Mueller Hut Route, New Zealand

Mueller Hut route

Mueller Hut route at Mt Cook national park is both hard and epic. It was one of the more challenging day walks I’ve competed and if you’re looking for adventure, this is a good one.

The day was just beginning as we pulled up into a car park filled with campers sipping hot tea, adorned in puffy jackets and woollen beanies. I shivered as I got out of the car, and was thankful that Jackson had badgered me about bringing a fleece jumper.

After chatting with the ranger and asking for directions, we began on a track perpendicular to the car park. Early on we reached a fork in the trail. Right stated Kea Point, a short 15 minutes to a scenic lookout, and the left sign scribed Sealy Tarns and Mueller Hut. We veered left.

It was not long before we reach the stairs, aka the worst thing in the world. Many many stairs. Continuous uphill. Switchback after switchback. What a pain.

Mueller Hut track

View from the Sealy Tarns

Tiny dots of cars indicate our starting point

As we journeyed uphill, the views of the lake and glacier wowed us. We peered down from the lookout and saw tiny dots of cars from whence we started.

When we arrived at Sealy Tarns, the half way mark, we paused for a short rest and snacks. A local kiwi woman approached us with a smile, she had greying wavy hair and wore a wide brimmed hat slung over her shoulders. She was here with a Canterbury walking group and mentioned in passing that she was 70 years old. I find it incredibly humbling to meet older folk in the great outdoors, especially on these harder walks.

Sealy Tarns glacial view

Beautiful reflection at Sealy Tarns

Pitstop at Sealy Tarns

Jackson resting at Sealy Tarns

The path from Sealy Tarns to Muller Hut was difficult, albeit interesting. It’s not only steep uphill but also on tough terrain. After multiple rocky switchbacks and boulder hopping, we reached a sharp section, trekking at a 45 degree angle up the mountain with no visible path and the ground covered in scree. We were literally climbing a mountain.

“I’m tired” I told Jackson in a dejected tone. I was hitting a wall and didn’t want to continue. I still had energy but the mental strain of non-stop uphill climbing, with no visible end in sight wore on my brain. It reminded me of the few times that I’ve been jogging, an activity I loathe, where I curse myself every time and wonder why I even began in the first place. Why do I put myself through such torture? Jackson asked “what do you want to do?” I shrugged my shoulders and replied “nothing” and soldiered on. I clung on to the hope that we’d soon be there.

When we reached the saddle, we were greeted by claps and congratulations from fellow hikers. I asked “are we here?”  No, another 20-30 minutes to Mueller hut was the answer. Ughhhhhhhhh. The wind was in full force at the saddle and our windbreakers were worth the extra weight on our backs. We took a quick break to admire the glacier in full view. It was immersive and grand.

Glacier view at the Saddle

View at the Saddle at Mueller Hut track

The view from the Saddle

On route to Mueller Hut

On the way to Muller Hut from the Saddle

Although the path from the saddle to Mueller Hut was flatter, it was still a task navigating through the rocky terrain.

Mueller Hut track

The rocky path to Mueller Hut

We reached Mueller Hut around lunch time and slumped on the benches in exhaustion. The wind was howling loudly outside and every now and then the doors would fly open from the gusts of wind.

After lunch we made our way back down the mountain. As we passed hikers struggling uphill I could empathise with their pain and gave words of encouragement. A lone hiker approached “am I almost there?” she asked meekly. She was just starting the 45 degree incline of hell and I replied “almost, another 30mins to the Saddle” She sighed and I recognised that look on her face; the fatigue, regret and hopelessness. I informed her that walking all the way to Mueller hut was not necessary and to just come down after the saddle. If you’re short on time (or can’t be bothered), I suggest skipping Mueller Hut, the views are mostly just rock (in summer time).

Track down Mueller Hut

On the way back down from Mueller Hut

Mueller Hut hike

Our knees took a beating on the way down, although the hiking poles definitely helped. We completed Mueller Hut track utterly shattered, but happy.

Mueller Hut hike

The rocky path down to the car park

Mueller Hut track

It’s always rewarding when you reach new limits and find that little bit of extra energy and willpower to make it to the top. Hiking is one of those activities where you can easily do it alone, because in reality it’s you vs. the mountain and no one else. It won’t listen to your excuses. It’s just there and you’re a raw and exposed version of yourself. Like Sir Edmund Hillary said, the first person to summit Mt Everest, “it is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves”.

Mueller Hut Route Information

  • Time: approximately 6-8 hours return depending on fitness level (not including breaks)
  • Distance: 10.4km return
  • Difficulty: hard to advanced
  • Best season: November – March
  • Elevation: steep 1000m climb
  • For more information: Route Pamphlet from the DOC
  • Parking: White Horse Hill carpark, no permit required for day hikers

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3 thoughts on “Mueller Hut Route, New Zealand

  1. Hey! I’ve booked a spot in this hut for next month, but the person I was supposed to hike with just bailed (sad). Would you say that you would have felt comfortable doing this hike on your own, safety wise? I’ve been reading other reports and am seeing that things seem to get quite steep, but I can’t tell if it’s like a slip-and-fall-to-your-death sort of steep or more of a slip-and-get-scratched-up sort of deal… also can’t tell if it’s easy to get lost up there in the scree section? Would probably want a buddy along if it’s a bit sketchier after the stairs section. Any input appreciated! Great review :)

  2. Hey Sarah, I think you’ll be fine to do this hike on your own. I’ve seen many people on the trail doing it solo. It’s pretty steep but more of a slip and get scratched kind of hike.

    I don’t think it’s too hard to find your way up the scree, it’s a popular hike and you’ll see many people going up along the route.

    Best of luck, the views are pretty amazing!

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