Week 4 in New Zealand: The Splendor of Mount Cook
Finally, something epic! The hike to the Mueller Hut in the Mount Cook range is exactly what I came to New Zealand for. The pictures do not do this awe-inspiring, amazing, larger than life view justice, but it’s a good start.
We spent the first night of this three night trip at a fantastic camp site over with an amazing view of the mountains in front of us and Lake Pulaki behind us. Not a bad view to wake up to.
Our hike the next day to the Mueller Hut was a challenging, 5 hours straight up climb. It starts with 2000 stairs, than hand over feet climbing through scree, followed by boulder hoping and finishing with a snowfield to traverse before reaching the hut. It was a hard accent for me. The stairs and the scree where scary at points, I need to build more confidence on my feet and in my balance. Climbing over boulders using my hands and feet is a skill I need to develop. Walking down scree is definitely something I need to practice, it took far too long because I didn’t trust myself.
Mount Cook, the largest mountain in New Zealand, loomed over us all day. She stood completely free of cloud cover, encased in a bright blue sky, which make her snow capped top shine. The problem with the cloud free day is that Maria and I both got very sunburned. The lack of ozone over New Zealand is no joke.
The Mueller Hut looks like a red ski chalet, with wood floors and decks on two sides to take in the view. From the deck of the Mueller Hut I saw three avalanches on the mountainside in front of us. The avalanches don’t look like much from where we sit, but they sound is loud, deep and spreads across the ridge line. I could also see cascades of waterfalls rushing off the side of the mountain into the icy river separating the two mountaintops.
Rocky, craggy mountaintops expanded in front of us, covered in ancient glaciers and snow packs. The glaciers look like frozen waves crawling down the mountain. They have this amazing blue color, despite being a good distance away. It’s amazing to see the glaciers close up, a remnant of the very glaciers that covered and formed the earth we live on. The mountains I love back home where formed by glaciers similar to the ones sitting in front of me.
Directly behind us, just a 40 minute ascent, is the first peak Edmund Hillary summited as a teenagers. Edmund Hillary, the first person to summit Everest, is a legend here in New Zealand and the range we hiked upon was his backyard.
We also saw a Kia at the hut, the only Alpine parrot in the world. It’s huge! The size of a 5-6# chicken, with sublet green feathers and bright red feather underneath its wings.
Maria and I forced ourselves to stay up late so we could get a glimpse of the stars from atop of the mountain and we were not disappointed. The milkyway stretched across the entire night sky, millions of stars twinkle above and several shooting stars burned across the sky.
After the knee/quad crushing decent off the mountain, Maria and I headed to the beautiful Lake Tekapo. Like lake Pulaski, Lake Tekapo is a glacier lake which means two things: It’s freezing cold and it’s a fantastic shade of blue. Apparently, glacial lakes get their color from ground up rock sediment, know as rock flour, that absorb the red light. Lake Tekapo is, small, fantastic town, with the best food we have had in New Zealand.
We spent our day in the area walking along the lake shore, enjoying some good food and swimming in the cold lake (which felt great on our sunburn). It’s a hidden gem, I’m so glad we stopped there.
Up next, hiking and horseback riding in the Glenorchy and the Rees/Dart River Valley!
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