Don’t let the epic photos fool you. I cried like a baby on the way up AND down. I’ve hiked mountains before but this is the first time I actually climbed UP one, hands and all. It wasn’t easy and for me, didn’t seem totally worth it in the end but it was an EXPERIENCE, and that’s what us travelers are looking for aren’t we?
If you want to climb to a mountain hut and stay overnight at the top, you probably should and if you are only doing it because your boyfriend wants to, you should probably do it anyway just so you don’t have to hear “how absolutely incredible” it was and then be filled with regrets. We hiked to Mueller’s Hut at Mt. Cook, this is how it went and how you can do it too.
It’s quoted as 4 hours up and 3 hours down, which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t a straight incline. It all starts with a shady, gravel path but quickly becomes a series of ominous staircases and eventually, a barely there path of loose rocks and near vertical climbs.
The glacial views made the struggle a bit easier and as we neared the top, the cold weather took over and helped my body literally chill out from overheating. It took us about 5 hours of multiple snack breaks, removing and putting back on clothing and near mental breakdowns (my own of course) before finally seeing that savior of a hut in the distance.
While the hike back down the next day was supposed to be three hours and much easier, I found it even more intense with huge gusts of wind, even more falling and legs that turned into completely useless, rubbery stumps about halfway down.
I thought about just laying there and waiting for search and rescue to come helicopter me out, but it was too cold to think about completely stopping. Josh nearly broke his tail bone pulling a small, dead tree out of the ground so that I could use it as a walking stick but I made it, even though I still can’t walk right nearly 5 days later.
Staying At Mueller’s Hut
I pictured Mueller’s Hut to be way smaller and dirtier than it was. It actually wasn’t that bad. It was made up of five rooms, 2 being the dorms, 1 the warden’s room, 1 the kitchen and living space and 1 for shoes and wet clothing. There were two drop toilet facilities outside and a large stock of drinking water. The dorms each had 20 beds that were 10 on top of 10, with mattresses right next to each other as well as a cubby to put bags. The kitchen had some pots and pans and stoves for cooking as well.
While we were given warning that there would be severe weather, we still decided to make the trek. Many others had canceled their bookings making it just enough people for some socializing but not enough to fill all the beds, meaning that we didn’t have to cuddle up to strangers. The warden checked us in when we arrived, gave us the low down on the rules and let us be.
Everyone made dinner, most of the visitors went outside to take photos and climb around the peaks and once the sun went down, a group stayed in the living area to play the guitar and card games. Since I was feeling especially un-social, am not one for games and don’t really appreciate sing-alongs with strangers, I put on every piece of clothing I had, got into my sleeping bag and curled up into the fetal position, hoping to make the best use possible of all of my body heat.
I woke up all throughout the night to massive gusts of winds, rattling the hut and was waiting for it to collapse into itself. And, I definitely held in my pee way longer than was healthy to avoid going outside in such a storm. While most of us had plans of waking up early and heading back down the mountain, we all waited around until 2 pm the next day when the rain and winds died down enough for us to safely go outside.
How To Book A Stay At Mueller’s Hut
If you want to book your stay at Mueller’s hut, it’s best to make a booking at least three days ahead as there are only 40 beds and it tends to get filled up. To book your spot, you can visit the Department of Conservation website and pay online here.
How To Check In Before The Hike
Before heading up the mountain, you must check-in for your hike. This is where you will receive your slip to give to the hut warden and also receive information on the weather conditions. The check in can be done at the Aoraki/ Mt. Cook National Park Visitor Center, about a 3 minute drive from the actual hiking start point.
What To Do With Your Stuff/Car
You will leave your vehicle in the parking lot that resides at the base of all Mt. Cook hikes, about a three minute drive from the visitor’s center. If you are worried about leaving valuables in your car overnight, there is a youth hostel down the road from the visitor’s center that rents out lockers for $4.
What To Pack
You will receive a list at check in for the essentials that should come with you up to Mueller’s Hut. However, if you want to make yourself prepared before the actual hike, here are a few useful items.
• Sturdy hiking boots (I did it in running shoes and while I did make it, I fell plenty of times and found it difficult)
• Water proof pants or comfortable leggings
• A wind breaker
• Warm socks
• A complete change of clothes
• Cans of food, snacks, fruit
• 3 liters of water
• Hiking poles
• A book, cards, drawing pad or anything to keep you busy
• Warm jacket
• Sleeping bag
• Cooking utensils
What To Do After The Hike
Upon finishing the hike, you should head back to the visitors center to return your slip that will be given to you by the hut warden. This slip will ensure that the search and rescue team know that you got off of the mountain safely. Ours blew away in the wind and we got a phone call, text message and a worried Facebook message from our emergency contact so make sure you let someone know you are OK.