sealy Tarns. Not too shabby, eh?
After leaving Sealy Tarns, the trail turned from steps into a regular hiking trail marked by bright orange poles. We criss-crossed through alpine scrub and tussocks, some boulders, and then up a scree-slope, ever upwards, resting when we felt like it to take in the view. Two hours or so later, we came to a ridge which offered spectacular views in all directions:
And then it was just a matter of walking around towards the Mueller Hut. The major danger at this point was tripping over my own feet because I couldn't keep my eyes off the stunning scenery!
Here I am in the "dining room" at Mueller Hut -- happy to have my feeties out of those hiking boots! And waiting for the snow to boil so I could pour it in my freeze-dried lamb risotto. There's currently no water at Mueller Hut because it's hardly rained this summer.
Can't beat the view from Mueller Hut I tell ya!
We ate our lunch on the deck and watched some small avalanches fall from the mountain face. Once rejuvenated, we scrambled up Mt. Ollivier, the large rock outcropping behind the hut. Apparently the summit beyond Mt. Ollivier was the first peak Sir Edmund Hillary ever climbed! Pretty cool huh?
While we were up there, we were joined by one of my favorite birds in NZ, the kea. Kea are super-curious and intelligent birds, famous for taking apart cars at trail heads and stealing socks from nonchalant hikers. Do not underestimate this bird! This one hung out with me and Aled for a good five minutes before deciding we were utterly useless for his purposes. No people-food for you Mr. Kea!
With a view like this, I couldn't help but strike a pose. This crazy lady will dance anywhere!
Cloud built up as the evening went on so we didn't have a great sunset -- but no matter! After an interesting conversation with two Israeli travelers and a couple of kiwi chicks who own deer farms near Waimate, I headed off to my bunk. Despite some very loud snoring from a stinky Austrian guy on the other side of the room, we managed to get a little bit of sleep.
The morning was overcast with a few drops falling from the sky but nothing major. In fact, the mountains looked quite beautiful with cloud sneaking up the valleys. As Aled would say, it was "very atmospheric". Spoken like a true artist.
So that's the Mueller Hut walk my friends! It's one of the best walks I've done in New Zealand so if you have the chance, go for it! If you're very ambitious, you could also do it in one day. Just be careful with your knees on the way down. Meanwhile the walk up to Sealy Tarns and back makes an awesome short hike if you're not interested in going the full distance to the Mueller Hut.