Taken from the Mueller Hut in Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park on May 16, 2016.
There are three things that can get you into trouble when you’re playing in the mountains. The first is overconfidence in your abilities for the terrain. The second is not being prepared in terms of equipment. And the final thing is changing weather. A lot of times you can work through one of those issues and be alright. But when those things start to collide and you have cascading failures, that’s where you can get into a serious situation.
That was exactly what happened when my friend Jessica and I decided to hike to the Mueller Hut in Aoraki / Mt. Cook National Park in New Zealand in May of 2016. The Southern Alps were getting blasted by storm after storm, making trekking difficult, but when we spied a 24-hour break in the weather forecast we decided to head up to the hut. Unfortunately for us the break turned out to be much shorter than we expected and brought much colder temperatures with it, including two days of blizzard conditions.
To make a long story short, we ended up being stranded in the hut for three days, ran out of food, and built a mattress fort to stay warm. In addition I also missed my flight back home to the US. After those three days of enduring the battering of this storm, the accompanying winds, thunderclaps, and avalanches, we woke up our final morning in the hut to extraordinary calm and clear skies. We walked outside to find three feet of fresh snow blanketing the surrounding countryside, and some of the most intense alpenglow I’ve ever seen igniting the atmosphere.
That, along with the news that the Department of Conservation was sending a helicopter to extract us from the hut (we couldn’t descend the hiking route due to extreme avalanche danger), led to a profound Hallelujah moment.