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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!