A Hike to Mueller’s Hut, Mount Cook, South Island


As a write this, it has been three days since we finished our hike to Mueller’s Hut.  (Note:  I am STILL sore from this hike!!!)  It was the most gorgeous weather we could have imagined.  Mount Cook is so variable, but we had nothing but sunny skies and warm temperatures (until late at night, at Mueller’s Alpine Hut, when it dropped to six celsius).  This was our view upon arrival into Glentanner…

Sunset on Mount Cook

The night before the hike, we stayed in a glorified campground room with bunk beds.  There was very little left in the way of accommodations in Mount Cook or nearby (in Glentanner) but we were able to find this for the low, low price of $140 NZ.  It was a room, with no towels, and only two comforters for the four of us, and NO bathroom.  We had to walk outside with a torch at night to go to the restroom.  I am not used to that.  When you know you have to get up and go outside to walk to the bathroom facilities, it suddenly makes you need to go all the time!  Okay, maybe that was just for Ariana, who actually did get up in the middle of the night despite the fact she hardly ever does in a house-bed.  I can’t imagine being elderly and needing to leave the room and walk into the cold every time I had to pee!  Anyway, great views here, but I sure was glad it was for only one night!


The next morning, we set out for Mount Cook to register with the Department of Conservation re: our hike.  We had reserved four beds at Mueller’s Hut, and we were getting ready to hike it and spend our first overnight in an alpine hut!  We had no sleeping bags, but we had a sheet, a fleece blanket each, and some enthusiasm.  Oh, and layers, and layers to wear to bed because our bedding was clearly insufficient for an alpine hut.  It was going to drop to about 6 degrees celsius.  Chilly!

The hike went as follows:  30 minutes in, hit the area of 2,000 steep stairs, hike those, get to Sealy Tarns, alpine scramble mostly using our hands up the mountain another hour and a half, and then make our way another 30 minutes over to the hut.  I think the way up took us about 4.5-5 hours (with a pretty long stop for lunch).

Just starting out…

Half-way through the Steps

After the stairs but before the scramble

Right before the scrambling

Some views along the way

Our stop for lunch!  It was nice to have a break from carrying the packs…

I like this one of Dan, who is clearly half-man and half-billy goat.

The last part of the hike.  The hut is in sight!

We hiked up to snow!  

Mueller’s Hut, Mount Cook

Ryan looking tired.

Ari and I collecting snow to keep our water, lemonade, and small amount of vodka cold!  

Alpine hut cooler and cooker

The views from the Hut.  We saw AT LEAST seven avalanches across the way while we were there!

A Himalayan Tahr came to visit us!

Inside the hut.  It sleeps 28 people.

A Pair of Kea Admiring the View

Close quarters.  No separate beds.  Just gym-mat type plastic mattresses stacked next to each other.

The four-star bathroom facilities.  Ari and I can’t wait to check them out!  Well, there were these two outhouses with no running water and BYO toilet paper, but at least they didn’t smell that badly.

Our family near sunset.


I wasn’t accustomed to having a fairly heavy pack on while hiking but I made it.  We immediately got to work collecting ice so we could have cold beverages.  We also staked out our beds, if you can call them that.  We enjoyed talking to other hikers, some from the States, some from Canada, and some from the Czech Republic.  People changed in front of each other, and it was fairly eye-opening for our kids.  (No one got REALLY naked or anything!)  We had our dinner of sourdough bread and instant noodles of varying types.  I had a coconut chicken one which was just like a Laksa flavor and was SO good.  The kids had Indian Butter Chicken Noodles and Dan had some sort of Stir Fry type.  They filled the belly.  We played some cards and decided to hit the hay.  That’s where the horrors began!  There were at least three LOUD snorers in our bunk room.  I finally went to sleep, but at about 2 in the morning, I was awoken by the chorus of motorboats lying beside me and all around me.  Mind you, I had ear plugs in AND a pair of pants over my head, but that could not dull the sounds.  Ryan also woke up, congested, with a headache (most likely from the altitude) and he too was feeling exasperated by the snoring.  We first brought our blankets out to the main room to sleep on the wooden benches, but I knew that wouldn’t work.  It was way too cold and hard.  Another man had given up long before us and was already there, and he told us we should bring our mattresses in.  Ry and I went back in and grabbed ours and slept in a V sharing one pillow, trying to stay warm with our wee little fleece blankets.  While it was warm in the bunk rooms with all of the bodies snoring there, it was pretty cold out in the main room.  Needless to say, our night of sleep was restless, and I missed the sunrise hike as Dan felt it better to let his most-likely-grumpy wife sleep.  He was probably right; I was tired.  I will say I enjoyed hearing the two loud avalanches (through my ear plugs) when I was trying to get back to sleep in that main room.

That morning, we had a quick breakfast of squished croissants (the kids) and date scones (the adults), and got dressed to go.

The morning of our hike down

I thought I would be incredibly sore from the hike up the day before, but I wasn’t–at least not initially.  It wasn’t until about 2/3rds of the way down that it hit.  And it hit hard.  My right knee was so weak, I lost control of the muscle and my leg wouldn’t cooperate with my will.  It would collapse on me.  I looked like a very old woman on the last third of that hike.  It hit the hardest when I still had 1,000 steps left and the 30 minute jaunt back to the car.  I limped.  It was a weird feeling to have something fail like that.  My knees have always been strong up until this point!   Luckily, Dan, with his torn meniscus, did well, and was not complaining.  Also, I was so proud of the kids.  They did great!  They didn’t complain at all, and in fact, they went ahead of us near the end, not wanting to wait for their newly invalid mother to stagger down the hill.  I am so proud of how resilient they have become in the outdoors.  Granted, they still both enjoy their computer time, but when we’re out doing HARD hikes and other activities, they have grit and they persevere, which is one of the qualities most associated with success in life.  I hope these experiences make them realize they can accomplish anything they want, provided they keep working at it and they don’t quit.

And on that note, I am going to end this blog post.  We are now in Christchurch, staying in a nice, older house for these last nights.  It is a very comfortable house with great, inviting linens.  Link:  https://www.holidayhouses.co.nz/properties/46479.asp

One day here, I awoke to my bed shaking; there was an earthquake (a 4 on the Richter Scale).  Nothing like being shaken out of bed in the morning by the EARTH!

Tomorrow, for our very last night in NZ, we will stay at a hotel by the airport.  We have a 7 a.m. flight to Singapore on Sunday morning.  Tomorrow morning (Saturday) we are closing on the sale of our car.

We are sending our computers to the States tomorrow.  We will only have my Motorola Droid and one fairly archaic iPad with us for our two month journey through SE Asia.  We will stay 3 nights in Singapore, but then we head on to Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and possibly Laos (we are still deciding that).  I can’t wait!

We are “flash-packing” apparently.  We just learned that flashpackers are usually older and stay in some nicer digs than hostels many nights during their travels.  That is definitely us.  We will only have backpacks, but we will mix it up when it comes to accommodations.  Heck, I have some Starwood Points I need to use anyway…

So there it is.  Our New Zealand time has come to an end, but we are continuing our exploration of this most amazing world in which we all live.  To steal a phrase from a successful United States company:  Life is Good.