Alpine Skills Course Details - Summer Summer 2018/19


The Alpine Skills Course (ASC) is a 7-day introductory-level mountaineering course that will provide the platform to launch your future mountain exploits.

The focus of the ASC is on skill development and building core competencies.
You will learn safe, modern techniques for climbing on snow, ice and alpine rock. All training is by our professional IFMGA/NZMGA guides at a fantastic glaciated mountain venue in the Mount Cook region.

The strength of the course is Alpine Guides' philiosophy of striking a balance 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.

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

  • Glacier travel and crevasse rescue

  • Route finding and mountain navigation

  • Emergency shelters

  • Mountain weather, and forecasting

  • Basic avalanche hazard evaluation

  • Hut management, food preparation

Price and Inclusions

Cost: NZ$2,950 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 ASCs 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 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.

Reporting Details

All ASC’s begin at 13:30 on day one and finish at 12:00 on the final day. It is a 7-day course, but spans 8 days. Please report to Alpine Guides office in Mt Cook Village.

Check on public transport options to Mount Cook.

Private Courses

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

Our "Private Instruction" package offers our tailored group instruction. You can choose dates, duration, and tailor the content to your specific requirements (subject to guide availability).

Experience Required

The Alpine Skills Course is a great follow-up to our Mountain Experience Course (MEC). However, no 'formal' previous mountain training is required.

A high level of aerobic fitness is required.

Previous strong tramping/bush-walking experience is expected, as you will carry a backpack each day, and a heavier pack for long days. Read more about fitness for mountaineering here.

Technical skills

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

We expect all participants to have basic rope management skills. You should:

  • Know basic climbing knots (e.g. Figure-8, Clove Hitch, Italian Hitch)

  • Be familiar with tying into and using a harness

  • Be able to operate a belay device and belay a partner

Prior experience top-ropped climbing at a gym is good - some rock climbing experience is even better. 

The "Tune-up"

If your rope skills are rusty, you should do a Tune-up prior to the ASC.

The Tune-up is a one day clinic, designed to get you to the basic level of rope-work expected on the course. A Tune-up runs prior to every Alpine Skills Course. 

Read about the Tune-Up here.

Mountain Hut Venues

The ASC is based from one of a number of mountain huts across New Zealand's premium alpine area - 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

In order to make optimum use of time available, the course will fly in and out. This avoids an arduous 2 day walk in, and a 1 to 1.5 day walk out. 

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 ASC unique.

Day One and 2

After meeting your teammates and guide(s), the first afternoon involves an outline of the course, an equipment check, and organising rental equipment. If you have 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 6 nights of the course.

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  (usually 20 minutes).

You guide will introduce you to your mountain home for the week and introduce 'hut etiquette' and while getting the kettle on and thinking about lunch.

The rest of the day typically focuses on crampon/axe technique and self-arrest.

Day 3-7

The focus of the ASC is getting you climbing, working with your climbing partners to develop solid, safe practices.

The first few days will involve 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 (like 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 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 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.

Egress from the mountains

Flying out maximises time spent on climbing and instruction and avoids an extremely arduous trip that otherwise 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.

If based at Tasman Saddle, your group may walk down the Tasman Glacier for 2-3 hours to a suitable lower aircraft landing site.

Read more about walking out.

Equipment and Clothing

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.