Mount Cook is the heart of the South Island. Bragging the highest peaks in New Zealand, Mount Cook National Park attracts a wealth of visitors from all over the world, from alpine explorers to wonderstruck tourists, its rugged peaks are not something to be missed and are the very reason why it was #1 on our bucketlist.
Unfortunately, we were limited on time during our trip, so hiking Mount Cook (which takes about 5-days) wasn’t possible. Luckily the Mueller Hut Track provided us with the same adrenaline, excitement and challenge we desired and actually ended up being the highlight of our entire trip around the South Island.
As an advanced tramp, there’s no doubt it’s a challenging hike, but what sets the this track apart, and why I’d recommend it so highly, is that it rewards you with mesmerising and motivating views every single step of the way. Unlike some difficult hikes out there, you will not be disheartened or lacking inspiration once you begin because the magic of your surroundings simply takes over.
You can begin the hike from two spots; Mt Cook Visitor Centre in the village or the White Horse Hill Car Park at the base of the mountain range - which would absolutely be my recommendation. Head up on the Kea Track towards Sealy Tarns. As a warning, this first part of the hike is mainly stairs, around 2,000 in total, some of which are very steep - eeeeepppp, but keep going! Take your time, stop to take it all in, and as you ascend higher you’ll find yourself breathless but addicted to the panoramic views over Hooker Lake, making turning back simply not an option.
About two hours after beginning you’ll reach Sealy Tarns. My partner, Sam, and I decided to stop here to enjoy a coffee. The picturesque mountain views combined with the sun kissing our faces provided the perfect chance to re-coup and reconnect; to simply breathe it all in.
The second half of the hike takes you up through tussock before you reach large boulders and a 50-metre scree slope. Luckily for us, hiking in Autumn meant we avoided that and instead were met with a snow-covered landscape – an undeniable blessing because if you’ve read my blog on hiking Taranaki, you’ll know that scree and I are not friends.
This part of the track is where it aaalll begins to feel worth it. Reaching the Mueller Glacier and shelf of Mount Sefton you’re rewarded with unparalleled 360-degree views that will literally leave you speechless. Keep your eyes open and witness an avalanche in the distant coupled with the crash as it hits the base of the mountain. The stillness of this place encapsulates the magic you will feel, and you’ll realise why this is probably the greatest tramp in NZ.
From here the route turns South towards the hut. Continue to follow the orange markers and make your way along the mountain ridge, be careful underfoot as the ice can deceive you posing as snow. Once you reach the hut; enjoy a bite to eat or set up for the night.
This hike is a must-do if you live for epic views and are searching for adventure. Enjoy the journey.