Hiking in New Zealand is an exciting adventure for many travelers. I’ve hiked mountains before but this is the first time I actually climbed UP one, hands and all.

Don’t let the epic photos fool you. I cried like a baby on the way up AND down. It wasn’t easy and, to be honest, didn’t seem totally worth it in the end. But it was an EXPERIENCE, and that’s what we travelers are looking for, aren’t we?

If you want to climb to a mountain hut and stay overnight at the top, you probably should. And if you are only doing it because your partner wants to, you should probably do it anyway. If you don't go you'll be filled with regrets as you hear how "absolutely incredible” it was.

My partner and I hiked to Mueller’s Hut at Mt. Cook, this is how it went and how you can do it too...

The hike

It’s quoted as four hours up and three hours down. That wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't a straight incline.

It all starts with a shady, gravel path but quickly becomes a series of ominous staircases and eventually, a barely-there path of loose rocks and near-vertical climbs.

Though, the glacial views softened the struggle. As we neared the top the cold weather took over and helped my body literally chill out from overheating. It took us about 5 hours of multiple snack breaks, removing and putting back on clothing and near mental breakdowns (my own of course) before finally seeing that savior of a hut in the distance.

While the hike back down the next day was supposed to be three hours (and much easier), I found it even more intense. There were huge gusts of wind, even more falling and legs that turned into completely useless, rubbery stumps about halfway down.

I thought about just laying there and waiting for search and rescue to come helicopter me out, but it was too cold to think about completely stopping. My partner, Josh, nearly broke his tail bone pulling a small, dead tree out of the ground so that I could use it as a walking stick. I made it, even though I still couldn’t walk right nearly 5 days later.

Staying at Mueller’s Hut

Mueller’s Hut was made up of five rooms, two being the dorms, one was the warden’s room, one was the kitchen and living space and one for shoes and wet clothing.

There were two drop toilet facilities outside and a large stock of drinking water. The dorms each had 20 beds that were 10 on top of 10, with mattresses right next to each other as well as a cubby to put bags. The kitchen had some pots and pans and stoves for cooking as well.

While we were given warning that there would be severe weather, we still decided to make the trek. Many others had canceled their bookings making it just enough people for some socializing, but not enough to fill all the beds. It was great because it meant we didn’t have to cuddle up to strangers.

Most of the visitors went outside to take photos and climb around the peaks. Once the sun went down, a group stayed in the living area to play the guitar and card games. Since I'm not one for games, don’t really appreciate sing-alongs with strangers and wasn't feeling especially social, I put on every piece of clothing I had, got into my sleeping bag and curled up into the fetal position, hoping to make the best use possible of all of my body heat.

Throughout the night I woke to massive gusts of winds rattling the hut and was waiting for it to collapse into itself. And, I definitely held in my pee way longer than was healthy in order to avoid going outside in such a storm.

Our plans of waking up early to head back down the mountain disappeared as we all waited around until 2 pm the next day for the rain and winds to die down.

How to book a stay at Mueller’s Hut

If you want to book your stay at Mueller’s hut, it’s best to make a booking at least three days ahead as there are only 40 beds and it tends to get filled up. To book your spot, you can visit the Department of Conservation website and pay online here.

How to check in before the hike

Before heading up the mountain, you must check-in for your hike. Here you'll receive weather information and pick up the slip you need to give to the hut warden. The check-in can be done at the Aoraki/ Mt. Cook National Park Visitor Center, about a three-minute drive from the actual hiking start point.

What to do with your stuff/car

You'll leave your vehicle in the parking lot that resides at the base of all Mt. Cook hikes, about a three-minute drive from the visitor’s center. If you are worried about leaving valuables in your car overnight, there's a youth hostel down the road from the Visitor’s Center that rents out lockers for $4.

What to pack

A list for essentials is available when you check-in at Mueller's Hut. However, to be prepared before the actual hike, here are a few useful items:

  • Sturdy hiking boots (I did it in running shoes and I fell plenty of times and found it difficult)
  • Waterproof pants or comfortable leggings
  • A wind breaker
  • Hat
  • Scarf
  • Gloves
  • Warm socks
  • A complete change of clothes
  • Cans of food, snacks, fruit
  • 3 liters of water
  • Hiking poles
  • A book, cards, drawing pad or anything to keep you busy
  • Flashlight
  • Warm jacket
  • Sleeping bag
  • Cooking utensils

Guide to Hiking To Mueller’s Hut at Mt. Cook, New Zealand - @LivesAbroad1 #travel

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What to do after the hike

Upon finishing the hike, head back to the visitors center to return your slip. That'll assure the search and rescue team that you got off of the mountain safely.

Ours blew away in the wind and we got a phone call, text message and a worried Facebook message from our emergency contact so make sure you let someone know you're OK!


Even though the hike was difficult for me and challenged me on many levels, the overall adventure was worth it especially with the breathtaking pictures that came with it.

What do you think, would you ever do this hike?

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Images: Provided by author

This post originally appeared on Lives Abroad and has been republished with permission.