Life of a Hut Warden - Mueller

Recently I’ve been reflecting on a time where I found it easy to slow down, shed distractions and focus on the simple things that made me happy. For a week I was the volunteer warden of Mueller hut, a DOC backcountry hut at 1800m in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, New Zealand. Perched on a rocky ridge over Hooker Glacier and under the imposing glare of Mount Sefton, Mueller Hut is one of the more scenic huts I have stayed at.  

The day starts at dawn - when staying at Mueller Hut you want to be up before the sun rises over Mt Wakefield to the east. Seeing the first pink hues bathe the snow and ice cloaking Mt Sefton is majestical (no I don’t mean majestic). If you’re lucky the valley below will be thick with cloud, a blanket which belies the presence of the glacier below.

When the sun arrives the colour palette shifts from pastel pinks and mauves, to stark oranges and yellows. Mount Cook with its head hoisted high about the the other peaks sees the sun first and soon the whole range is shining yellow.

Throughout the days I looked for tahr and tarns with Lizzie, went running and scrambling to Sefton Bivvi, and relaxed in the comfort of my hut. The wardens quarters have a few more luxuries than the main hut - sofa, slippers, inspirational bookshelf, a couple of guitars and a desk. A desk with a view onto Mount Sefton opposite and its hanging glaciers. Sitting there I watched ice fall and read about basal slip and bergschrunds. Far from the valley below and its distractions I found time to draw and write. And watch the mischievous Kea of course.

When the rain did eventually roll in, the candlelit jamming sessions with other musicians staying in the hut began. There’s never a dull moment at Mueller Hut, one day perhaps I’ll return. For now the commemorative mug DOC gave me will have to do.

I use my film sparingly, especially during my year in NZ. During the week I spent at Mueller Hut I took 28 photos, on Kodak Gold 200 and Agfa Vista 200 film.