The morning of December 7, 2017 I woke up with butterflies in my belly. Today was the day Kels and I planned to take on Mueller Hut, I was so so pumped. We had contemplated back on forth if we wanted to do the hike as an overnight and spend the evening in the Hut, or to conquer it as a day trip -there and back. We’ve yet to do an overnight hike, so we played it safe and decided to huff it up and down in one day.
We woke up to a couple of clouds in the sky; but, otherwise absolutely gorgeous conditions. We ate our usual breakfast of oatmeal and a big mug of coffee and packed our day bags. We knew we would be entering alpine conditions, so we wanted to be prepared. I had packed a fleece, a wind breaker, a toque, mittens and loads of hiking snacks (apples, trail mix, peanut butter banana sandwiches, granola bars and an entire bar of Whittakers chocolate). We were ready to conquer.
The trailhead from the hike can be found directly from White Horse Hill Camping Ground, which is where we had spent the night. It is shared with the Kea Point Track as well as the Sealy Tarns Track.
It begins on a nice lil’ gravel road, decently flat, hardly any elevation is gained. There’s a turn off to Kea Point, which we bypassed and continued on past the “Warning: Avalanche Zone” sign and onto the many, many stairs that awaited. 2200 plus stairs apparently – I can not confirm nor deny the exact number since Kels and I lost count after 300 and some.
The stairs were quite steep, some steps up to my knees in height (I know that doesn’t take that much, cue the short jokes, but that’s still a big step!). It was only 8:30am but the sun was packing heat and the surrounding trees didn’t provide very much shade. We began taking breaks after every 100 steps, then the quick catch your breath breaks occurred more and more often. Breaks were rewarded with more oxygen to our lungs as well as incredible views that grew more and more beautiful as we gained elevation.
We reached Sealy Tarns (and the end of the stairs) at 9:20am. It took us 1.5 hours to get up, many hikers use this as a turn around point for a nice, quick steep hike. We were only half way to the Mueller Hut though. We took this halfway point as a good chance to fuel ourselves for the climb ahead.
Twenty minutes later, after our bellies were full of fruit and nuts, we continued onto the Mueller Hut Track. This portion of the track is much less maintained. It’s following the markers up and up and up. It’s climbing up rocks (both hands and feet needed), up scree and then to a section of snow. We didn’t take too many photos of this section- we were too busy being mountain goat ninjas (AKA just trying to survive).
The snow was wet and sticky and took some effort to climb. I would take a step and either slip or sink; basically, it sucked to climb. I don’t think my Canadianess helped me out at all.
Once completing the steep, snowy portion it flattened out to a rocky opening and we were rewarded with incredible views of Mount Sefton and the surrounding ranges. They were massive and had heaps of snow on them. They seemed close enough to to touch.
We had the opportunity to witness quite a few avalanches on the mountains across the valley which I found super cool. The echos of their sounds were absolutely epic.
We continued on around the side of the mountain clambering over big rocks and then onto the snow again.
We caught our first glance of the cute lil’ red Mueller Hut just after 11am. It sat so picture perfect in the snow surrounded by mountains. We finally reached it after what felt like forever at 11:30am – a little over 3.5 hours from bottom to top, breaks included.
We snooped around the hut upon arrival, taking a look at the bunks and the kitchen facilities that we weren’t going to use (this trip at least!).
We grabbed a seat on a bench outside in the sun and dug into the ultimate summit meal – peanut butter banana sandwiches and a shared bar of dark (espresso flavoured) chocolate. A well deserved treat!
I grabbed my camera and circled around the hut, taking a look (and testing out) the most picturesque long drop I’ve ever seen.
After taking in the views and resting our feet for just under an hour we slowly made our way back down. We allowed ourselves to stop and snap photos that we huffed past on the way up.
By 1pm we were back at the flat, evened out area before we had to tackle the snow. And tackle we did. Down the massive hill. On our butts.
We figured it would be so much easier to toboggan down on our asses rather than attempt to keep upright and on our feet on the steep hill. We were right; it was much easier and SO MUCH FUN. We definitely recommended it to everyone who we passed who was heading up as we were heading down.
We had another quick trail mix break back down at Sealy Tarns and then tackled the stairs on the way down. We were back at the tent by 3:30pm – a little over 7.5 hours from top to bottom, breaks included.
During the entire hike up it felt impossible to reach the top. It was both physically and mentally challenging; but, looking back at it – I can honestly say it’s been my favourite hike in New Zealand to date.
It had everything I love in a hike: a solid elevation gain, incredible views, a decent challenge, incredible views, a solid lunch spot and absolutely incredible views.
Date Completed: December 7, 2017
Total Trail Time: 7.5 hours
Total Elevation Gain: 1045 m
Total Distance: 10.2 km
Total Stairs Climbed: More than 2200 (We lost count after 300 )
Total Photos Taken: 254
Handfuls of Trail Mix: Lost Count
If you’re in the Mount Cook/ Aoraki National Park; I definitely recommend this hike. If you don’t feel like you are quite at the fitness level to complete this, the Hooker Valley Track is also a great walk with incredible views!
If you have any questions, let me know! I love chatting about my travels/hikes/anything.