Climb to Mueller Hut

New Zealand White Horse Hill Campground

Added by Crystal Brindle

Mueller is one of New Zealand's Best Alpine Huts. You'll enjoy exceptional views of the tallest peaks in the country and have access one of New Zealand's best alpine huts with a well-defined path.

This trek begins in the gateway town of Mount Cook Village, which is a must-visit destination in its own right, and serves as the jumping off point for most Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park ventures. Drive to the White Horse Hill Campground (follow the signs for the Hooker Valley) and park in the day use area. The trail begins at the back of the parking lot (the end opposite to the road entry) with a sign indicating the Sealy Tarns and Mueller Hut Route, as well as Kea Point. If you see signs for the Hooker Valley Track, you're on the wrong side of the lot.

The trail is gentle for the first ten minutes or so, and then turns into a series of steps. These steps (approximately 2,000 of them) lead you steeply out of the valley and up to the ledge that contains the Sealy Tarns. This is a great place to stop and re-group before tackling the next stage of the track. Enjoy views of the tarns and the glacial lakes below, framed by a backdrop of Aoraki/Mount Cook.

From this point on, the trail is considered the Mueller Hut Route and is signed as such. The trail is not benched, but is very easy to follow due to its frequent use. The trail braids substantially up the rocky slope, but all branches head in the generally right direction, and there are no obstructions to sight. Follow the pole markers up a scree slope to reach the top of the day's steep climbing.

From here, the route sidles over large boulders with minimal elevation gain before opening up to the flat area that contains the Mueller Hut. The hut is red and very visible from afar. The last approach to the hut reveals the best views as the valley containing the Mueller Glacier drops away to your right, and Mount Sefton and the Footstool tower above. Mount Cook is still visible, as it is through almost the whole of the journey.

The small, rocky summit behind the Mueller Hut is Mount Ollivier (1933 meters or 6,341 feet) and it is worth scrambling to the top if the weather is fine. It is best climbed before sunrise so that you can watch the peaks turn pink with morning light. The ridge and summit also afford views of Lake Pukaki to the east.

Important note on weather: This is a straightforward route that can turn dangerous in foul weather (which the area is known for). When you check in for your booking at the visitor center you will be advised of the current conditions. The usually dry trail can turn into a cascade in heavy rains (learned from experience). Don't attempt this route until mid-December or later, unless you are skilled with an ice axe and crampons.

Reservations: It is best to book in advance, which can be done online. Bookings are required and the hut can fill up in the busy season. Backcountry hut passes do not apply to this hut.

Pack List

  • Boots
  • Warm layers
  • Rain gear
  • Sleeping bag
  • Cook stove, fuel
  • Food
  • Water
  • Booking pass
  • Camera
  • Tripod
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Activities:

Backpacking, Fitness, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

6.4 Miles

Elev. Gain:

3000 Feet

Rating:

Features:

Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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How to Get There

7 months ago

Epic

Just a magnificent spot. The day before it had snowed and the second half of the trek was done under bright blue skies and pure white snow underneath. Everybody in my crew couldn't stop saying how excellent the entire thing was. Spectacular views, easy enough hike, and just a brilliant day all around. One of my best days in NZ

7 months ago

Added by Crystal Brindle

I'm Crystal, a park ranger for the National Park Service in the United States and the Department of Conservation in New Zealand - you'll find me floating between hemispheres as the seasons change. I am an avid landscape photographer and wilderness explorer committed to capturing the scenes and moments that inspire me and require dedication to experience. Living in national parks throughout my life, I've developed a deep appreciation for the natural world. This appreciation drives my passion for protecting wild places today. My first job as a ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park inspired me to spend my time exploring the depths of the park’s wilderness and instilled a sense of adventure that extends into all areas of my life. I now actively seek backcountry recreation that takes me into remote corners of mountainous regions all over the world. I have had the opportunity to live and work in some of the most intriguing places our world has to offer - from the high places of Colorado, to the South Island of New Zealand, to the rugged Alaska Peninsula, and many locations in between. I feel that the only way to truly get to know a place is to meet it on its own terms and to embrace its challenges through which its beauty is revealed. To me this is the definition of wilderness and the foundation of my photography.
 
 Since I began this journey of photography three years ago, I have honed my interests to focus on high-alpine mountain landscapes inaccessible to all except those who travel on foot. These are the landscapes that captivate me. I feel drawn to share their remarkable qualities through the visual narrative of photography and short stories of personal experience. This is a craft that I am refining daily and my photography is only a work-in-progress but I feel that this effort is worthwhile as I strive to let the landscape tell its own story and act as a vector for its message. 
 
 What's next? After a summer of living with brown bears and climbing mountains under the midnight sun in Katmai National Park and Preserve on the Alaska Peninsula, I'm heading back to New Zealand to further explore the wonders of the South Island and work as a Hut Warden on the Heaphy Track in Kahurangi National Park.

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