FAQ - In The Mountains
This section discusses mountain huts, mountain weather, altitude and communications.
For info on differences in seasons (snow conditions, temperatures, etc.) see the FAQ on Seasonal Variation.
One of the great advantages of climbing in the Mt Cook region is the Himalayan vertical scale, at relatively low elevations.
Mt Cook Village is at 760 metres (2,500 ft.). 29 mountains in the area rise above 3,000 metres (approx 10,000 ft.). Aoraki/Mount Cook is the highest at 3,724 metres (12,217 ft.).
Acclimatisation for climbing at these altitudes has usually not proved necessary. However, some people can experience initial breathlessness for a few hours after landing on one of the high glacier nevés, and occasionally above 3,000 metres.
Mountain Huts | What to Expect
In the mountains we base most trips from mountain huts maintained by the Department of Conservation or NZ Alpine Club. Huts are typically bolted down to rock outcrops above vast glaciers.
Alpine huts are fitted with a water supply, bunks, mattresses, blankets, benches, cooking utensils and VHF radios. Most huts have solar powered lighting. Some huts have LPG gas.
Most alpine huts in New Zealand are not heated. Warm jackets are recommended even in summer for the evenings, and be prepared for cool conditions during winter!
Alpine Guides provides all stoves and fuel for cooking, if required. Fuel is carried into the mountains at the start of each trip.
Plates and cooking utensils are supplied, as is cooking equipment. It is a good idea to bring along your own plastic drinking mug.
Most huts have a small library of magazines and books, and you are welcome to bring along a book or lightweight reading device (with a dry-bag container).
All participants are expected to assist with basic cooking and hut cleaning duties.
Personal hygiene in the hut
Your guide will take you through “hut etiquette”. Bathroom facilities are limited to an outside toilet. Loo paper is supplied. Care must be taken with hygiene, and water supply. There are no showers or formal washing facilities in the huts.
When washing most people use hand basins and (their own) washcloths. Use of antibacterial hand sanitiser is recommended. Clothes can be hand-washed.
Communication with the Outside World
In the mountains 2-way communication is possible, but communications can be limited at times. Think carefully about your trip if you are required to contact home regularly - this is not always possible.
You will be trained how to use radios, satellite phones, and EPIRB devices in the event that your guide is not able to call out.
VHF Radio | Mount Cook and Westland Areas
All guides carry handheld FM/VHF radios and regularly keep in touch with Alpine Guides base. Mountain Huts also have Department of Conservation radios installed. Messages can be relayed to you through your guide or the hut radio system.
Satellite Phone | In Other Mountain Areas
Outside of the Mt Cook region our guides carry a satellite phone and/or EPIRB. Satellite phones are usually only switched on when the guide needs to talk to base. This can mean a delay in communication. The guide will check regularly for TXT messages from base.
Cell Phone Coverage
Cell phone communication is limited in NZ Mountain areas. You can usually leave that particular burden of civilization back at base... On many high peaks (especially around the Main Divide) there is usually coverage to call home and boast about your achievements. At lower elevations, and in valley systems, signals are patchy (at best) or nonexistent.
Mount Cook Village has excellent coverage on all NZ cell networks.