Mueller Hut

Mueller Hut

Mueller Hut is an alpine hut in Mount Cook National Park that is more easily accessible during the summer months from Mount Cook Village. Some fit parties are able to complete the return trip to Mueller Hut within a day whilst others will often complete as an overnight hike. It is well known as a ‘bucket list’ trail for hikers not only in New Zealand but around the world. Tourists from all parts of the world will travel to Mount Cook National Park to hike the trail up to Mueller Hut or the Hooker Valley Track with the hope to getting a picture perfect glimpse of Aoraki (Mount Cook). The trail climbs over 1000m elevation gain in just over 4 kilometres. Although it is well marked the trail can be quite dangerous during the months of winter and spring.


3 hours


4.32 km


1087 m



Looking out across at Aoraki (Mount Cook) for sunrise on a crisp December morning

43°43′16″S 170°03′52″E

In Detail

When the weather is overcast and gloomy the last thing you’ll often think about is protecting yourself from the sun. It is essential to be prepared for all conditions, as the weather can quickly change within short windows of time. At a minimum ensure that you wear or carry a pair of sunglasses and apply sunscreen to protect both your eyes and skin. If you’re a cap or hat person snap one on for some extra UV protection. It’s also essential that you are familiar with the weather conditions and forecast before you head up to Mueller Hut. Poor weather conditions can be fatal and lead to search parties having to come out to rescue you from the mountain if you are ill prepared.

Looking out through the window of Mueller Hut to a thick fresh layer of snow dumped from the previous days storm

Getting to Whitehorse Hill Campsite

From Christchurch you must follow State Highway One down to Rangitata. There is a clear turn-off sign with the road sign pointing towards Aoraki (Mount Cook) and Geraldine which marks the beginning of State Highway Seventy Nine into Mount Cook National Park. Follow the road signs as you stay on State Highway Seventy Nine until Fairlie. Take a hard right when you reach the or take a quick stop at the Fairlie Bakery (one of the best pie shops in New Zealand). From Fairlie follow the road through Burke’s Pass, Lake Tekapo and past Lake Pukaki. As you make your way around the large bend towards Twizel the turn off comes to State Highway Eighty leading right the way into Mount Cook.

Route to Mueller Hut

The route to Mueller begins along the Kea Point track from Whitehorse Hill Campsite leading to the Sealy Tarns Track. Climbing to the tarns is steps for the majority of the time. Above the tarns the track becomes a route with poled orange markers leading up the side of the mountain towards the Sealy Range. Depending on the season that you’re intending on climbing and reaching Mueller Hut will depend where the snowline begins or if it even exists. A section through boulder fields before the Sealy Range is the most challenging part of the route. Along the Sealy Range finding your way is relatively easy. Considering how well DOC has marked the track along the way orange poled markers are well positioned in case of white-outs and snow storms.

[wp_mapbox_gl_js map_id=”9058″ height=”800px”]

Mueller Hut Weather

No matter the season you should be prepared for all weather conditions when you hike up to Mueller Hut. Ensure that you take a good look at the weather forecast beforehand and check into the DOC information centre before initiating your hike up towards Mueller Hut. Even if the weather is looking positive, avalanche risk can be prominent due to the conditions in the mountains. The avalanche risk can be checked on the Avalanche Advisory site. It is not advised to go up to Mueller Hut in poor weather conditions due to the nature of the surroundings and the dangers that are present as such high altitudes in Mount Cook National Park. Weather systems can be strong since the park makes up the tallest section of the Southern Alps.

Kea Point Track

The kea point track begins from Whitehorse Hill Campsite where you’ll have parked up your car. It’s a walking track catered for all that leads through the bush around the base of the surrounding mountains up to a view point out over Mueller Lake and back to Mount Cook Village. It also is an access route up to the start of the stairs that lead up to Sealy Tarns and hence lead up to Mueller Hut.

The beginning of the track up to Mueller Hut along the Kea Point track

Sealy Tarns Track

Access to Sealy Tarns track begins with a mellow ascent along a gravelled path. Before long you’ll begin climbing steps through the bush and shrubs as you further ascend the mountain. Throughout the initial sections of the climb up towards Sealy Tarns the climb is sheltered to an extent, however, be prepared to rug up further up along the hike if strong winds are howling across the area. Along the way up you’ll progressively have increasingly spectacular views out over Mount Cook Village.

Top: Zach digging deep along the track up to Sealy Tarns as we crack out a hefty pace
Cloud swirling around Mount Cook village looking out to Sebastopol

The higher you continue to climb the more rugged and exposed the terrain becomes. If the clouds are sitting low and rolling over the surrounding the mountains as the weather is closing in you’ll be sure to get your raincoat out along the track to protect yourself from the damp, wind and cold. The steep steps even out slightly more during the final sections of the climb as you approach Sealy Tarns.

