Mueller Hut, Mt Cook, NZ

Mueller Hut is a fantastic overnight trip out from the Mt Cook village. About four hours drive from Christchurch.  Our trip was over the Easter long weekend, which turned out to be a great time to visit.  Sitting at the hut and watching the clouds roll over glaciers and mountains and listening to distant avalanches is not a bad way to spend a sunny afternoon.  This is the 5th reincarnation of the hut, that opened in 2003.

Mueller's Hut on the Climb un Mt Oliver.
Mueller Hut on the Climb un Mt Oliver.

As a reunion from a previous Intrepid Annapurna Circuit trip.  We had five of the eight trekkers with us from all over the world, together again. Suz (Australia), Megan (Christchurch, NZ), Glen (+1), Kathy (Auckland, NZ), Dave (Wales) and myself from Sydney, Australia.

Kathy, Suzi, Megan, Glen and the cars, in the cark park.
Kathy, Suzi, Megan, Glen and the cars, in the car park.

For general information, I left my GPS on and recorded the track up the mountain.  The graphs are shown below.  Also, the preplanning info is on a previous post may be of interest.

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Getting to the DOC booking office early is essential to make sure you get a bed. Just watch out for pushing in dwarfs in the queue (we think an extra from the hobbit might have made an appearance in the trip photos). There are only 28 beds in the hut and cannot be pre-booked. It is advertised as $35 a night bit actually costs $36 for some reason.  There is a weekly volunteer warden to check tickets and ensure safety in the summer months.

The magnificent view from the DOC office, visitors centre.
The magnificent view from the DOC office, visitors centre.

The track starts on a gentle slope from the car park that works its way up the hill.  Probably half the walk up is on well-formed track with steps, progressing to a rougher track with no formed steps, then some rough scrambling towards the top.

View from the car park looking up at the mountains.
View from the car park looking up at the mountains.

Seally Tarn is about halfway up the hill which is reached by the two-hour mark. It is a good place to stop and have a break and admire the view.

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Seally Tarn

There is a spot that feels like the top where the track flattens out and winds around the ridge.  At this point, it is only another twenty minutes to the hut, but well worth leaving your pack and wondering up to the obvious lookout point with your camera.  Megan had a great “Oh Shit!” story of a friend slogging up with a paraglider (sorry I’ve forgotten the proper term) which would have been an amazing trip down (now on my list of sports to try).

Panorama from the furture parragliding spot.
Panorama from the future paragliding spot.

The views are spectacular the whole way up, remember to keep turning around to see the valley expand into the plains, the glacier, lakes, lateral marains and mountains climbing up above you.

Glacial Lakes
Glacial Lakes

Probably one of the most amazing things to see and hear is the avalanches on the far side of the valley.  Take a seat on the deck, rest your legs and just take it in.  First of all, you hear the noise in the distance then occasionally to see one actually fall.  We watched a square cube that must have been tonnes of ice for ages but it never fell.

View from the hut balcony.
View from the hut balcony.

There are two bunk rooms each with two giant shelves with eight mattresses on each so you are sleeping next to people but there is plenty of room.  There are open lockers for everyone’s packs.  Cooking facilities are provided, six two burner gas stoves, various pots and pans and sinks.  The kitchen has limited solar power lighting, which I assume also runs the radio equipment.

Our corner in the Muellers Hut kitchen.
Our corner in the Muellers Hut kitchen.

We had an amazing sausage, couscous and veggie dinner that replenished much-depleted reserves. after some card playing and storytelling, a very early night was had by all.  As a side note, the atmosphere in the hut kitchen was awesome, strangers all making friends, sharing and equally cohabitating.  I will point out make sure you do your share of the wiping out in the morning.  It always happens everyone thinks someone else will do it.  It all comes back to doing that little extra and the world will be a better place.

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The view up the hill from the beginning of the track.

There is plenty of water tanks and the water does not require treating.  Toilets are provided away from the huts which are very clean an environmentally conscious. Solids being flown out and treated in the Mt Cook village.  It is important to take out all the rubbish you bring in.  I like to think if everyone took a little more and disposed of it properly the world would be a better place.

Mount Oliver sits behind Meullers hut.  It’s is a very rocky scramble up to the top with outstanding views of the mountains and valley behind.  Apparently, it was the first mountain Sir Edmund Hillary ever climbed.  During our trip, there was no snow or ice up this climb, but would be a lot more challenging when winter came along.  We did see a few people up there with ice tools and crampons, next time I kept telling myself!

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Rocky scramble near the top of the hill.

Perfect weather the first day for the 1000m climb up. At one point there is a handwritten 1810 steps to go. Second day rainy and low cloud for the thousand metre climb back down.  It cleared up for a good afternoon spent checking out the Hermitage hotel (decades of mountaineering history) the visitor’s centre (a good exhibition of the area and heaps of climbing stuff) and finally lunch in the Old Mountaineers Cafe.

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We all stayed at the Mt Cook YHA the night before and headed to Lake Tekapo Lake Front Hostel the following night, for some we earned rest and relaxation time in the  Tekapo Hot springs.

Two days on and still couldn’t move my legs without them aching, but well worth it.  As a final note thanks to everyone that came and particularly Megs and Glen for looking after us all for the weekend you guys are true champions!

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