Total elapsed time for Sealy Tarn & Tasman Glacier Lake trips: 5h:30m
Walking time: Sealy Tarn 3h:30m return (2h:30m if fit)
Tasman Glacier Lake 30-40m return
Weather: Fine and sunny 15°C
There are a number of worthwhile walks from or near Mt Cook Village. Obviously weather and fitness levels are important considerations. So long as you're sensible, seek and listen to good advice you should be safe.
For us it was a toss up between the Sealy Tarn or the Hooker Valley walk. The weather was superb. Having been a bit lazy lately, the fitness level was only moderate but talk of fellow hostel guests about the Mueller Hut swayed us to head for the Sealy Tarn and see if we could go on to the Mueller Hut from there.
Up to the Sealy Tarn
Well we sure took the challenging option. The track was STEEP. Eventually it came to taking a few paces and taking a breather. The views of the valley below and Mt Cook in the distance were enough to fuel us on.
After a couple of hours the small lake of Sealy Tarn appeared. Time for lunch, more photos and contemplation of what to do next. The next push up toward the Mueller Hut looked even steeper. Shall we, shan't we ...
Time was becoming a factor, got to get to Wanaka tonight. Got to see the Tasman Glacier. Let's go back.
Going down was a lot easier and quicker than going up but the upper thighs were where the strain showed itself. Got back to the signpost at the bottom in about 3 1/2 hours which (allowing 1/2 an hour for for lunch) is what it said on the sign. Another 10 or 15 minutes on the flat back to the car park. Magic.
Abel Tasman Glacier Lake
A couple of minutes drive South of Mt Cook Village is the access road to the Tasman Glacier Lake (Tasman Valley Road). This is a very dusty road if it hasn't rained recently but is an essential leg of any visit to Mt Cook. At the end of the road (maybe 15 minutes drive) is a carpark and a DOC shelter. From the carpark we walked up to the viewing point of the Glacier Lake. Though it's probably only about 20 minutes moderately uphill, the earlier walk up to Sealy Tarn made it a bit more of a workout for certain recently unused muscles.
The area could be described as desolate. A strong cold wind blows down the valley adding to the bleakness. By December the ice has melted on the lake leaving some icebergs behind. These look like rocks in the lake at first, being covered in the alpine dust. There are two other smaller lakes - the Blue Lakes - visible from the viewing point and these can be accessed by a track. Apparently you can swim there in summer if you dare.
Those with the time could also consider the walk up toward the foot of the Tasman Glacier - known as the Ball Shelter Route. Its 3-4 hours to the hut but be aware of the safety implications of this trip. (Check at the Visitor Centre)
next day - on to Queenstown