A challenging walk to Meuller Hut

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
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Trip End Feb 27, 2006


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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A glance outside at 7am revealed plenty of blue sky, so I wasted no time in getting some breakfast to set me up for the day. I knew that the walk I intended to do was going to be a real challenge...especially after all the junk food I had eaten in Brisbane! So I packed my bag with plenty of water, sandwiches and chocolate bars, and off I went...

The first hour of the walk followed the Kea Point track that I'd done the day before, and it was reasonably easy as it was on flat terrain. However, this soon changed when I reached the sign for the Meuller Hut. I looked up to see where I'd be walking to, and it was a daunting prospect...I was faced with a 3 hour climb to the summit! Still, it was a clear day and everyone had told me that the views from the top were magnificent, so I knew it would be worth it.

The beginning of the climb was tough because it was relentless - there were no flat bits. I had plenty of stops and didn't mind when more serious trampers overtook me. I was in no rush afterall, and the view of Mt Cook just kept getting better and better the higher you went. Often I'd have a 5 minute break to get my breath before attempting the next stage.

About halfway through the climb, I encountered a couple of walkers who were coming down, presumably having stayed the night in the hut. It was slightly disheartening to hear that I still had another hour and a half to climb before it flattened out, but they also said that it was definitely worth the effort. In fact, knowing that I was past the halfway point gave me a boost...not long to go!

A further boost came when I reached the snowline - a sure sign that I was pretty high up! I'd not been in amongst the snow since the drive to Milford Sound some months ago, and it was nice to cool myself down by making a few snowballs. Walking in the snow was also fun as you heard the crunching when you put your feet down, but as it was steep (coupled with the lack of grip on my 10 month old trainers), I had a few slips.

My stops became more frequent as I neared the summit as it was so steep, and I was breathing heavily. In a strange way though, it almost became easier because I was so near, and a quick look behind made me realise just how high I had climbed.

A near vertical climb up a section of snow brought me to the saddle, where a whole new valley appeared before my eyes. I was nearly there, and I was now looking down on 3 glaciers, the most dramatic one being the Meuller Glacier. Of course, Mt Cook was standing head and shoulders above everything else, and I felt priveleged to have been given such great weather. It ranks as the best scenery that I've seen in New Zealand, and there has been some pretty stiff competition.

The track levelled out at this point, and after climbing over some large boulders, I got my first glimpse of the Meuller Hut in the distance. It was a great feeling, although I delayed for about 15 minutes as I just sat on a rock near the edge of a steep cliff face, with a real top-of-the-world feeling. It was so peaceful, and you had 360 degree views of mountains, lakes, snow and glaciers...and a fair amount of blue sky too.

I saw the girl from Dunedin at the hut who'd recommended the walk to me in the first place, although she was about to start her descent. She said it was worth walking past the hut for a little while longer as there were more great views to be had, so I slid through the snow and did just that. Again, I sat on a huge rock on my own, in awe of the surrounding peaks. There are 30 mountains in New Zealand that are over 3000m high, and Mount Cook National Park is home to nearly all of them - a great indication of the magnitude I was dealing with.

I spent about an hour and a half mooching around the summit, taking in the scenery and searching for new views. I slowly worked my way back towards the saddle, where I bumped into an old American guy, Calvin, from my dormitory. I really hope that I'm in that good a shape when I'm his age! He had done walks all over the world, but he still thought that this was pretty special.

My own descent started dramatically when I slipped going down the near vertical patch of snow - luckily noone else was around to witness it! After that I was more careful and used my hands more for grip, and there were no more mishaps. Some people say it is harder going down than going up, but I don't buy that to be honest. Yes it was tougher on my knees, and it was probably more dangerous, but give me that over a 3 hour uphill climb any day of the week!

It took over 2 hours to get to the bottom, and at times it didn't feel like you were making any progress. It made me realise just how high I'd climbed on the way up! Mt Cook was still as clear as day, so I'd stop every so often for a drink, a relax...and a photo! In just 2 days, I'd taken nearly 80 photographs, but it was impossible to resist as each viewpoint revealed a different side to the Mt's personality.

My legs were aching when I arrived back at the hostel at around 5pm, but what a day it had been. One of the best actually.

I didn't know it at the time, but that was to be my last view of the great Aoraki, as the weather changed on my last day, and you could barely see any of the mountains at all. I just relaxed and chatted to Jens and Matthew from Germany and Switzerland, and we got into a really deep conversation for some reason, talking about life, relationships and religion...it must have been the effects of the scenery!

I had absolutely no complaints about the weather though. I'd had 2 amazing days that had provided me with some unforgettable memories.
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