One of the highest huts in New Zealand, Mueller Hut offers incredible views across Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and a comfortable bunk for the night. Reaching it requires climbing 1,000m in just over 5km, but the rewards are easily worth the effort involved.
I’d been to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park twice before during summer, and on both those occasions and this time it was raining! Thankfully things cleared over the two day walk and I got to see the spectacular scenery.
Starting from the White Horse Hill Campground where I left my car it was pretty miserable weather, drizzling and overcast. There were a few other people on the track but all of them were heading to the popular Kea Point Lookout, a flat one hour return walk. I turned left onto the Sealy Tarns Track, which involved climbing 2,200 steps! This wasn’t a particularly interesting walk, but was a good way to gain height and views behind of Mueller Lake and Hooker Lake.
The steps and graded track stops by the tarns.
From here is a poled route which is very easy to follow if quite rocky and steep, not ideal in the on off rain I walked through.
One upside of the rain was multiple rainbows in the valley below, with it raining further into the park, but relatively dry at Aoraki Mount Cook Village.
Further up were large patches of snow, demonstrating the importance of latitude. I’d recently been to the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda, very close to the equator, where snow appeared around 5,000m above sea level, compared to about 1,600m here toward the bottom of the globe. Below were more wonderful rainbows, and there was almost no one else around, good times despite the rain.
Coming to the top of the ridge my view was filled with the quite epic sight of parts of the Ngakanohi Glacier, and the roar of ice falling from it.
It started to rain more heavily but thankfully Mueller Hut was only 20 minutes away, sitting on stilts on a rocky and snowy area. Inside it was warm, dry, spacious (even with twenty two people staying, mix of mostly Kiwis and Americans), and home to the most industrial doors I’ve ever seen in a hut. If it was like in the middle of the summer then in winter this place would be quite extreme…
Which I got a taster of heading to the toilet in the night when the winds picked up, quite an experience!
The morning brought much better weather, if a persistent cloud layer above. There was a spot of rain around which brought this stunning rainbow.
Reaching the top of the ridge the views were quite different to yesterday, particularly looking down the valley toward Aoraki Mount Cook Village.
The Mueller and Hooker Lakes were much clearer and quite spectacular. The weather brought out the crowds, with a surprising number of people on the track between 8 and 10am heading up to Sealy Tarns and Mueller Hut, though it was already roasting hot by then. Although the visibility was nowhere near as good I almost preferred the wet but much quieter walking the previous day.
After a steep, at times slippery, descent I reached the Sealy Tarns, also photogenically improved by some sunshine.
If anything the views get better as I descended and the weather continued to improve, a stunning part of the world.
To finish with my first sighting of the summit of Arokai / Mount Cook from the ground, though I’ve seen it several times from the air, a more reliable way to see it!