Snearly There – Sealy Tarns Track

“On a Mish” #193 Snearly There. Sealy Tarns. Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. 26.12.2014. Along with the picnic tables beside the tarns, there have been nearly 2,000 hiking aids created so just about anyone with two working legs (or prosthetics) can enjoy the view from Sealy Tarns in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. When I say hiking aids I am referring to the incredible network of steps and track that has been built into the east side of Mt Ollivier(1933m). The top of the track seems to take forever, but for those who take their time the rewards are incredible…

The track to the group of tarns (alpine lakes) was a good training run for me when I was living / guiding in Aoraki/Mt Cook Village. When quads, calves and glutes are screaming you have to keep telling yourself that you are nearly there and the prize (on a clear day) is better than any trophy, cup or certificate of completion.

During my time in profound beauty I was visited by my parents. Their trip to the village was during the 2014 Christmas season, and the village was so busy there was no accommodation available in the few hotels, motels and hostels. Plan B was for them to use my little flat while I slept in my van in our staff accommodation car park. Even the car park had world class views!

Arriving on Christmas day like Santa we enjoyed an excellent meal at the Panorama Restaurant in the Hermitage Hotel. And then later that evening we visited the Tasman Glacier Lake for a moonlit hike we will never forget.

Early-ish the next day (Boxing Day) we awoke to a stunning bluebird day, and the promise of warm temperatures into the thirties (celsius). Heat is as much of an enemy to the hiker as the cold. Lots of people venture out prepared for icy cold conditions, however the heat can be just as dangerous..

After breakfast we made our way to the very busy White Horse Campsite, where finding a park was the first challenge of our mish. The next part of the tale may be disputed by a certain person, but luckily for me I have a witness in the form of my very trustworthy mother…

After parking up and heading towards the glacial mass of Mt Sefton on the Sealy Tarns / Kea Point Track, Jeremy decided he would push on ahead. Knowing what was ahead of us, I was happy to walk with my mother at a more sedate pace. The sun was brutal and when there is nowhere to hide going slow is a MUST.

We hadn’t seen Jeremy for about 45 minutes or so then, after rounding a corner we saw him ‘waiting’ for us. Before we could get to where he was sitting, confusingly he began to hike back towards us. It turned out that he had used up all of his grunt while climbing the staircase. The result of too fast plus too hot with the added factor of no water was heat stroke. A nasty condition to develop while walking.In his uncomfortable state he said he was happy to wait for us in a shady spot on the track, while we kept hiking up to the tarns (he didn’t!).

After giving him the tiniest bit of sympathy we continued on, making sure we took our time and kept drinking water.

The vista seen from Sealy Tarns made our sweaty effort easily worth it. Mighty Aoraki / Mt Cook(3724m) stood proudly overlooking his magical mountainous kingdom and around New Zealand’s highest peak stood Aoraki’s brothers, frozen as rock and ice for eternity.

After taking in the epicness and having a little rest we trekked back down the many, many stairs to the busy White Horse Hill car park. It was here we found a much happier looking Jeremy. He was mid way through powering down his third bottle of cool water and now looked less red than when we last saw him. A lesson was learnt but some had to suffer more than others. Beware of heat stroke hiking whanau. Even if you are (s)nearly there it will stop you dead in your tracks. Just ask my father!

View from Sealy Tarns

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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