My friend Sean put it aptly this weekend when he said that the more pictures he takes of something, the more excited he his about it…
My friends and I drove 4 hours to Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park to hike up to Mueller hut to spend the night in a fantastic New Zealand accommodation typical of overnight hikes in NZ.
Around 2,000 steep steps brought us halfway to our destination– we climbed 1050 meters in 5.2km. Our legs feel the effort after the 48-hour lag time.
After the stairs we were rewarded with stunning views of tarns and Mt. Cook and glaciers! We could hear ice avalanching down the neighboring mountainside and the enormity of the glaciers was mind-numbing in the way that comparing your very tiny self to a very big glacier on a very big mountain can make you feel.
The stacks of rocks, called cairns, dotted our path up to the top of the ridge, along with orange marker poles that guided our way through a boulder field and scree slope. See both in the above photo!
We reached the top of the ridge after a fun scramble, and the beauty of the scenery did not end! Clouds spilled over the glacier-covered mountains and Mt. Cook was dominant and drastic in its exposure against a slightly cloudly sky. Mueller hut was a welcome site (there was a patch of snow for a mini-snowball fight on the way!) with the blocky Mt. Oliver in the background.
After dropping our stuff off in the hut, we scrambled up Mt. Oliver, because we clearly hadn’t had enough adventure for one day. At the top, a flock of Keas emerged from farther along the ridge line, squaking their way toward us. We all gawked for a bit, and got it together enough to pull out cameras to attempt to capture this crazy moment of this perfect picture of our trip.
A kea, a cairn, Mt Cook, rocks, and glaciers!
Keas would not abandon an opportunity to show off and be social; many hung around the outhouse and squawked away the afternoon. We clambered down from Mt. Oliver, cooked up some burritos, stared at the sky free from light-pollution, and crashed in bunkbeds.
(Photo cred to Molly Chaney)
The next morning, we woke up to people zipping up sleeping bags and heading out to watch the sunrise from Mt. Oliver. We scrambled to the top again, saw the sun peak over the distant ridge by 8 a.m. After breakfast, we beat the on-coming storm back down the scree slopes, over the boulder fields, and down hundreds of steps, back 4 hours to Christchurch and university again for a week.