Clockwise from Top Left
Looking out over a ridge along the way up towards Mueller Hut as the cloud floats down into the valley
Mueller Lake down below seen through a gap in the clouds along the track up towards Sealy Tarns
Zach pausing for a quick rest along the track whilst admiring how far we had climbed
Looking back out over Mount Cook Village, Sebastopol seen as the mountain furtherest in the background

Sealy Tarns

The tarns are the perfect spot for a quick break. Check-in with your group, ensure everyone is doing alright, grab a snack to fuel your system before you head further up along the track towards Mueller Hut. The picnic table here is an ideal spot to sit down, rest and look out over your surroundings. Take the time to appreciate where you are and how far you have come already.

Zach re-adjusting his pack before getting ready at Sealy Tarns getting ready for the next shift up towards Mueller Hut

Mueller Hut Route

The well formed pathway (or track) to Sealy Tarns immediately takes a turn on the ascent to Mueller Hut. From here onward the track is natural. Marked out only by poled markers it interweaves through a rock path separating the mountains blanket of tussock. A small DOC sign marking the way explains the risk of avalanches along the route to Mueller Hut.

Looking down on Sealy Tarns from up and along the Mueller Hut Track

Ascending the track you’ll be clambering over rocky outcrops. Even when there is no snow or ice these outcrops can be difficult to maintain balance over. Having a good pair of supportive boots helps to ensure you don’t accidentally roll your ankle along the ascent.

Left: Zach digging his feet into the rock that makes up the route up towards Mueller Hut
Re-adjusting the gloves, balaclava and preparing for some bad weather as we climb higher into the storm along the Mueller Hut route

Rock fields to Sealy Range

Eventually as the Sealy Range comes into view you’ll find yourself in the most prominent avalanche danger zone when conditions are right. Large obtrusive rocks stick out as key landmarks along the hike to look for if you ever find yourself lost. In poor or worsening conditions they are also an ideal spot to take cover for periods. It is important to find your way up this section correctly in low visibility. There is not much differentiation between the track and the natural surroundings due to the nature of the trail. Ensure you are regularly seeing orange markers. If not, return to the last marker you remember seeing and follow forward.

Trudging through the cold along the Mueller Hut route through the boulder fields towards the Sealy Range

The route along to the top of the Sealy Range weaves it’s way through the rocks before ascending steeply towards the ridge. It then plateaus out before you make a U turn back towards Mueller Hut. Throughout the seasons you may find snow cover on the ground whilst poled-markers have been dislodged due to poor weather and the elements. Because of these reasons and the terrain at these altitudes it’s important (and more efficient) to stick to the track.

Left: Looking up through boulder fields as the snow begins to settle a lot quicker than we had expected
Zach taking cover from the storm for a few moments while we prepare for the battle through to the hut ahead

Sealy Range to Mueller Hut

From the top of Sealy Range the terrain becomes more technical as you find your way between rocks with far less elevation gain as you make your way through the rocky terrain to the hut. Even during summer months it’s important to be prepared for plenty of snow along your way into Mueller Hut and be well versed in snowcraft skills. This section is also the most exposed along the route up to Mueller Hut. In poor conditions snow storms and white-out conditions are entirely possible and make it very difficult to find your way to the hut.

Clockwise from Top Left
A moment in between the howling wind when visibility was clear enough for Zach and I see on another even though we were likely to be within 5m of each other
A moment when we were able to see our destination, Mueller Hut when the winds were calm and we were within range of the hut
Our first siting of our destination. A happy and joyous moment to say the very least.
Mueller Hut getting absolutely battered by the wind

Once you reach the hut you’ll reach the big white door with an oversized door handle. It’s almost like entering an arctic base camp. It’s fair to say it’s structural protection that is required due to the weather patterns that can rip through the mountains and tear down alpine huts.

Zach taking off his head torch before entering the hut to get out of the storm

Mueller Hut

Mueller Hut is a 28 bunk bookable alpine hut that must be booked online or with the Department of Conservation Office in Mount Cook National Park. It is an alpine hut that is very well catered for. Within the hut there are in built gas stoves and LED lighting within the main kitchen and dining area that is powered and charged by solar energy. Within the hut there are two bunks rooms each with 14 bunks. These are arranged in Maori bunk fashion with 7 bunks on the top level and 7 bunks on the bottom in each room. In the main entrance of the hut is an area to remove any outerwear or gear that has been covered in snow or drenched along the trip into the hut.


28 Bunks


Radio, Mattress’, Gas Stoves,

Top: Mueller Hut by dark, seen with a few dim lights on for light even on the longest of days
Bottom Left:
Kitchen and dining facilities within Mueller Hut, gas cookers along with gas is provided as part of the hut fees
Bottom Right:
Filling in the hut book before heading off to bed after a hard days work

Within the hut is an inbuilt radio that communicates with the DOC office. People that are staying at Mueller Hut are to report through to ensure everybody who has been accounted for has arrived safely and provide an update on the weather. During certain periods of the summer a hut warden may be present to check on occupancy levels and provide any further briefings on weather. Often the wardens will also carry out hut and track maintenance along the track.

