Technical Mountaineering Course Summer 2016/17 and 2017/18


The TMC is a complete introduction to climbing, living, and surviving in the mountains. The course will provide a kick-start to your climbing exploits.

All instruction takes place in the serious mountain environment of Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, although the course is flexible enough to move elsewhere for a few days should the weather become inhospitable. The skills you acquire on the TMC will take you readily into any other mountain range in the world.

Testimony to the TMC’s is it’s longevity. We have run this course with few changes for more than 30 years. Literally generations of Australasia’s best climbers started their careers on a TMC.

The primary strength of the course is the balance it strikes between instruction of techniques, and practical application - in realistic situations. The emphasis is on education, travel on, and awareness of all types of mountain terrain, not just purely technical climbing. We believe this is the most important element of your “mountain education”.

Aircraft access is used to optimise the climbing 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.

We aim to climb 2 or 3 peaks (progressively more technical summits), building on your knowledge, as you apply this to real-world situations.

What You Will Learn

Topics covered on your course include:

  • Equipment, what to bring and how to use it
  • Trip planning and preparation
  • Knots and hitches for mountaineering
  • Snow and Ice Climbing
  • Abseiling, belay techniques and systems
  • Snow, ice, and rock anchors
  • Step, and stance cutting
  • Alpine rock
  • Glacier travel and crevasse rescue
  • Route finding
  • Emergency shelters
  • Rope management
  • Mountain weather, and forecasting
  • Avalanche hazard evaluation introduction
  • First aid for mountaineering
  • Mountain navigation
  • Hut management, and food preparation

Price and Inclusions | 2016/17 and 2017/18

Cost: NZ$3,650 per person
The course fee includes:
  • Alpine Guides Technical Manual
  • All meals (including snacks and energy bars)
  • Aircraft flights into AND out of the mountains
  • Hut fees
  • Local transport
  • Free use of a range of technical equipment
  • Local accommodation for any nights necessary during the course

Maximum and Minimum Bookings

All TMCs are limited to a maximum of 8 participants. The maximum guide to participant ratio is 1:4.
Minimum Bookings

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

  • One person only: We shorten the course to 6 full days
  • 2 people only: We shorten the course to 7 full days

We think that shortening courses with low numbers, rather than cancelling them is the best service we can offer. This minimises any affects on your travel plans, and still provides a great mountaineering experience.

Smaller teams can cover instruction topics more quickly and efficiently than a larger group. There is a better chance to climb bigger peaks.

With one person you will not be able to lead climb, but will have opportunities to tackle serious ascents with your guide that regular courses with higher ratios cannot.

If your course is shortened we may move the start time of your course, but within the scheduled course dates. If your course is shortened we will discuss this with you well in advance of the start date.

Reporting Details

All TMC’s begin at 13:30 on day one and finish at 12:00 on the final day. It is a 9-day course, but spans 10 days. Please report to Alpine Guides office in Mt Cook Village.

Check on public transport options to Mount Cook.

Private Courses

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

Private TMC's can be arranged at any time over the summer months (mid-October through April) for groups of 2 or more people. You can choose dates, duration, and tailor the content to your specific requirements (subject to guide availability).

See the "Private Instruction" package for our tailored group instruction options and details.

Experience Required

The TMC is a great follow-up to our Mountain Experience Course (MEC). Course participants often have longer-term ambitions for future independent mountaineering.

Technical skills required

Prior alpine (snow and ice) mountaineering experience is not required.

We expect all participants to have rock climbing skills. You should:

  • Be comfortable seconding to AU grade 14 rock
  • 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

The TMC 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.

A high level of aerobic fitness is required

Previous bush-walking/trekking experience is expected, as you will carry a backpack each day, and a heavier pack for long days, if walking out at the course conclusion.

Read more about fitness for mountaineering ›

The "TMC Tune up"

If your rope/rock climbing skills are rusty, you should do the TMC Tune-up

The TMC Tune-up is an one and a ½ day clinic, designed to get you ready for the level of rope-work expected on the TMC. A TMC Tune-up runs prior to every TMC. 

Mountain Hut Venues

The TMC will normally be based out of a mountain hut at the head of the Tasman Glacier. This area is fantastic venue (easily accessible by air) that offers a number of peaks, snow and ice ascents, plus mixed and alpine rock routes.

Tasman Saddle is 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.

In order to make optimum use of time available, the course will fly in and out. This avoids a 2 day walk in, and a 1 to 1.5 day walk out. Depending on weather and conditions, other venues can include Centennial Hut at the head of the Franz Josef Glacier, or (less frequently) Plateau Hut, on the Grand Plateau.

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 which can easily be disrupted. Instead, we work around prevailing weather and snow conditions to provide the most comprehensive coverage of all the course topics. This makes each TMC unique.

Day One and 2

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

Generally you do not fly into the mountains until the morning of day 2. However, you need to be ready in case we decide that flying in on day one will make better use of time and weather opportunities.

You normally fly into the mountains on the morning of day 2. Expect to be in the mountains for up to 8 nights of the course.

After roping up for glacier travel you will haul your gear and food to the hut (usually a 20 minute walk). You guide will introduce you to your mountain abode for the week, and go through hut etiquette and hygiene "do's and don'ts", while getting the kettle on, and thinking about lunch.

The rest of the day typically focuses on crampon technique and self-arrest at a location close to the hut.

Day 3-9

The focus of the TMC is getting you climbing peaks, working with your climbing partner to develop solid, safe practices.

The first few days will involve more theory and instruction, but we aim to get you climbing peaks as soon as you have the basic skills under your belt (self arrest, cramponing).

As you progress the focus shifts to climbing on more complex terrain, and refining rope and anchor skills. You will spend at least a half-day working on real crevasse rescue scenarios, and at least another half day ice climbing.

Instructional days will begin at around 07:00. When climbing on good weather days you may have “alpine starts” - as early as 04:00, if tackling a longer ascent. 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.

We aim to have you back in Mount Cook Village by afternoon on the final full day. This allows for a "debrief" and meal at a local Mt Cook watering hole.

Day 10 - final morning

The final morning is spent on revision, some cragging, and returning gear before finishing around noon. Most bus transport leaves Mt Cook about 14:00, so you have time to take lunch, and bid your farewells to your team mates.

Egress from the mountains

Almost all TMC's fly out of the mountains. It maximises time spent on climbing and instruction and avoids an extremely arduous trip that must be done inside the course time.

The cost of flying out is built into the course price. There is no additional cost to you.

Your group may walk down the Tasman Glacier for 2-3 hours to a suitable lower aircraft landing site, or fly out on the aircraft that drops the next TMC into the mountains.

Read more about walking out.

Equipment and Clothing | TMC

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

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.