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.


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.


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


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.


Trail stairs


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


Kea Point Lookout on Lake Mueller.


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


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


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.


Sealy Tarns


Glacier on Mt Sefton




wildfire dust?





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.


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.


Closer look at Hooker Lake, and the Hooker Valley Trail


Ice bergs in Hooker Lake.


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.


Down the steps…


Another view of the terminus of Hooker Glacier


Close up of Hooker Glacier


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


Closer views…


The curved southern edge


Northern slopes


So beautiful!


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


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!


Lounge with a view…


Mt Sefton, Aoraki/Mt Cook


Aoraki/Mt Cook


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!

3 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

  3. Pingback: New Zealand 2023 (or there and back, again) | Margaret Quilts

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