Top Left: Looking out the windows of Mueller Hut to a snow covered paradise the next morning
Top Right:
Looking out the window to someone checking out the fresh snow after the storm
The sleeping quarters within Mueller Hut

Mueller Hut Exterior Features

Outside the hut is the toilet, a short walk away. Ensure if you’re ever heading out to the toilet to take care in bad weather. At times white-out conditions can be so poor that you may not be able to see the hut from the toilets easily becoming disorientated within a short period of time. After the large snow storm we had there was a lot of ice and snow that blanketed the hut and surroundings. Break off the snow from the wooden verandah for both your safety and everyone else in the hut. You’ll be the local legend after you’ve cleared a nice path down the stairs and to the chairs.

Top: The steps leading down towards the fresh pow that got laid on for us at Mueller Hut
Bottom Left:
Zach making a quick stop to drop the kids off at the pool
Bottom Right: The sign that rules all other signs, Mueller Hut itself

Sunrise Hut at Mueller Hut

One of the best ways to see Aoraki and Mueller Hut is to get up at sunrise. Especially after a good dumping of snow, there’s no better way to spot to admire Mount Cook National Park. Words aren’t worth describing why you should be up at 5am after a long days slog, however, the pictures show it all.

Top: Looking through the Mueller Hut’s windows in the early hours of the morning to see Aoraki (Mount Cook) at blue hour
Zach looking out over Aoraki (Mount Cook) from the ridge of Mount Ollivier
Zach making his way back down along the ridge as the sun rises in the east

Return Journey from Mueller Hut

Returning from Mueller Hut after a serious dumping of snow is no walk in the park. The entire way (if you are the first person) is about ploughing a path through this soft white blanket. It’s not easy going although can be extremely satisfying. Everything beneath your feet is covered with white snow making it indistinguishable what may be underneath. Prod carefully making sure you have one foot planted before you move the next.

Top: Nathan (the Author) making his way from Mueller Hut to check out the Mueller glacier
First footprints of the day seen leaving Mueller Hut, Mount Ollivier seen behind the hut

The most challenging part after a decent snowfall is manoeuvring around the rocks just before the descent from Sealy Range. It’s challenging terrain for planting your feet with large snow deposits that can be well over your knees. Pulling your feet and legs out from these sections out and then finding another spot which yet again is another plug is taxing on your energy along the way.

Top Left: A moment spent admiring Mount Cook along the poled route back to Whitehorse Hill
Top Right:
Pole in one hand ice axe in the other Zach making his way through the terrain
Zach plugging yet another step in the snow as we make our way back onto the ridge of the Sealy Range, Mount Cook lieing to the left

Descent from Sealy Range

Descending from the Sealy Range is much easier for avoiding snow drift. It is the same region that is prone to avalanches after large amount of recent snow fall and high temperatures. It is always best to check in with the Department of Conservation information centre for the latest conditions. Along the track we found some safe areas in which we could bum slide our way down with our ice axe to save walking the entire way.

Top: Making our way down through the snow on a number of switch backs along the route back down to tarns
Zach making his way back down past the bottom of the rockfall section towards Sealy Tarns

Sealy Tarns Swim

There’s nothing quite like a swim to tidy off an adventure. At least that’s what Zach reminds me whenever we’re out in the wild. Sealy Tarns was not an exception to this even after a large snow fall. It was an ice bath dive in and dog paddle to the side. Definitely one of the coldest swims that I’ve ever attempted but with the picturesque background behind you. How could you not ‘Do it for the gram’.

Clockwise from Top Left
Taking a quick walk across the board walk over the tarns while the reflection holds of Aoraki (Mount Cook)
Zach flexing (just a little) as he makes his way out of the tarns and drys off
Nathan (the Author) taking plunge into the icy cold water of Sealy Tarns with Aoraki (Mount Cook) in the background
Zach taking the plunge into the icy cold water of Sealy Tarns for his second round of an ice bath

Mueller Hut Crew

Story behind this trip began when I got a call on Wednesday night from Zach telling me to come down to Twizel because he was pretty keen for a bit of an adventure up to Mueller. The weather was looking iffy for Friday and balmy for Saturday. He managed to twist my arm to drive down Friday, pick him up just after work in Twizel for Meridian and then we boosted it into Whitehorse Hill Campsite. By the time we arrived it was snowing to Mount Cook Village level and we hadn’t even begun the climb. As you have seen in the photos the next day was absolutely stunning. Shout out to the man the myth and the legend, wouldn’t have had this incredible weekend with you had my arm not been twisted.

Nathan James (the Author) & Zach Preston (L to R)