Ice Climbing Experience (ICE) Details | Winter 2017


Alpine Guides Ice Climbing Experience is an adventurous week of water-ice climbing. The ICE caters to beginners thru to more technical trips for advanced or experienced ice climbers, who want to learn to lead on multi-pitch steep ice.

The ICE strikes a balance between instruction of ice climbing techniques and practical climbing - in real mountain situations.

We run the ICE as a climbing ‘safari’. Rather than have one fixed location we take advantage of the best climbing conditions available, between our base at Aoraki Mount Cook and the Remarkables at Queenstown.

Bush Stream is just a 15-minute drive and short helicopter flight from our Mount Cook base. Wye Creek is only 2.5 hours south, and we know many locations tucked into shady valleys between these.

We helicopter in to the venue of choice, and will spend up to 4 nights camping out. The icefalls are a few hundred metres from your cosy campsite – an easy hike after a good breakfast. Helicopters into our campsites optimise the climbing time available, and reduce heavy load carrying.

While the emphasis of the course is on technical ice climbing, you will also gain an awareness of different types of alpine terrain, and we can look at topics like weather, avalanche forecasting, and survival skills in a winter environment.

On the scheduled ICE you can expect to be climbing on water-ice, graded from 2 up to 4. Some of these routes may be multi-pitch, especially for more experienced participants.

Scheduled Courses

Our scheduled ICE courses are ideal for beginner ice climbing enthusiasts. You can also arrange a private course if our set dates do not work for you.

Private & Advanced Courses

For experienced alpinists and ice climbers the private course option is recommended.

Private courses can run at any date to suit your travel plans through July and August - the most reliable period for water ice.

Advantages of Private ICE courses:

  • Dates to suit your travel plans (subject to guide availability)
  • Tailored to your level of experience
  • Perfect for experienced climbers, with a focus on lead and multi-pitch climbing
  • Ratios from 1:1 to 1:4

Experience Required

The ICE is ideal for enthusiastic, fit people with a sport climbing background, or some alpine climbing experience. Experienced climbers looking at leading ice should consider the private course option.

All participants must:

  • Have rock climbing experience - be able to second to grade AU 15
  • Have a high level of aerobic fitness 
  • Be used to carrying a backpack
  • Prior alpine (snow and ice) mountaineering experience is not essential

No matter the level, you need to be motivated, and keen to learn new skills. Lastly, you need to be happy to tent camp for several days during winter.

What you will learn

The ICE teaches modern ice climbing technique. As well as developing your climbing ability, you will learn how to place ice protection in different conditions, and how set up safe belay stations.

The fist pitches will be shorter and more laid back. As you develop your technique and confidence, your guide will select more challenging ascents - possibly multi-pitch, depending on your experience and aspirations.

Instruction topics can include:

  • Equipment, what to bring and how to use it
  • Trip planning and preparation
  • Ice climbing (and climbing on snow approaches)
  • Use of technical ice tools
  • Knots and hitches
  • Belay techniques and systems
  • Ice, snow, and rock anchors
  • Abseiling
  • Rope techniques
  • Camp management, food preparation

Because your camping location is in the backcountry, basic avalanche theory and rescue may be covered as part of the syllabus. This can include:

  • Avalanche hazard evaluation
  • Trip planning and preparation
  • Mountain weather and forecasting
  • Route finding
  • Mountain navigation
  • Emergency shelters and procedures

Price and Inclusions | Winter 2017

Scheduled Course Cost: NZ$2,275 per person
Private Course Costs

All prices are per-person - in New Zealand Dollars.


  • Guiding fees and access fees
  • Alpine Guides technical manual 
  • All meals (including snacks and energy bars)
  • Helicopter flights in and out of Bush Stream or a helicopter flight in to Wye Creek (walk out, or fly out at additional cost)
  • Local transport 
  • A range of technical equipment 
  • Camping equipment
  • Local accommodation for any nights necessary during the course (and final night)
  • One day weather contingency 

Other locations may be possible to walk in out of, or require helicopter access/egress. Your guide will discuss the options at the initial course briefing

Maximum and Minimum Bookings

All scheduled ICE’s are limited to a maximum of 4 participants. The maximum guide to participant ratio is 1:4.

