View from the Mueller Hut Route

Image: Alex Massengale | Creative Commons

Introduction

At 1800 metres on the Sealy Range, Mueller Hut provides a 360-degree panorama encompassing glaciers, ice cliffs, vertical rock faces and New Zealand’s highest peaks.

Track overview

5.2 km one way return via same track

Walking and tramping

4 hr one way Advanced: Tramping track

Seasonal restrictions

Mid November–30 April

Bookings are required for Mueller Hut.

All year

Register your intentions at the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park Visitor Centre on the day you start. This is part of a formal intentions process that operates in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park for your safety – failure to sign in or sign out may result in a formal search being initiated.

Dog access

No dogs

About this track

Description

Aoraki/Mount Cook Village to Sealy Tarns

Time: 2 hr

Start on the Kea Point Track either outside the Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park Visitor Centre or at White Horse Hill car park, at the end of the Hooker Valley Road. Follow the Kea Point Track to the Sealy Tarns turnoff.

The Sealy Tarns Track begins gently until you reach the foot of the Mueller Range. The track zigzags steeply up to Sealy Tarns.

A climb to this spot will reward the walker with spectacular views of the Hooker Valley and the peaks in the area, including Aoraki/Mt Cook on a good day. A tarn is the name given to a small mountain lake or pond.

Sealy Tarns to Mueller Hut

Time: 2 hr

From Sealy Tarns follow the orange markers (every 200 metres) through the tussock. This is not a maintained track but an alpine route.  Parts of the route are quite rocky. It zig-zags through alpine scrub, herb fields and tussocks to a large rock field.

From here the route ascends a loose gravel slope (scree) of about 50 metres, to the skyline ridge. At certain times of the year this becomes a steep snow slope. Once on the ridge relax and enjoy the magnificent view of the Mueller Glacier sweeping down the valley past smaller hanging glaciers and the stunning ice shelf on Mount Sefton.

The route from here turns south towards the hut. Follow the orange markers through the basin until you see Mueller Hut – about 20 minutes along the ridge.

Side trip: Mueller Hut to Mt Ollivier

Time: 30 min

This is a rock scramble along the obvious ridge from Mueller Hut to the top of the rocky outcrop immediately to the south of the hut. A big cairn marks the top. Don’t be tempted to go further along unless you have experience, as it can get dangerous. It is very steep and exposed beyond the top of Mount Ollivier. This was the first peak Sir Edmund Hillary climbed, beginning a climbing career culminating in the first ascent of Everest.

Mueller Hut to Aoraki/Mount Cook Village

Time:  3 hr

Descend back to the village the same way as you came up. Do not be tempted to go straight down or veer off the route at any stage. Make sure you turn off the ridge down the scree slope at the orange marker. In bad weather it can be quite difficult finding your way.

Fees and bookings


Register your intentions at the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park Visitor Centre on the day you start. This is part of a formal intentions process that operates in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park for your safety – failure to sign in or sign out may result in a formal search being initiated.


Fees all year

  • Adults (18+ years): $36 per night ($31 for NZAC members)
  • Youth (5–17 years): $15 per night
  • Child/Infant (0–4 years): free
Mid November to 30 April

Pay when you make a booking – Backcountry Hut Passes/Hut Tickets can't be used.

1 May to mid November

Pay with cash, eftpos or credit card at the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park Visitor Centre – Backcountry Hut Passes/Hut Tickets can't be used.

Bookings

Mid November to 30 April

 Bookings are required. Book Mueller Hut online.

1 May to mid November

 Bookings are not required – first come, first served but you must still register your intentions with the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park Visitor Centre before you walk.

Before you book
Before you walk

Booking on behalf of others

Guided groups

To operate a commercial activity in an area managed by the Department of Conservation, you will need to apply for a concession (an official permit), in addition to any bookings you would need to make. Read more about concessions 

Booking on behalf of others

To make multiple bookings for facilities/services on behalf of customers, you must obtain permission or an agent agreement from the Department of Conservation. To do this, email: agents@doc.govt.nz 

Know before you go

Experience required

Your safety is your responsibility – be prepared

  • Summer (December–February): The route to Mueller Hut offers a mountain experience for anyone with moderate tramping experience – as long as care is taken.
  • Winter (June–August): The route requires good level of mountaineering experience, including walking on ice and snow with ice axe and crampons, route finding and using an avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel. Ski tourers must have a thorough knowledge of avalanche dangers and ability to navigate in alpine terrain.
  • Spring (September–November) / Autumn (March–May): Winter conditions can be present during spring and autumn – check with the Aoraki/Mount Cook Visitor Centre for the current conditions.

Equipment required

Find out what to take

Be avalanche aware

There is considerable avalanche danger on the Mueller Hut Route during winter and spring (April to mid November). However, avalanches can occur at any time of the year as snow falls year round in the park.

Make sure:

  • You check the New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) before you go.
  • You have the skills to recognise avalanche conditions and avalanche prone areas.
  • You know the safest areas to travel in.
  • Each person has an avalanche transceiver, a snow shovel and a probe, and knows how to use them.

