Keith and I have been looking forward to this hike – the Mueller Hut track – for the past year. Although a mere 5k one-way and only a one-night trip, we knew it was one of the more challenging hikes so saved the best towards last. To summarize, this track is incredible primarily because your view the entire time is the beautiful Mt. Cook / Aoraki – highest mountain in New Zealand and mountain Sir Edmund Hillary trained on for Everest. I guess you could say the one disadvantage of this hike, is that your view is the same…the entire time…
So forgive me if this blog post looks a lot like this–
Quite the same view though, eh?
Our tramping team of 6 all met up at Mt Cook Village, collected our hut tickets, and signed our intentions (so that the rangers would come find us if we didn’t return). Lucky for us the weather was PERFECT. In this part of the country you never really know what you’re going to get, the weather was definitely on our side for 2 straight days.
The first half of the hike is literally climbing thousands of stairs. Although challenging I’d rather the stairs than finding my own path!
Next came the real climbing. There was nothing crazy for any average fit person, but quite daunting to keep looking up and seeing where you’re supposed to be and realizing you have to actually get yourself there.
Once we got to the top of the scree slope it was a fairly easy rock hop over to Mueller Hut.
The hut (1800 m / 5905 ft elevation) was your typical lovely DOC hut not missing out on an amazing view or cheeky Kea birds. It included a water source, long drop toilets (but bring your own TP!), and fully functional gas stoves!
Once we arrived the guys dropped their packs to climb Mt Olivier beyond the hut. The ladies decided to stay behind and enjoy the views from the comfort of the hut bench. Keith brought the camera along and captured this view of the hut from above–
I’ve heard through the blog-o-sphere that Mueller Hut is known as the “party hut,” since it’s relatively “easy” to get to (in NZ terms). And honestly I felt a bit old with all the college kiddos there! We’ve been on multiple hikes where other parties break out wine bottles and I am always jealous. So that wasn’t happening to me this time. I refused to carry the glass bottle (most people do!), but I poured a bottle into a plastic container and lugged that up with me. It was nice to all split a little glass once we were settled and making dinner.
Around 7:30pm was when the mountain started transforming a gorgeous pink color — quite the sight! Can you spot the “man” in the mountain?!
I need to come up with some more adjectives at this point, so that night the stars were breathtaking. I was originally disappointed with my mere 60 second exposure photographs, but apparently its nothing old “autocorrect” can’t fix.
At about 7am we headed out bundled up to watch the sun rise over the mountains. Equally breathtaking.
After a solid breakfast of oatmeal, walnuts, and instant flat whites, we packed up our belongings and began our journey 1100 meters back down the mountain.
I tried to capture the steepness of this scree slope. We weren’t quite expecting this, but we made it intact 🙂
Overall, if you find yourself in New Zealand, do this hike! Just do it! Ideally find a good weather weekend or check the weather a few days beforehand. Unfortunately, Mueller Hut does book quickly December through February and if the 10-day weather outlook is good it will definitely be booked right away (or just plan to bring a tent up with you). It can also be done as a tiring day walk, that just means no sunset/sunrise/star-gazing.
It will take a lot to top this past weekend. But we have a few precious weeks left and we’ll be trying! Until then…