Mueller Hut Route: Alpine Tramping (Hiking) Series | New Zealand


Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is a rugged
land of ice, snow and rock that stretches 60km along the South Islands Southern Alps. This unique landscape makes Aoraki/Mount Cook
National Park the heart of mountaineering in New Zealand. Offering something for everyone,
from short day walks to technical mountaineering routes. All of this amazing alpine scenery can be
seen from one of the more advanced alpine tramps in the area. The Mueller Hut Route. The Mueller Hut Route takes you 11.8km straight
up and back down the side of the Sealy Range, climbing a total of 1000m in elevation. Since
the whole tramp is in alpine terrain, there are a few things you need to be aware of before
heading off. The best time of year to attempt the Mueller
Hut Route is from December through to April. Outside of this period, deep snow covers the
track with avalanches being common at higher elevations. The average Summer daily temperature sits
around 8 – 14 degrees and you can expect rain for over 160 days of the year. It’s
important to remember that you will be in an alpine environment, which means there is
a good chance you will experience heavy rain, strong winds, snow and freezing temperatures,
even in the height of summer. So you’ll need warm and waterproof clothing, even
on a nice day. A good pair of rigid tramping boots, enough water to last the
whole tramp. And finally, start your walk nice and early to leave yourself enough daylight
hours but make sure you pack a head torch just in case. If you are staying at Mueller Hut, then booking
your night in will be essential between November and April. The hut isn’t heated, so you
will also need to bring a warm sleeping bag along with all your food, and dining equipment. As with all walks and tramps in New Zealand,
make sure you leave your intentions with a trusted contact and inform them when you have
finished your tramp. You can find out more about leaving your intentions at the Mountain
Safety Council website. Your tramp starts at Aoraki/ Mount Cook village
on the Kea Point Track. This is an easy section that takes you 2 kilometres up the valley
through bush and alpine meadows. Alternatively, if you’re staying or parked at Whitehorse
campground a quick walk will bring you on to Kea Point Track. After a short stroll you’ll take a left
turn at the junction onto Sealy Tarns Track. This is where the going gets tough as you
now have to climb approximately 520m up 2000 steps to reach your halfway point for the
day, Sealy Tarns. Its steep and you are left exposed with little room for error, so you
may need to use your hands to maintain your balance. The track narrows down towards the
end and when snow is present this can easily lead to slips and falls straight off the bluffs
below. Weather predominately comes from the North
West, and will drop large amounts of rain or snow as it passes up and over the Alps.
There are no shelters or alternative routes, so turn back if you see any bad weather coming
your way. 2 hours into your walk you will reach Sealy
Tarns. This is a good spot to have a break, eat some lunch and catch your breath. Sealy Tarns is also a crucial decision-making
point as the track from here turns into an advanced route. You’ll need to assess your
group’s fitness and ability, if you’ve found it difficult climbing up to this point, then
it’s only going to get harder from here on. Look to the top of the ridge to check
the weather, it changes much faster up here than in the valley. Remember Mueller Hut is
still 2 hours away so if you have doubts about any of these, then we recommend you turn around
and head home. As this is now graded as an advanced route,
the route is sometimes undefined. Follow the orange marker poles and make sure you have
spotted the next pole before leaving the current one, especially in low visibility. This section of the route is mostly dominated
by tussock and boulders. As you move up the slope, some sections will have you using your
hands to scramble up steep rocky steps. Take your time on these sections to make sure your
hands and feet are secure to reduce your chances of slipping. These boulders can be very slippery
when wet, icy, or covered in snow. The last section of the climb becomes very
challenging as you have to ascend up a scree slope. You may have to use your hands and
watch out for rocks slipping from underneath you. Take this section slowly when you are
coming back down as descending on scree can be quite difficult. It’s common for snow to be present throughout
the year here and this section has the highest avalanche risk. So make sure you have the
appropriate avalanche knowledge and equipment to travel through here safely if snow is present. Once you reach the top of the saddle you’ll
need to make a left-hand turn and head South towards the hut. It’s easy to miss this
turn in low visibility, so be sure to follow the route markers to stay on the right path. At 1700m, the saddle will be significantly
colder than the valley floor so take a moment to put on warm layers. It’s important not to rush along the final
part of the route as you will be tired and prone to making mistakes. This section is
also the most exposed to wind so take care if gale force winds are blowing. The terrain
is very rocky with large boulders so take your time and focus on where you’re placing
your feet. 20 minutes later you’ll reach Mueller Hut.
If you were here for a day walk, take a break, check the weather, and make an informed decision
on returning back down the mountain. If you’re here for the night, rest up, and enjoy your
sleep in the hut with one of the best night time views in the world. Before you begin your descent in the morning.
note that ice is common while descending the lower section of the ridgeline, as its sheltered
from the early morning sun. So take care or enjoy the view and wait for the ice on the
surface to soften. Aoraki/Mount Cook is a land of extremes, extreme
terrain, extreme weather, but also extreme beauty. Remember, aim to walk the route between
December and April. Talk to DOC staff at the Aoraki Visitor Centre to get the latest information
on track conditions. Make sure you check out the official Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
weather forecast at MetService.com. If conditions are poor, as alternatives
try the Hooker Valley, Blue Lakes or Tasman Glacier walks. Now get out there and enjoy one of New Zealand’s
best alpine playgrounds.

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