Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Mueller Hut

The Mueller Hut is perched 1,700m up on the Sealy Range. On a clear day, the hut offers fantastic views of the high peaks in the area - Mt Sefton, The Footstool and Aoraki/Mt Cook. Even on a not so clear day, we saw and heard avalanches rumbling down The Footstool.

After having our lunch at the hut, we went on to climb Mt Ollivier. This was apparently Sir Edmund Hillary's first peak (the inference being, if you can climb this then...) It had been snowing for a couple of days at altitude, so the peaks and the ridge we were standing on were covered in a soft white coat. It was stunning.

Despite having descent weather during the day, the rain returned to Mount Cook Village again in the later afternoon. We packed our wet tents and embarked on a drive to Timaru on the East Coast. Today we drove to Kaikoura, and we're keeping our fingers crossed that we'll see some whales tomorrow. It's St John's last day in NZ tomorrow, so we're going out for a farewell meal tonight.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Summer snow and gales in Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park

Greetings from the Old Mountaineer's Bar in Mount Cook Village. Outside, a storm is blowing a gale. Hopefully the cheap tent we bought might still be standing by the time we get back. At least the bar has an open fire and internet.

Yesterday we left Queenstown after deteriorating weather covered the Remarkables range with snow, burying the tops and also our ambitions of tackling Double Cone. Time pressures forced us to leave town and head for Mount Cook instead. The four-hour drive had some great scenery, reminding Jen of 'Little House on the Prairie'. She half expected Laura Ingalls to come running down the hill to greet us.

Arriving at the campsite, it would have been criminal to waste the late afternoon sun. We managed a three-hour walk down the Hooker Valley which included two glacial lakes, a couple of suspension bridges and several glaciers. Aoraki/Mt Cook (3,754m) towered above us. Apparently, the mountain lost 20 metres of its height following a rock avalanche in 1991.

We're keeping our fingers crossed for better weather tomorrow. We'd like to walk up to the Mueller Hut and Mt Ollivier for great views of some of the highest mountains in New Zealand. We were supposed to be up there today, but the weather got the better of us again.