The Wonders of Winter (Part One) – Mueller Hut / Mt Ollivier(1933m)

“On a Mish” #8 The Wonders of Winter (Part One). Mueller Hut / Mt Ollivier(1933m). 26.7.2012. By the winter of 2012 I was fully into the swing of going out into the snow on a mish. The wonders of a frozen environment had captivated me so much that I was happy to suit up and brave the below zero temperatures in order to get, not only a couple of epic photos, but to also a sense of connection to the land. It’s as if the weather has done its best to warn off any warm-blooded creatures, and the few who ignore the warnings are rewarded with the wild wonders of a white winter…

Thanks to friends, films and flipping through books, I knew the mountains in winter could be dangerous. Because of this I attended a couple of excellent courses, one being a winter backcountry travel course in Aoraki / Mt Cook. The views lit the flame inside me and it wasn’t long before the fire was doused with petrol.

Winter had taken over the interior of the South Island, dumping snow down to the level of Aoraki / Mt Cook Village. This was where I wanted to head, and on this mish I was joined by my friend from France. Our plan was to head up to a very snowy Mueller Hut, but first we would enjoy a night of luxury in the Hermitage Hotel.

After our night at the hotel it was time to venture towards the more mountainous settings of Mueller Hut in the mighty Sealy Range.

Due to the wintery conditions we checked in at the village DoC Center to see if they knew what the track to the hut was like, and to also check in for safety’s sake. The staff were very helpful and, after seeing the records of the many fatalities in the area, we knew that playing it safe was just as important as soaking in the epic views.

Excitement levels were now higher than ever. We had now crossed our T’s and dotted our I’s so it was time to begin our winter wander.

The hike to the hut began with the many steps up to Sealy Tarns. To say the steps were just a warm up would be a slight over statement. The added weight of our pack meant the odd stop, and with each stop the views grew in grandeur. We were only about a third of the way and already our minds had been blown by the beauty.

Above the tarns we struck frozen slopes where crampons and ice axes were an absolute must. The section of track still sat in the shade and the snow underfoot was perfectly solid for the spikes. However, a slip would end with the end, so care with each step was a must.

We crossed the face and got onto and then around the north ridge of Mt Ollivier(1933m), and this put us on to the final part of the trek.

Now high in the Sealy Range, we had views of the many peaks of the Main Divide. Arguably the most impressive sight was the bulky ice mass of the east face of Mt Sefton(3151m). The tangle of glaciers would shed ice every now and then, and this meant the silence of the mountain erupted with the roar of giant blocks of ice crashing their way down to the Mueller Glacier many, many metres below.

Our legs were starting to get tired but, thanks to the sights and under the watch of Aoraki / Mt Cook, we were motivated to push on.

And then amongst the white snow and grey rock stood a large red box! Mueller Hut stood only a couple hundred metres away and in such a grand area we knew our day would be over once we got to the hut…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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