MT COOK/AORAKI

NZ’s highest mountain is more than twice the height of Ben Nevis. A wonder to behold when the sun shines, especially from a distance; non-existent when the clouds are in. The drive from Twizel was incredible. We enjoyed a short sunny evening walk before pitching tents at the campsite just outside the village. Clear skies and shooting stars; happy times.

The next day merited a longer hike up to Mueller Hut, 1000m ascent firstly up 2200 gruelling stairs and then up rocks and scree (on this occasion I forgot to request my regular No-Scree-Guarantee). We almost gave up near the top as the weather was bad but a reassuring Cumbrian man on the way told us it was just 20 minutes further to the hut. So we pushed on over the ridge and were greeted at the top by the hut warden who gave us smiles and a cup of tea, for which I could not have been more grateful. My happiness was somewhat tempered when I learnt that the frequent rumbling sounds we’d heard the night before and on the way up were avalanches in the neighbouring valleys. The walk down was less wet and the steps were useful on the way down, as was the opportunity to bum ski down some snow near the top. That evening the wind came first – 60km/hour – then the rain. Stayed dry in the tent, just about. The following day – New Year’s Eve – it rained and it rained and it rained. And then it rained some more.

The rain provided a good excuse to stop walking and instead eat, drink and be merry. The final meal of 2014 was ricotta and pine nut ravioli cooked from scratch (FROM SCRATCH) and plum and apple crumble.

The new year began for me in the traditional way – hungover, sleep deprived and slightly anxious. We walked it off up the Red Tarns track – a rather steep 300m ascent which felt a lot harder given the ‘conditions’. Incredible sunny views and a great way to start the year. I finished the day with a 40min trail run back up the Hooker Valley to the second swing bridge. I was not quite brave enough to run over both swing bridges, the level of bouncing this caused felt a little gratuitous.

Hooker Valley: 5km
Mueller Hut: 5.2km
Blue lakes: 3km
Red Tarns: 5km
Hooker Valley (part, again): 3.5km

Kilometer-o-meter: 171km

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