Hiking in Mount Cook National Park
By: Abbi Morrison
If there is one thing I can say about New Zealand, it’s that it has a great hiking scene, (or tramping, as the kiwi’s call it). New Zealanders love getting outdoors, and I truly believe that they are born ready; ready to face every eventuality.
Whilst living in New Zealand’s South Island, I got to go on a few great hikes, many of which will stay imprinted in my mind as some of the best days of my life.
Hiking to Mueller Hut, at Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Aoraki/Mount Cook in the center of the South Island of New Zealand, is the country’s largest Mountain, standing at 3,724 meters tall. It is visible from various parts of the island. Its snow caped peak stand proudly, almost like a guardian of the South Island.
There are various trails you can complete around Mount Cook, including some short walks ranging from 30 minutes to 4 hours. I decided to embark upon getting to the Mueller Hut Tramping track, which is an advanced hiking trail which standing at 1800 m in the Sealy range; a massive achieve for any level of hiker.
11.4 km return trip – you will return on the same track
The trail starts off at a steady pace, increasing in gradient slowly, there are a number of steps early on, which can be a killer on the calf muscles later on, but the views more than make up for it.
The hike can be divided into two sections – both two hours each
Village to Sealy tarns, should take you 2 hours. There are a lot of steps (over 2000) in this section but you will get great views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Hooker Valley. By this point, you will need a break, so make sure you have bought sustainable goodies.
From Sealy Tarns to Mueller Hut – 2 hours
This is one of the more challenging aspects to the walk, with lots of loose gravel, and rocks to climb over. There may also be a good dumping of snow half way up. Crampons are not necessary, but may be helpful, as well as a walking pole to keep yourself steady. There is an incredible view from the skyline ridge at the top, where you will likely hear and see some avalanches nearby. A short 20 minute walk through a zig zag path will take you to the little red hut, for a well deserved rest.
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is approximately a 4 hour drive, south-west of Christchurch, There are some accommodation options in Mount Cook Village, if you want to stay the night, before doing the hike.
Cost of hiking the trail
The hike is free, if you are just walking there and back in one day, but I would recommend staying overnight in the hut. This costs NZ$36, and needs to be booked in advance if you are hiking between November and April. It is important that you are booked in, so that the department of conservation know you’ve made it up and down again.
There is a small rock to the right of the hut, where in the morning you can see the most incredible sunsets. The ridge just before the hut is also incredible to see how far you’ve walked, as is Sealy Tarns.
When to go
Any time of year is good to do this hike, but if you are planning on staying overnight at the hut, do so before the end of April, as there is no warden in the hut, and therefore no gas or electricity. Also, the snow will become a lot more difficult beyond this point.
Tips for the hike
- You’ll need good solid walking shoes, as the hike is at least 4-5 hours one way
Bring plenty of snacks to keep you going
Layer up – you’ll need layers, and you’ll go from being hot to cold to hot again. There is no heating in the hut, if you do this hike just before winter, make sure you bring a decent sleeping pack and layers for the evening.
Bring a beer, or cider which you can put in the snow to chill – a great reward for your efforts!
Goes without saying, but don’t forget your camera, to capture the amazing views!
Abbi is a solo female traveller from Northern Ireland and blogs at Life in a Rucksack. She recently returned from 3 years of living in New Zealand and backpacking in South East Asia. She loves the outdoors, and is currently back exploring her home country for a little while, before her feet decide to start itching to move again.