Mt Cook - the perfect place for a quick two night / three day road trip.
My Australian friend Kathryn was over and wanted to go and see New Zealand highest peak. I had one condition though - I would only go if we had a clear weather forecast.
Fortunately for us a high settled over the South Island of New Zealand and Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park had a forecast of two days of clear blue skies with light winds. Knowing it doesn't get any better than that, my friend and I packed the car and drove south to Mt Cook via Rakaia (huge trout anyone?), Geraldine (coffee stop), Fairlie (food stop), Lake Tekapo (photo stop), Lake Pukaki (second photo stop), before finally arriving at Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park.
We camped that night at Whitehorse Campground out near the terminal moraine of the Mueller Glacier. Next morning after pancakes we signed the intention book at the Department of Conservation Office, then shouldered our packs and started the 1,000 metre climb up the Mueller track to Mueller Hut. Given we were in the mountains, it was amazingly hot. Thankfully a light northerly wind sprang up mid-morning, helping cool us off a bit.
By mid-afternoon we crossed where the snow line would be in winter, leaving any semblance of vegetation behind us. As we rock hopped the last few hundred metres to Mueller Hut, we were treated with amazing views up the Mueller Glacier to Barron Saddle, a desolate wind swept place where I spent a week of my life back in 1994.
The last time I was at Mueller hut was back in 1995. Back then the hut was a tiny wooden building which could fit about 12-people. Given the huts location, the incredible panoramic views and the fact it is the easiest of the huts to get to in Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park, the Department of Conservation decided to replace the hut in 2003. The new hut is more akin to a lodge. It comes complete with a volunteer hut warden, gas cook tops and enough bunk space to sleep 28 people. All up, a pretty cushy place to spend the night.
Given the amazing weather I decided to bivy out for the night. I was rewarded next morning with incredible light over Mt Sefton and the Footstool and of course, Mt Cook off in the distant. Not long after I woke up a cheeky Kea (mountain parrot) turned up. I managed to get one photograph of him before he flew off. All up, an amazing two nights in the wonderland that is Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park.