Scheduled Course Minimum Bookings

We guarantee to run the course you are booked on, with the following modification:

  • One person only: we shorten the course to 4 days

The course content remains unaffected by these changes and you will enjoy instruction ratios of 1:1. This allows the theory to be covered more quickly, and a quicker progression with close personal attention.

You also have the choice of moving to another course date, or the option of a refund.

Reporting Details

All ICE courses begin at 08:30 and finish at 17:00 on the final day. Please report to Alpine Guides base in Mt Cook Village 

Check transport options to Mount Cook Village. 

Start Location for Private Courses
We will discuss the start location on booking, if you do not have a preference to the venue we will start at Mount Cook.

Weather Contingency

A one-day weather contingency is built into the course (at no cost to you). Please allow some flexibility in your travel plans to allow for this.

How the contingency works: If we face a particularly bad weather forecast when you arrive to start the course, we can take the option of rolling the start date back by one day. This allows us to take best advantage of upcoming fine weather, and your time.

Course Daily Organisation

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

After meeting your teammates your guide will run through the expected weather and plan for the week, and discuss venue options.

Following an equipment check, you fly in to your climbing venue at the first possible opportunity (after a short drive). Expect to be in the mountains for up to 4 nights of the course.

Instructional days will begin around 08:00. The day’s activities will have you out for about 8 hours. Your guide will attempt to maximise fine weather and good conditions.

Poor weather will be used to cover more theoretical aspects of the syllabus, or to take advantage of instructional sites closer to your camp.

On scheduled courses we aim to have you back in Mount Cook village by late afternoon on the final day.

Course Venues

The ICE safari can run at a number of locations. Our preferred sites are at the head of Bush Stream or Wye Creek.

Bush Stream is only 14 kms from Mount Cook Village. We helicopter to our base campsite at an altitude of around 1,200 to 1,500 metres. This is about 4 hours on foot from road access.

This area has only been recently explored for ice climbing, and generally you will have the valley to yourselves. There are 18 named routes; 6 on the south side of the valley and 12 on the northern side. Route grades range from water ice 2 to water ice 5.

Bush Stream is part of a high country pastoral lease. Parties seeking to climb here need to seek permission from the run holders at Glentanner Station


Wye Creek is one of NZ’s best and most notable ice climbing venues, as well as one of the most reliable.

In the valley itself there are over 20 routes, ranging from WI 2 to WI 5, and plenty of mixed routes to entertain you.

Also in the Remarkables, Alta Cirque is a 45 minute walk from the Remakables ski area base buildings. This has at least 3 good ice climbs, and 4 more on the South Face, a 1.5 hour hike from the ski area.

If using Wye Creek we include the cost of helicopter access. The cost of a flight out is additional.

To maintain the state of the camping areas we carry out all waste at the end of each course.

Technical Ice Climbing Reference

Not required reading, but we recommend:
“Ice & Mixed Climbing: Modern Technique”, Will Gad, The Mountaineers Books, 2003

See more recommended reading here.

Equipment and Clothing

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

Ice Axes for ICE

Choose a short technical axe. Either straight or curved handles, around 50 cm length with a re-curved pick is ideal. For example Black Diamond “Viper”, DMM “Fly”, or similar.

Crampons for ICE

Old-style "Foot-fang" technical crampons (e.g. DMM "Terminator", or Grivel "Rambo 4") are appropriate for this course. General purpose 12-point crampons (with longer fangs) e.g. Grivel G12 are also adequate.

Choosing your clothing and equipment

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.

Always pack for cold conditions on the ICE course. A 4-season sleeping bag, down jacket, and heavy grade thermal layers are required.

Make a Booking

Book online here using a credit card or by bank deposit

  • For private courses please ensure you have talked to us about guide availability.
  • We require a deposit of NZ$1,000 and completed booking form for each person.