Glacier Experience Course Details | Summer 2017


The Glacier Experience Course is Alpine Guides' late-summer mountain training program. This 5 day mountaineering course provides an in-depth introduction (or refresher) to glacier travel, route-finding, and crevasse rescue techniques - finishing with a peak.

The course is ideal for climbers needing a refresher, or for aspirant climbers looking for safe travel skills for serious glaciated mountain terrain.

The focus of the course is modern roped glacier travel techniques and crevasse rescue systems. However, if time allows we won't turn down the chance to ice climb on the icefall seracs.

The course will usually culminate with climbing a peak.

All instruction takes place in the serious mountain environment of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. The preferred course venues are Kelman Hut or Tasman Saddle Hut above the Tasman Glacier, or Plateau Hut at the Grand Plateau on the Mount Cook massif.

The Glacier Experience Course is not about pushing your climbing technique, but we expect participants to have basic competence with crampon and ice axe. For example, from alpine pass crossings, and non-technical winter ascents. Experience should be similar or better than the level our Mountain Experience Course (MEC) provides.

We aim to finish the course on a high, with the ascent of a peak like Hochstetter Dome (2,827 metres) or the Anzacs (2,528 metres).

Aircraft access and egress is used to optimise the training time available. This also allows us to gain exceptionally good instructional venues, and reduces heavy load carrying. Each day’s activities will usually run for 8-10 hours, although longer and more strenuous days can be involved.

What You Will Learn

Crevasse rescue training.

Topics covered on your course include:

  • Roping for glacier travel
  • Safe travel and route finding
  • Crevasse rescue and self rescue systems including: prusiking, assisted hoist, 6:1 drop loop, 3:1 and 6:1 Z-pulley systems
  • Equipment, what to bring and how to use it
  • Trip planning and preparation
  • Knots and hitches for mountaineering
  • Snow and ice ice anchors
  • Rope management
  • Emergency shelters
  • Mountain weather, and forecasting
  • Mountain navigation
  • Hut management, and food preparation

Price and Inclusions | 2017

Cost: NZ$2,750 per person

The course fee includes:

  • Guiding fees
  • Alpine Guides Technical Manual (92 pages) 
  • All meals (including snacks and energy bars) 
  • Aircraft access and exit flights
  • Hut fees
  • Local transport 
  • A range of technical equipment 
  • Local accommodation for any nights necessary during the course 

Maximum and Minimum Bookings

The course is limited to a maximum of 8 participants. The maximum guide to participant ratio is 1:4.

Minimum Bookings

The course is based on a minimum of 2 participants.

If only one person books we will cancel the course with a full refund. Alternatively you have the option of participating on a 1:1 basis with your guide - priced at NZ$4.900.

We will keep you informed if other bookings have not been made inside of 3 weeks of departure.

Reporting Details

The course starts at 08:30 and finishes at 17:00 on the final day. See the travel page for public transport to Mount Cook. Please report to Alpine Guides office in Mt Cook Village 

Private Courses

Route finding in glaciated terrain.

If the course format, or the dates do not work for you, contact us about arranging a private course 

Private trips can be arranged at any time over the summer months (November - April) for groups of 2 or more people. You can choose dates (subject to guide availability), and tailor the content to better fit your specific requirements.

Experience Required

Crampon and Axe Skills

Prior technical alpine (snow and ice) mountaineering experience is not required but basic axe and crampon skills are essential. Experience can either be through:

  • A introductory mountaineering course - for example the Mountain Experience Course (MEC)
  • Recreational experience on alpine pass crossings, winter mountain ascents, or other snow and ice mountaineering
Rope Skills

The course involves learning some complex rope systems. Without prior rope-handling experience the course will present too steep a learning curve. Any rope skills from caving, abseiling, or rescue work are transferable.

You should:

  • Know basic climbing knots (e.g. Figure-8, Clove Hitch, Italian Hitch)
  • Be familiar with tying into and using a harness
  • Able to operate a belay device and belay a partner
A good level of aerobic fitness is required

Previous hiking/trekking experience and the ability to carry a moderate backpack each day is expected.

Read more about fitness for mountaineering.

Mountain Hut Venues

The course will normally be based out of a mountain hut at Grand Plateau or Tasman Saddle. These are fantastic venues (easily accessible by air) that offer complex glaciated landscapes, and a number of snow and ice ascents.

Tasman Saddle and Grand Plateau are slightly east of the Main Divide. It is often possible to be out climbing here when the parties at West Coast venues (just kilometres away) are hut-bound due to bad weather from the west.

To optimise your time the course will fly in and out. Depending on weather and conditions, other venues may be considered.

Read more about mountain hut living conditions. 

Course Daily Organisation

When dealing with a dynamic environment it is not realistic to plan fixed day-to-day schedules. Instead we work around prevailing weather and snow conditions to provide the most comprehensive coverage of all the course topics.

After meeting your teammates, the first morning involves an outline of the course and an equipment check. If there is time some initial instruction of roping-up for glacier travel will be covered.

  • You fly in to the mountains at the first possible opportunity, usually by 11 am. Expect to be in the mountains for up to 4 nights of the course.
  • The first day will involve getting established at your hut, roping up for travel, and a basic snow-safety instruction refresher.
  • Instructional days will begin at around 07:00. Most day's activities will have you out for 8 to 10 hours.
  • During any poor weather you will be busy with rope skills, theory, and practical - using instruction venues close to the hut.

Weather permitting the course will finish with an ascent on the final morning. We aim to have you back in Mount Cook Village by mid-afternoon on the final day.

Equipment and Clothing | Glacier Experience Course

Please let us know what gear you need to rent - including any equipment supplied free of charge.

Choosing your clothing | Seasonal Variation

Our gear lists cater for all eventualities. Sometimes you may not require everything on the equipment list. Weather and conditions when your trip starts will help determine what is needed.

Temperatures, weather, and snow conditions will vary. The program is designed to work around these changes.

Read more about seasonality, weather, and snow conditions here.

Make a Booking

We require a deposit of NZ$1,000 and completed booking form for each person.