This is high mountain country. You might spot a lichen, but that’s as far as vegetation goes on the tops. It’s all rock and ice. The full face of Mount Cook accompanies the walk and Mount Sefton is always there. This is the best way to get intimate with New Zealand’s highest peaks, without mountaineering.
You may look at the timings and think "I'll smash that!" Don't be fooled. This is a long, arduous and steep climb.
This walk can only be attempted when there is no snow. Check with DoC at Mount Cook before embarking on the walk and be sure to register intentions. Be sure also to say you have arrived BACK safely.
This is an alpine walk, and should only be attempted in fine weather. Conditions change very quickly up here, so make sure you check weather with DoC and heed their advice.
The start of the track is signposted from White Horse Hill carpark at the end of Hooker Valley Road.
Follow the signs from the back of the carpark and weave through the low forest. Prepare yourself for the ascent of over 2000 steps. Every so often, the forest clears and you can catch your breath gazing back at the breath taking terminal lake of the Mueller Glacier, the medial moraines and the Hooker Valley. Not to mention Mount Cook.
There’s a short detour to a long bench by the Sealy Tarns, the natural stopping off place for refreshment. The cold waters of the tarns are rejuvenating for a face wash.
The next stage to Mueller Hut is devoid of shrubs and trees and can be very hot and exposed. It can also be so windy you will be crouching down on all four paws as each gust howls, forcing you to cowl in submission. If it raining, then this is the time to turn back as it can be dangerous to ascend further in poor visibility.
Poles indicate the preferred route over the rocky track. At one stage you cross a boulder field, some the size of houses. There is a narrow sidle above a steep slope before emerging on the ridge. The rocks at the end of the promontory are the supreme vantage point of the walk.
It’s a further 45 minutes over smoother, glacially scoured rocks and boulder fields to the hut.
Over the last 2 million years the Earth has undergone at least 12 glacial episodes, times when the global climate is significantly cooler than today. The rain falls as snow in upland areas, compacts, and over time forms vast ice sheets.
Geologists have purported various theories for why Ice Ages occur. Today it is generally accepted that since Antarctica has occupied its present position, and allowed a large ice sheet to develop over the land’s surface, this has had the effect of reflecting large quantities of solar radiation back to space (white being the best reflective colour). Once coupled with the fact that solar output of radiation is not a constant (it varies on a 40,000 year cycle) and that the orbit of the Earth around the sun is not a perfect ellipse (the wobble is on a periodicity of around 100,000 years), the changes in the global solar radiation budget can vary enough for episodes of global cooling to occur.
During the last glacial episode, ice stacked up in the upland areas of the Southern Alps and weaved ways down the valley courses to either side. Whereas water leaves a V-shape in a valley profile, the glacial signature marks a characteristic U-shape. The glacial bulldozers charged through whatever lay in their paths and the U-shaped valleys, already carved by previous glaciations, were deepened and their form accentuated. The Hooker Valley are apt examples of this distinctive profile.
As the weight of ice scours down the headwall of a watershed, it nibbles back at the head of a valley until it meets the glacier of the adjacent watershed. The bowl at the head of a valley is a cirque, well illustrated below Mueller Hut.
Hanging valleys are the remains of a tributary glacier that met the main valley glacier. Smaller glaciers harness less erosive power and are less able to incise deeply into the bedrock. They thus meet the main valley glacier at the same height, but do not cut down as deep. When the glaciers melt, the hanging valleys are left perching above the main valley.
The original Mueller Hut was built in 1914-15 with separate sex dorms. Work commenced on the second hut in 1949 with an Airforce Dakota parachuting in the building materials. Workers retrieved the bundles, glissaded down the slopes using their ice axes as brakes and the parachutes as tow. This hut got wiped out in a we snow avalanche and the third hut was mostly built with salvaged materials. The fourth hut lasted over 50 years until slippage on the bedrock caused weaknesses in the hut structure to appear. With increased usage from day walkers necessitating this larger 5th hut, the building complexities meant it was pre-assembled in Gore. A total of 132 helicopter flights then depostied the 60 tonnes of building to site, where it was reassembled. It should provide many more years of shelter and a place for camaraderie.
The name Mueller comes from geologist Julius von Haast, who named the glacier after his botanical friend Ferdinand von Mueller.
South Island ▷ Mount Cook - MacKenzie ▷ Mount Cook
Showing 13 reviews of 70.
One of the best day hikes in New Zealand. Did it in April, there was a lot of snow but that made it even more beautiful.
Very hard track with 2200 steps but nice views of the glaciers.
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AMAZING! The walk was hard but the views are well worth it - the Information Centre gave good advice about the safety of the track and what we must be able to do.
Fabulous views, nice walk to the picnic table about 1/2 way up. From there it got steep = worth it!
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Awesome glacier view at the top. Very windy. It is a bit hard to go up, because a lot of steps. But it is worth it. Seven hours return.
It is a really nice view, the best spot to see the glacier! It was heaps of stairs at first, then pass through the rocks to the top. It is really windy, bring a windproof jacket with you.
Very nice and clean DOC campground! The walk to Mueller Hut is amazing! Great hut, complete.
Exhausting walk but really worth it, provides amazing views (best if it is not cloudy), nice picnic stop in the middle.
Hard and steep track with many steps and amazing views. If you will stay overnight, you will see an incredible night sky.
A hard track with many stairs. We went for that in the winter so there was a need for crampons and ice axes. But the weather was beautiful. Clear sky in the night. So I have seen the most beautiful stars in my life. Definitely not for unfit persons.
Many people but worth it, beautiful view over the glaciers and the Mt Cook, really good path.2200 newly built steps.
Very steep way with lots of stairs. Very nice view at the top: GLACIERS!
It was a hard walk up to the hut and you have a nice view from up there but if you would like to see Mt Cook, it is better to do the Hooker Valley Track. Maybe it is better if you stay in the hut for the sunset/sunrise.
Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