Amazing hike to Mueller hut — New Zealand
If you visit New Zealand and you are keen on hiking, don’t forget to check out Mount Cook or Aoraki in Maori, it is renowned for being the highest mountain in New Zealand which stands at 3,724 meters. Now I wish I were able to summit Mount Cook, but that is another level. Luckily, many lower peaks are safer and more suitable to less experienced hikers like me, LOL.
Mueller hut route is a popular track in Mount Cook national park, this iconic hut is so popular that it is practically impossible to book a bed during the peak season.
We departed from Wanaka which is about 200 km from Mount Cook village, this is quite a scenic ride, so we made some stops along the way.
When we arrived at the village, the hut was all booked up, but that was expected given its popularity. We planed to do another hike after Mueller hut as well, so that was not a big problem.
The bad news was the rain in the forecast, I guess this is common for this part of the region.
Fact: The average raining days here are 160 days a year, so if you’ve done this one on a sunny day, you’re in luck.
After spending the night at White Horse Hill Campground, we got up early to prepare for the hike, the plan was to reach the hut, then go back to spend the night at another hut.
It is 5.2 km one way and the DOC says it should take 4 hours for one way, so in total it should take us 8 hours turnaround, which left us 6 hours of daylight to reach another hut. I’m not going to lie, it was us against the time, but no pressure, it was summer so the longer daylight was on our side.
P/s: To this day, I still think it was a miracle that we reached the other hut safely, perhaps I will tell you about it in another post.
Never-ending zigzag stairs.
The first part was a walk in the park, from the campsite we followed Sealy Tarn Track that leads to Mueller hut route.
After the gentle warm-up, we were off to an uphill climb. From here, the track is covered with a staircase built with wood and filled with sand and stone. Imagine an elevation gain of over 1,000 meters over the distance of 5 km, it only gets steeper and steeper.
Even though the track is well-maintained and it makes the climb safer and easier, I hated the stairs ‘cause it’s so boring, and the worst thing was it seemed to never end.
When we were halfway through, it started drizzling and the fog coming in with low visibility, we had to stop and cover the rucksack. It was early the end of December which is the start of Summer in New Zealand, however, here at Mount Cook, an alpine environment this kind of weather can happen all year round.
It was such a relief when we finished the last step of the stairs, it means we reached Sealy Tarns, the first part of our journey.
Sealy Tarns and the kea.
Tarns come from the fact that you could find the tarn here which is a small mountain lake shaped by glaciers.
We decided to rest here for a while to grab some snacks and catch our breath.
As the fog was lifting, we were held in awe by the stunning view down the valley with Muller lake in the front and Hooker lake farther in the back, it would be more perfect if we could see Mount Cook though, unfortunately, it was blocked by the cloud.
We also encountered a kea, a large parrot found in the alpine region of the South Island, usually, they are bold, this one was a bit timid though. We did not know we were going to be treated with a show when the kea spread its wings and flew right in front of us, that was quite amazing.
Sealy tarns to Mueller hut.
Leaving the tarns, we continued to ascend through a rocky and tussock area. There is no track, but we had to follow the orange markers.
It was quite challenging as the terrain was rougher. The weather also added up since the path were wet and slippery, sometimes we had to grab everything to climb up, but it was so exhilarating.
In fact, I enjoyed this part much more than the stairs, it was fun climbing through the rocky field.
It was quite hard to locate the poles in the fog, so it slowed us down a little.
As soon as we left the field, another challenge was the 50 meters of the steep snow slope, this was also the first time I climbed a snowy track, needless to say, I was a bit nervous, but I could feel the adrenaline boost that kept me going.
I did not expect to see this in the middle of December, but this is typical in an alpine area. We tried to navigate the way along the ridge, but it got tricky with the rain. At this point, all I could see was we were surrounded in a blurry area. I could feel the temperature drop quickly as we were ascending.
The moment we thought we were lost as we could not see the orange poles anywhere, the red hut magically appeared in front of us.
Yayyy! OMG, we made it! we made it!
We took our time to have a proper lunch, take heaps of photos and check out the book of visitors, It was a shame that not many Vietnamese made it to Mueller hut according to the record.
When we arrived at the hut, there were only a few hikers, some of them had gone to discover Mt Olliver which requires a high level of mountaineering experience. Later I found out this was also the first peak Sir Edmund Hillary climbed on his journey to conquer Everest.
We also checked in with the iconic red toilet which makes the hut so popular, however, everything was all blurry in the fog.
So eventually it took us more than 5 hours for ascending, the way down was much easier as the clouds went away.
Our day did not end here as we still had another hut to reach, but that’s for another post.
Have you been here? The Mueller hut was one of some impressive hikes that I was lucky to have been on. If I could go back, I would absolutely spend the night there as I heard the night sky on top is glorious.
Thanks for reading, if you do it in a different season, let me know in the comment, I’d love to hear it.