NZ2020: Day 15, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

February 8, 2020

After the beautiful evening views at Lake Ohau, clouds were hiding Aoraki/Mt Cook this morning. The wind was up, and Lake Ohau was a steel gray. We drove back around Ben Ohau and its landslip-streaked mountain face. Slight rain was in the forecast, but we pressed on to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.

DSC07183

Lake Ohau in the morning

Image 1-27-22 at 3.27 PM

Our driving route to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

The road follows the shores of Lake Pukaki, up the Hooker Valley toward Aoraki/Mt Cook. We will hike the Sealy Tarns/ Mueller Hut Track, and stay the night at the Mt Cook Chalets.

DSC07223

A rainbow in Hooker Valley, as we approach Aoraki/Mt Cook Village

DSC07230

Trail map showing our location in orange.

Sealy Tarns Track / Mueller Hut Route

This trail is famous for having about 2000 stair steps up to the tarns. It is one of the hardest I have done, but somehow I keep my legs going up. I count steps in sets, counting up to one fewer number each time (20-19-18-17…), with planned breathing/rest stops between sets. There should be 210 steps per set, 10 sets in all…some of the steps are almost ladders. There are clouds blocking some of our views and spitting rain; cold wind, then warming sun.

DSC02054

Trail stairs

DSC07241

Looking down at the Kea Point Lookout on Lake Mueller (circled in blue). Beyond Lake Mueller is a huge moraine, then Hooker Lake.

DSC07245

Kea Point Lookout on Lake Mueller.

DSC07250

Looking toward the camp on Mt Sefton, circled in orange.

DSC07251

Zooming in on a tent at the foot of the glacier on Mt Sefton.

DSC07252

Looking back down Hooker Valley to where we started the hike.

When we arrive at the tarns, I feel surprisingly strong. We eat lunch at the picnic tables, take some pictures of glaciers, then decide to go higher.

DSC07260

Sealy Tarns

DSC07266

Glacier on Mt Sefton

DSC07263

crevasses

DSC07264

wildfire dust?

DSC07265

DSC07268

rockfall

DSC07270

The Mueller Route, going up beyond the tarns.

Above the tarns the track is rougher, a bit cliffy. I miss the stair steps here! We continue up the rocky, “choose your own adventure”, anastomosing trails, until I decide I can go up no more. We take in the view, eat a snack, then go down.

DSC07296

From our high point we had a good view of Hooker Lake, the terminus of Hooker Glacier, and Aoraki/Mt Cook, still in the clouds.

DSC07302

Closer look at Hooker Lake, and the Hooker Valley Trail

DSC07286

Ice bergs in Hooker Lake.

DSC07297

Looking south down the Hooker valley from our high point.

We saw a few flowers and some interesting flora along the trail.

We returned back down the 2000 murderous steps, knees and legs a little wobbly. On the way down, we stopped often to admire the views of the glaciers, lakes, moraines, and the unveiling summit plateau of Aoraki/Mt Cook.

DSC07322

Down the steps…

DSC07325

Another view of the terminus of Hooker Glacier

DSC07336

Close up of Hooker Glacier

DSC07327

The peak of Aoraki/Mt Cook, coming out of the clouds!

DSC07346

Closer views…

DSC07332

The curved southern edge

DSC07331

Northern slopes

DSC07345

So beautiful!

DSC02264

Aoraki/Mt Cook, completely unveiled by the time we reached the bottom of the trail!

DSC07352

and Mt Sefton, too!

We make our way back to the bus, and check into our room at the Mt Cook Chalets, having hiked about 6.5 miles and 2800 feet. But we are not done with the mountain yet! After dinner in the cafe, we relax in the lounge, where we can see the triple triangle face of Aoraki/Mt Cook glowing bright white, then pink with alpenglow, in the pinky blue cloud streaked sky. Phenomenal!

DSC07353

Lounge with a view…

DSC07357

Mt Sefton, Aoraki/Mt Cook

DSC07359

Aoraki/Mt Cook

DSC02304

Tomorrow we are going back to Christchurch – our last guided tour day. The next two weeks in New Zealand will be on our own – with many more adventures that I am excited to be reliving with these blog posts!

2 thoughts on “NZ2020: Day 15, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

  1. Pingback: NZ2020: Day 14, To Lake Ohau | Margaret Quilts

  2. Pingback: NZ2020: Day 16, Aoraki/Mt Cook to Christchurch | Margaret Quilts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s