Episode 9 - Mt Sealy N. Couloir & Sawyer Stream
The nitty gritty...
A feisty New Zealand frolic up to the Mueller Hut to ski tour the achingly aesthetic Mt Sealy North Couloir and exit via the Sawyer Stream.
Mt Cook National Park is certainly a place that delivers visual splendour by the brimming bucketload. One of the finest and easiest ways to gaze at Cook’s majestic flanks, is the popular hike up to the Mueller Hut. With the valley floor at 900m and a delightfully built, but never ending staircase, this makes the ascent to the snow line a piss easy undertaking, by New Zealand standards that is.
Anyhow, a gentleman’s early evening start saw the sole subject of her Britannic Majesty; this being me, the Swede; Sarah Lindstrom and the Yanks; Ryan Marvin and Tyson Rowley, bounding up the Sealy Tarns steps, skinning some crusty love and chowing down at the Mueller Hut just as dusk was descending into darkness. Drunk with the sheer bloody epic’ness of the view, we smashed some grub and had a good yarn with a swathe of the many fellow hut occupants. A delightful mix of hikers, mountaineers and ski tourers.
Rudely awoken by our 4am alarm clock, fruit was sliced, porridge consumed and before we knew it, we were skinning into the frigid inky black. Soon the landscape was bathed in the desaturated colours of pre dawn and we were throwing our skis on our backs, strapping on crampons and downclimbing a steep section of bulletproof snow. After alighting on a more pleasant gradient, the snow seemed too hard, even for ski crampons. So about an hour of plodding ensued, before we flopped onto the Annette Plateau, synchronized nicely with a seeping dawn and softening snow. From here we skinned towards Mt Sealy and its beautifully perfect looking North Couloir.
With the sun now rapidly rising, we were on a race with time to get to the top of the couloir, before its North Facing aspect turned it into a rock fall bowling alley. Conditions were great for climbing and we front pointed up the 300m meter couloir and arrived on top to savour the view.
With nice layer of corn now formed, the couloir skied superbly, with an average pitch of 45°, almost 50 in places and mellower at the bottom.
From here we skied over towards the Annete Plateau. Picked up Sarah who was having a lovely snooze in the sun and made our descent down the Sawyer Stream.
Now this run is usually an objective in itself from the Mueller Hut and with the great terrain on offer, it's easy to see why. That said to get from the bottom of Sawyer Stream back to Mt Cook Village, is pretty fucking heinous and involves some character building bushbashing, rock hopping and a naughty little 300m screen slope ascent. However the final walk down from Red Tarns to the village, is simply spectacular. And we arrived in good spirits, satisfied with an objective complete.