Alpine Skills Course
The Alpine Skills Course (ASC) is a 7-day introductory-level alpine mountaineering course. It will introduce you to the world of climbing snow and ice. You will develop the skills and confidence to safely undertake independent climbing trips in glaciated alpine zones - coached by NZ's guiding professionals.
The focus of the ASC is on skill development and building your core competencies. You will learn the safest, modern techniques for climbing on snow, ice and alpine rock. All training is by our professional IFMGA/NZMGA guides at a fantastic glaciated mountain venues in the Aoraki Mount Cook alpine region.
The strength of the course is Alpine Guides' philosophy of striking a balance between instruction of techniques and climbing. 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”.
The Alpine Skills Course is ideal:
For rock climbers looking to transition into the alpine, or for people training for long term mountaineering objectives.
As a follow-up from our introductory Mountain Experience Course (MEC) or Core Mountain Skills (CMS) course
For trampers/hikers wishing to venture into glaciated terrain
What you will learn:
What equipment to bring and how to use it
Trip planning and preparation
Knots and hitches for mountaineering
Snow and ice climbing
Abseiling, belay techniques and rope systems
Snow, ice and rock anchors
Glacier travel and crevasse rescue
Route finding and mountain navigation
Mountain weather and forecasting
Basic avalanche hazard evaluation
Hut management and food preparation
A high level of aerobic fitness and tramping/hiking/bushwalking experience is expected. You will carry a 5-8 kg backpack each day and a heavier pack on longer days.
All participants must have basic rope management skills. Top-roped climbing gym experience is good. Outdoor rock climbing experience is even better.
Be familiar with basic climbing knots (e.g. figure 8, clove hitch, Italian hitch, etc)
Know how to use and tie into a harness
Be able to operate a belay device and belay your partner.
Prior alpine (snow and ice) mountaineering experience is not required.
Optional 1-day Tune-Up
If your rope skills are a bit rusty, or limited, you should sign up a "Tune-Up" prior to your ASC.
The Tune-Up is an optional one day clinic designed to get you to a minimum basic level of rope work expected on the course. A Tune-Up runs prior to the start of every Alpine Skills Course. You can select it as an add-on when booking online.
Alpine Skills Course Details
+ Course Itinerary
We believe that when working in a dynamic environment, it is not realistic to plan fixed day-to-day schedules. They 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 ASC a unique trip.
Day One and 2
After meeting your teammates and guide(s), the first afternoon involves an outline of the course, an equipment check and sort, and organising rental gear. If you havetime, some initial instruction (roping-up for glacier travel, for example) will be covered.
You usually fly into the mountains on the morning of day 2. However, you need to be ready in case we decide that flying in on day one makes better use of time and weather opportunities.
After landing, it may be a short stroll across to your hut - or you may need to rope up for glacier travel and haul your gear and food for up to 30 minutes to the hut.
You guide will welcome you to your mountain home for the week and introduce 'hut etiquette' while getting the kettle on and thinking about lunch. The rest of the day typically focuses on crampon/axe technique and self-arrest.
You may be in the mountains for up to 6 nights.
The focus of the ASC is getting you climbing, working with your climbing partners to develop solid, safe practices.
The first few days involves more theory and instruction, but we aim to get you on peaks or other objectives as soon as you have the basic skills under your belt (self-arrest/cramponning).
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 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 of the final full day. This allows for a "debrief" and meal at a local Mt Cook watering hole.
Day 8 - final morning
The final morning is spent on revision, perhaps some rock climbing at the local crag - or a navigation exercise before returning gear and finishing around noon.
Most bus transport leaves Mt Cook about 14:00, so you have time to take lunch, and bid farewell to your team mates.
+ Maximum and Minimum Bookings
Maximum Bookings: All ASC's have a maximum of 8 participants. The maximum guide to client ratio is 1 to 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 4 full days
- 2 people only: We shorten the course to 5 full days
We believe 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.
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.
+ Why take a course at Aoraki Mount Cook?
Because Alpine Guides is based in Mount Cook National Park, you will not be driven for hours to and from your starting point. We are right amongst the action.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park offers:
- Some of NZ's highest peaks (some over 3,000 metres) from NZ Alpine Grade 1 through 3 and beyond.
- Snow and ice, mixed, and alpine rock peaks to test your mettle.
- Ice climbing on the glacial seracs in summer.
- More settled weather than the neighbouring West Coast
+ Mountain Hut Venues
The ASC is based from one of several mountain huts across Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. The venue used for each course is selected by your guide, based on upcoming weather and general snow conditions. Prime course venues are:
- Barron Saddle
- Grand Plateau
- Tasman Saddle (2 huts)
+ Aircraft Use
We fly the course in and out from your mountain venue, by helicopter or ski plane. The price is included in the course fees. This avoids an arduous 2 day walk in (and a 1 to 1.5 day walk out) and maximises climbing opportunities.
Most parties will hike down the Tasman Glacier about 8 kilometres, for a pick up from the White Ice area, but you may be picked up from closer to the hut.
+ Equipment and Clothing
Please download the gear list and let us know what you need to rent - including any equipment supplied free of charge.
Our gear lists cater for all eventualities. Sometimes you may not require everything on the equipment list . Your guide will help you sort though your kit dduring the gear-sort at the start of your course.
The weather and general mountain conditions when your trip starts will help determine what is needed.
Temperatures, weather, and snow conditions will vary. The gear list is designed to work around these changes.