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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

New Zealand: Mt Cook

Mark posing by the track to the Mueller Hut
Posing by the track to the Mueller Hut with growling Mt Sefton in the background

Thursday came with the rain. Until now the rain has been annoying but it's generally been pretty warm, but here in the mountains it's cold, and when things get wet they don't dry out. The drive to Mt Cook village was pleasant enough, but when I arrived the clouds had gathered en masse, spilling over the mountains and dribbling constant rain on the village. I'd been planning to pop up a couple of the mountains and staying in some of the DOC huts, but the weather rained on that idea, so I did a quick walk up to the Red Tarns (a tarn being a mountain lake) and then hit the public shelter.

Mt Sefton
The snowy peak of Mt Sefton looms over the campsite in Mt Cook village

The Hooker Glacier

Hooker Glacier from the Mueller Hut
Looking down into the Hooker Glacier from the Mueller Hut, with Mt Cook in cloud at the top left

Saturday morning started in exactly the same way as the previous two days, with despondent skies and constant rain, but by lunchtime there were signs that the sky might be clearing, so Ben, Mira and I decided to hedge our bets and go off on a short walk up the Hooker Glacier, the one that leads to the foot of Mt Cook. How to describe the views? When the clouds finally cleared, there in front of us was this beast of a mountain, reaching up to an almost-perfect pyramid peak, snow-capped and icing-sugar white. The tranquillity, only broken by the huge glacial river that you cross on two swing bridges, simply has to be experienced; these mountains have been here a lot longer than any of us, and they're quite content just to sit there, minding their own business, like old men on a park bench staring at the world passing by.

Mt Cook and the Hooker Glacier
Looking up the Hooker Glacier, with Mt Cook in cloud in the background

The Mueller Hut

Ben leaning into the wind outside the Mueller Hut
Ben leaning into the wind outside the beautifully placed Mueller Hut

Sunday arrived to clear skies and savage winds. The heavy snowfalls on the mountains were most noticeable on Sefton and the Sealys, but Ben and I were determined; we were going to climb the 1006m (3300 ft) from the campsite to the Mueller Hut, right on top of the Sealy ridge. We packed our backpacks – well, I did, as Ben wanted to travel light, and only took a daypack of clothes and a bit of food – and we set off on the track to the Sealy Tarns, a pleasant set of lakes about halfway up the mountainside and well below the snowline.

Mueller Glacier from the peak of Mt Ollivier
Mueller Glacier from the peak of Mt Ollivier
Mark on Mt Ollivier
Being blown about on top of Mt Ollivier, with Mt Cook behind me on the right
A Christmas snowman in the Southern Alps
My bring-your-own snowman posing in the snow of the Southern Alps

1 The piano man, all suited up and playing the sort of seamless popular-tune piano medleys that you tend to hear in hotels – guaranteed to offend no one and to bring a smile to the lips of any ancient and loaded widows in the room, in other words – had just one book from which he played his pretty little ditties. The name of the book? 101 Great Songs for Buskers...