Mueller Hut: Glaciers, keas, and Mt. Cook

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.


Convection Oven Baking


In the Ilam Apartments at the University of Canterbury, our “oven” is a convection oven/microwave. It is finicky, and only likes to have its buttons pushed certain ways. To get it to be an oven, you have to push the third button on the outside 5 times until 230C comes up on the display, then you have to preheat it, but only after the door is closed otherwise it becomes a microwave again if you push “Start” too soon. So after it beeps to let you know that maybe it’s ready to work, you can put your dough/otherrawthing into the microwaveoven BUT don’t shut the door before pushing the elongated mini-button inside the door. Must push button until desired temperature is displayed, then don’t forget to push the time on the outside row of buttons before closing the door or else it turns into a microwave again. So after all of these buttons are pushed in this exact order, you can close the door and push start. And then sometimes it decides it wants to be a microwave anyway and you end up with burnt granola– true story.

This week I’m vibing with the microwave-oven. I’m pushing its buttons but I think we’re on good terms. Here’s one of the first successful things I’ve made (see above photo):

Coconut-Banana Granola Bars/cookies (from my friend Robyn)

  • 1/2 c. oats
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 1/4 c. chocolate chips
  • Few tablespoons c. shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375F. Mix all ingredients together. Form into cookie or bar shapes and place on a lined cookie sheet (I made the granola bars in an 8×8 square pan, but it’s the only oven-proof pan I have, so run wild and free with other pan dimensions and shapes). Bake 10 minutes, flipping cookies/bars around halfway through if you remember (unclear if this is necessary in a normal oven, but it helps when using mr. finicky here). Take out, let cool, happy snacking!


Also a hello from some happy surfers! Ashley and I had a blast in the waves this past Thursday– we surfed on the remaining swells from Typhoon Pam! I promise I’m studying…

Through the microscope and into white water

Every so often my geo professors here will say something really profound in class and I try and scribble it down in the margins. This means I end up with something really inspirational; “geologists are ultimately really interested in the passing of time” next to the chemical formula for olivine or an illustration of a sedimentary structure.

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These two pictures above are an attempt to take a picture of a thin section under cross-polarized light through the microscope lens. Under plane polarized light, the minerals are not brilliant– the most colorful they get are a dull brown/green/yellow. BUT put the polarizer in and BAM those minerals go crazy. It’s a little, personal kaleidoscope that I happen to have to study.



Two Sundays ago, there was the national Kapa Haka festival in Christchurch. It occurs every 2 years and alternates locations in New Zealand– it won’t be back in Christchurch for another 39 years!

Te Matatini is both a festival and competition for different Maori groups. They perform the kapa (stand in a row) haka (stance; song and dance), an artistic and athletic feat that is used to welcome and entertain or as an intimidation/war tactic. The facial expressions are brilliant and the lyricism was fantastic. It was emotional to watch these groups throw themselves into the performance.

Watch these:


Other highlights this past week[end] included surfing in Sumner and a white-water kayak trip called Zero to Hero with the UC canoe/kayak club where beginners learned how to tackle class 1-2 rapids for the first time. It was really fun to be out on the river and learn a new sport.


After 5 hours on the river with geology friends.

Seeking Water

According to a study by K. Ashbullby and M. White, people feel significantly more at ease near the coast, near water.


New Brighton beach on Thursday. Feeling relaxed already?

I had thought this a truism, especially for myself as a swimmer, but I hadn’t heard of the study until I biked to New Brighton beach on Thursday afternoon.


The 300m long pier off of the New Brighton Beach, extending from the library. Many people had nets cast over into the water, pulling up crabs for soup.

The ride was about 15km from the University, and a flat ride that skirted around local rivers and through parks. Despite a headwind, I found the small seaside town in a little under an hour.

Not only is the beach beautiful, but the library is also stunning. The curved, windowed facade faces the ocean. There are chairs in the library facing the window-wall, and even on a Thursday, most of the chairs were occupied with people reading a newspaper, book, or magazine. I sat in one of the chairs for awhile, soaking in the benefits of the vista and the waves. It was in a magazine by my chair that I saw the study about benefits of being by water.

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These two photos are of the New Brighton Library (L: window-wall facing the ocean, R: Front of the library, pier in the background).

Of course, I took a wrong turn on the way back and added a few kilometers to my route. I noticed I was going the wrong way when the river was suddenly on my left– the same placement as when I was riding INto New Brighton. Whoops! Some highschool kids, and later an auto-mechanic pointed me in the right direction and I was back in a little over an hour (tail wind too!).


The Japanese cultural festival was in a park nearby this past weekend. It was terribly crowded, so I quickly perused the various stalls, including this one of cute-artsy sushi!

There was a HUGE Japanese cultural festival this past weekend. My friends and I trekked over to the Riccarton Racecourse and sampled miso soup and sushi.

That hike I did with Giulia last week on Bridle Path I did again with other friends, and we were met with a raging farmers’ market in Lyttleton. We were too sweaty and treated ourselves to smoothies. Some pics from the hike:

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