The Aoraki Mt Cook National Park is home to New Zealand's highest peak, Aoraki Mt Cook, as well as a huge range of hiking opportunities. You can experience everything from leisurely day walks through to alpine ascents of some of New Zealand's most awe-inspiring peaks.
The weather this past weekend on the South Island was calm, clear and stable. In other words, it was perfect conditions to head to Aoaraki Mt Cook National Park where the weather often isn't so good. Given the village's close proximity to the Main Divide of the Southern Alps, the village sees over a metre of rain each year. When the weather is bad, it's oh so bad; yet when the weather is good, as it was this past weekend, it's oh - so - good.
A hugely popular trip in the National Park is the walk from the village to the stupidly scenic Mueller Hut. This serviced, alpine hut sits at about 1,800 metres and offers up incredible views of the surrounding mountains. Across the valley from the hut, you have Mt Sefton and The Footstool, and below them you have massive glaciers clinging onto the cliff-faces. As glaciers do, these glaciers are constantly moving and as a result, when you're at the Mueller Hut you will be treated to the sounds of rock and ice falls as well as avalanches. It's a stunning place to spend the night.
The hike to Mueller Hut is without a doubt a bit of a grunt - especially if you're loaded up with warm clothes, food and overnight gear. The walk only covers about 5.5 kms, however you'll go up over 1,000 metres over the course of the hike. One-way to the hut, you can expect it to take anywhere from 3 - 4 hours - most of this spent going straight up. There are over 1,800 steps on the first well-maintained section to Sealy Tarns. From here, it continues to go up and it's more of a scramble.
Shortly before arriving at the hut, you reach the top of the ridge - a saddle of sorts - where you have your first glimpse of the massive glaciers coming down from Mt Sefton. There are some awesome photo opportunities here looking towards Mt Cook and the Hooker Valley.
You'd be hard pressed to imagine a more scenic hut than the Mueller Hut. Over the busy months of the year, it's serviced by volunteer hut wardens and fills up quite often. You'll need to make a booking to guarantee yourself in one of the huts 28 beds which at the time of writing (February 2014) cost $39 each. There are plenty of places scattered about to pitch a tent as well. Over the summer months, the hut is set up with gas so you can leave your cooker at home.
This is proper alpine terrain, so regardless of how much traffic the route up gets, it shouldn't be taken lightly. Weather in the National Park can change without notice and incredibly quickly. Be sure you have warm clothing, food and water. You're required to leave your intentions at the DOC Office in the village, so be sure to do this before you head out.
Find Out More
If you're heading to the Aoarki Mount Cook National Park, be sure to read up on our Mount Cook Regional Overview for more travel tips and advice. Traveling on? Explore these other New Zealand regions.