01.02.2018 - 28.12.2018
Upon landing in Queenstown, more or less the extreme sports capital of the south island, we picked up our new home not far from the airport. Here it is in all its glory, along with yours truely. The picture was taken at a different spot.
We think the company was goofing on us by giving us a van with that title, as we were probably the only "old ones," ever to use a Wicked Van. We tried to exchange it for an upgraded and bigger model, but alas, they were sold out as we were there during peak season. No fridge, no curtains, nearly bald tires, a tiny and hard bed, a butane stove that had to be used outside. You get the idea. It was a beat up very mini-van. The one saving grace, as peviously mentioned, was that it was automatic.
Here is a pic with our sleeping bags laid out
At any rate, we stopped just outside of town, did a big shop, and then headed out towards Mt. Cook.
As you probably know, Mt. Cook is the highest and most heavily glaciated peak in New Zealand. Made famous by Sir Edmond, it was his training ground prior to climbing Everest in the early 50's. It is a highly technical peak, and so our plan was to hike part of the way up and spend the night at the Mueller Hut, 5500 feet elevation.
We arrived late afternoon and were lucky to get a camping spot in the national park. By the time we cooked dinner, the weather had already deteriorated and a cold rain began to fall. The next morning it was still raining hard and the mountain was totally socked in. Luckily our hut reservation was for the following day, and so we donned rain gear and went for a hike up to one of the glacier lakes.
It looks a bit sunny here, but I must have taken this pic at a rare moment
Despite our fancy assed rain gear, we were both soaked after a few hours of hiking. A harbinger of things to come on the Milford Trek. Luckily the park had lodge with a pub, and so we spent the rest of the afternoon imbibing and eating junk food.
The next day dawned clear, and so we were ready to take on the hike up to the hut, not something to be done in bad weather. The trail gains 3 or 4000 vertical feet in less than 4 miles and is quite steep.The first part consists of over 2000 high steps constructed of timbers, then a big boulder field, until the last stretch of relatively flat rocks along the edge of deep ravine to the hut.
Here is Bill starting out on the steps
Looking into the valley at the start of the hike
A flat section near the top of the boulder field
Looking down at some hikers past the boulder field
Rounding the top of the trail near the ravine
It began to get very windy here, and getting around this corner to the final stretch up tp the hut was not easy.
Here is a full shot of the ravine
By this time our beautiful day was gone and some weather had started to move in.
Finally, the hut appeared.
When I arrived the skies were spitting grappel and the hut was rattling with gale force winds. Using the outhouse, not pictured, was quite the adventure. It was maybe 50 feet from the hut and was up on a platform with 15 or 20 steps. Negotiating that in the wind, and later in the dark, and cranking open the door, held closed with a large metal bar was difficult.
Nonetheless the hut was full, as people went about preparing their dinner meal. It was cold. No woodstove. A basic quonset shelter, but with the wind, I certainly wouldn't have wanted to be in a tent.
I took a short walk around in the late afternoon and was startled by the crack of a snow slide on the far side of the ravine.
Hiker against the sky, close to dusk
Unfortunately the summit of Mt. Cook never came into view. Always in the clouds, which is probably more the norm.
After a rather uncomfortable night sleeping like sardines on a large wooden platform, the wind finally died down by the morning.
Nearby peaks in the morning
Getting back down was just as difficult as getting up. Those steps and rocks were murder on these old knees.