Read more about Avalanche terrain in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

What to take

Equipment, clothing and food you need to take.
Take the right equipment, clothing and food with you

Personal equipment

  • Backpack (40–60 litre size for multi-day hiking)
  • Waterproof/plastic pack liner
  • Sleeping bag (3–4 season)
  • First aid kit (including insect repellent, sunscreen, blisterkit, personal medication eg. antihistamine for allergy to wasp stings)
  • Survival kit (survival blanket, whistle, paper, pencil, highenergy snack food)
  • Safety equipment relevant to the track and time of year (eg. map, compass)
  • Drink bottle (1-2 litre capacity) and water for walking
  • Eating and cooking utensils (knife, fork, spoon, plate, cup,pot/pan/billy, cleaning kit, tea towel)
  • Matches or lighter in waterproof container
  • Toiletries
  • Torch/flashlight and spare batteries
  • Rubbish bag – you must take out your own rubbish
  • Toilet paper
Optional
  • Camera
  • Ear plugs for communual bunkrooms
  • Trekking poles
Addtional equipment in winter
  • Ice axe and crampons
  • Avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel
  • Personal poo pot (available from the visitor centre) to carry out all faecal waste – the toilet at Mueller Hut may be buried in snow. Faeces do not break down in the alpine environment, and if buried in the snow, will reappear the following summer when the snow melts.

Clothing

  • For multi-day walking you'll need at least one set of clothes to walk in and another dry set to change into at night.
  • Walking boots or firm footwear (should be comfortable and well broken in)
  • Socks (wool or polypropylene)
  • Shirt (wool or polypropylene)
  • Under layers, top and bottom (wool or polypropylene)
  • Mid-layers (wool or polar fleece)
  • Raincoat (waterproof, windproof with hood)
  • Overtrousers (wind and water proof)
  • Warm hat and gloves
  • Sunhat and sunglasses
  • Extra socks, underwear, shirt/lightweight jersey
Optional
  • Gaiters
  • Lightweight shoes for inside the huts

Food

You can't buy food on the route or at the hut.

Bring food that is lightweight, fast cooking and high in energy value. For example:

  • Breakfast: cereal/porridge/oats, firm bread, honeyor other spreads
  • Lunch: cracker biscuits, cheese, salami, jam/jelly, fruit
  • Dinner: instant soup, pasta or rice, dried vegetables or fruit, cheese or dehydrated (freeze-dried) meals.

You'll also need water, snacks, biscuits, muesli bars, tea or coffee, powdered fruit drinks and emergency food in case of any delays on the route.

Nature and history

Plants

The route to Mueller Hut is a great place for viewing alpine flowers and herb fields. With a vertical gain of 1000 metres from valley floor to rocky ridge top, there is a diversity of flora to see.

The tikapu, or Mount Cook lily (Ranunculus lyalli), makes an appearance in late November, followed by a variety of other alpine flowers. Clumps of gentian flowers appear from January onwards, and look out for the yellow Graham’s buttercup (Ranunculus grahamii), which flowers even when snow is still about. The red berries of Pratia macrodon, a small creeping herb found in rocky and stony ground, can be seen on the climb to Sealy Tarns.

Further up, the landscape changes to snow tussock and different grass species, including the curled snow tussock (Chionochloa crassiucula) and other Chionochloa species, and the South island edelweiss (Leucogenes grandiceps) can be glimpsed nestled amongst rocky outcrops.

Animals

The nearest thing to a bandit likely to be encountered in the South Island mountains is the kea, New Zealand’s alpine parrot.

Relationships between humans and kea have not always been smooth, partly because of the birds’ tendency to borrow things or analyse them to the point of destruction. People who stow vulnerable objects away and take the time to watch the kea will be treated to some first class clowning, then a flash of bright orange underwing when the antics are over.

By contrast, pīwauwau (rock wrens) are content to hop among rocks and plants in their endless quest for spiders, insects and the minute fruit of alpine plants. Despite being weak fliers they have made it to the 1300- 2500-metre zone, where they stay for the exclusive delight of people who climb that high. Not even the harshest winter forces these little birds down, as they manage to shelter and find foodbetween rocks, beneath alpine shrubs or even under a layer of snow.

Frequently seen flitting over rocky screes and ridges above the 1200-metre contour is the black mountain ringlet (Percnodaimon pluto), New Zealand’s hardiest native butterfly. Its colour is part of a sophisticated solar energy system, vital for living at such an altitude. Survival techniques include laying eggs on the underside of relatively warm stones. Most of the ringlet’s three-year lifecycle is spent as a caterpillar, which could explain the often joyful style exhibited when it finally and briefly, gets airborne.

Beautifully camouflaged grey, green or yellow wingless alpine grasshoppers are so abundant on the route up that when disturbed they can sound like the patter of rain on the grass. Species of large black spiders are common on the boulder and scree slope, but they move so fast you have to be quick to see them.

History

Mueller Glacier

Mueller Glacier was named by Julius Haast in 1862, after Ferdinand von Mueller. Mueller was a Danish-born scientist and explorer who came to Australia in 1848. Mueller became a great botanical collector and writer.

Mueller Hut

Originally built in 1914, the present Mueller Hut is the fifth hut to be built with that name. The first hut was just 300 feet above the Mueller Glacier, but by 1947 it was 500 feet above the glacier and was deteriorating.

A second hut lasted just four months until it was swept away by a wet-snow avalanche. Hut debris was hauled back up from the glacier and used to build temporary quarters erected at the same spot.

The fourth Mueller Hut was built not far below the present site in 1953 and lasted until it was pulled down in 2003.

The current Mueller Hut was opened in July 2003 by Sir Edmund Hillary, and is situated just below Mt Ollivier – the first mountain Sir Edmund climbed.

Contacts

Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 435 1186
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   mtcookvc@doc.govt.nz
Address:   1 Larch Grove
Aoraki/Mt Cook
Postal Address:   PO Box 5
Aoraki/Mt Cook 7946
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