Core Mountain Skills (CMS)

Learn the skills and gain the knowledge to travel independently in the mountains on Alpine Guides' summer introductory-level mountaineering course.

Core Mountain Skills is based in Mt Cook National Park New Zealand. This 5-day course will teach you the essential skills of climbing and mountain travel and how to camp/bivouac in an alpine environment. You will come away prepared for your own adventures, or ready to take up a more technical challenge.

A Complete Introduction

No prior knowledge of rope systems or mountaineering is required. You need a high level of aerobic fitness for pack carrying, so a background in hiking/tramping is crucial.

The CMS also covers all the syllabus of our one-day Tune-up clinic.

The CMS is ideal training for:
  • High altitude technical trekking in Nepal/Tibet
  • General mountaineering and alpine travel, anywhere in the world
  • Non-technical alpine pass crossings
  • Undertaking a future Alpine Skills Course (ASC)

See our Course Progression Chart

Summer Mountaineering

The CMS is a 'late-season' version of our Mountain Experience Course, adapted to better suit the conditions you will likely experience from mid-summer.

Later in summe the snowpack is at its minimum extent. It is not realistic to expect to spend all your time on snow and ice. Although we will teach axe and crampons skills, there is a greater focus on:

  • General mountaineering skills
  • Basic rock climbing technique
  • Ridge travel and scrambling
  • Route selection
  • Navigation
  • Bivvying and camping

Flexibility - the key to success in the mountains

Like the MEC, the Core Mountain Skills course's great strength is flexibility of objectives. We are not locked in to one hut, one location, or a particular mountain venue. We adapt each course to take best advantage of prevailing conditions at Mt Cook, or further afield.


Instruction topics include:

  • Equipment - what to bring and how to use it
  • Climbing on different terrain
  • Alpine camping/bivvying
  • Introduction to rock climbing
  • Route finding and awareness of terrain

Experience required:

  • High level of aerobic fitness
  • Hiking / tramping experience
  • Able to carry a up to a 15 kg pack for 4 to 5 hours continuously