50 Years Experience, 1966-2016
The age of mountain guiding at Mount Cook began with the establishment of the first Hermitage Hotel in 1890, and reached its peak between the world wars. The profession all but expired after WW2. Demand fell as belts were tightened. New Zealand, through post-war austerity and necessity, became a DIY nation. Most training, if there was any, became the territory of the mountain clubs.
In Aoraki Mount Cook the former Chief Guide Harry Ayres became the first Chief Ranger of the very new Mount Cook National Park in 1953. As a result, former guides were suddenly government employees and professional guiding ceased for some time.
Alpine Instruction Ltd. 1966
In the early 1960s a number of accidents involving overseas climbers of questionable experience prompted a re-think of the need for high level instruction in mountaineering, specifically for the unique conditions of Aoraki Mount Cook.
In 1966 three young Christchurch-based mountaineers, Lynn Crawford, Peter Farrell and Bruce Jenkinson, as well as Australian Geoff Wyatt, realised there was a niche for professional mountain tuition. They founded Alpine Instruction Ltd to 'rekindle' the golden age of professional guiding.
The first trip was 6-10 December 1966. Aat Vervoorn guided Peter Wagner to Tasman Saddle, with an ascent of Hochstetter Dome, and ‘7/8ths of Elie de Beaumont'.
Alpine Instruction boasted the names of legendary guides Mick Bowie and Harry Ayes, and also Edmund Hillary on their list of “reputable, expert advisors”. The guides ranged widely from Mount Cook to the West Coast, with climbers, skiers, and even hunters as guests. Many of their missions would not at all be possible in our more regulated times!
Mount Cook to 'Aoraki' - 1971-2000
As instruction widened into guiding, the business became Alpine Guides (Mount Cook) Ltd in 1971, and was subsequently owned by larger businesses, until being bought by guides Bryan Carter and Kevin Boekholt in 2000 – forming Alpine Guides (Aoraki) Ltd.
Over 50 years we’ve seen the establishment of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, the NZ Guides Association being affiliated with the IFMGA, and many other NZ guiding outfits have come and gone.
In 2016 the effects of climate change are biting ever deeper into our precious glaciated landscape. This is probably the biggest challenge we face going into the 21st Century.
A Reputation for Excellence
From its inception AGL established a reputation for high standards and industry-leading practice. It fought hard to raise training levels and establish standards consistent with international levels. We began ski guiding in the mid 1970's, with heliskiing now a major recreational industry in NZ.
in 2016 we are more diverse than ever, but mountain guiding is still the core of our business.
Our 50th year is a time to celebrate the trust and experience earned through generations of profound, thoughtful dedication to safety and professionalism. In these times of rapid change experience is a rare commodity that should be embraced.
Some things have not changed with time. The 1970 Alpine Instruction brochure states: “On no course will (the ratio) be so high as to forbid earnest attention to every pupil…”
We'll stand by that for the next 50 years.