The Ascents Program is a guided mountaineering package for the individual climber or ski mountaineer. Set your sights high, and Alpine Guides can arrange your personalised climbing, ski mountaineering, alpine touring, or winter mixed climbing trip at Mount Cook, or beyond...
Guiding for Experienced Mountaineers
The Ascents Program best suits experienced mountaineers, and tourers. The 1:1 ratio allows attempts on more serious routes and challenging peaks. If you don't know the region we will recommend venues suitable for your experience level.
Tailored - to suit your experience
The Ascents Program is your trip. The package can be for specific peaks and locations. Alternatively book in for a week of climbing or touring, and use your guide's local knowledge to take advantage of the best conditions at the time.
The Ascents Program detailed info suggests possible objectives for summer mountaineering - and the required duration. Including: The Minarets, Mount Sefton, Mount Elie de Beaumont.
Designing Your Trip
The Ascents Program is a tailored and personalised one-to-one guided mountaineering package. The framework allows for trips from 5 to 10 (or more) days throughout New Zealand's Southern Alps. Many of our bigger peaks need to be guided on a 1:1 basis, for safety and speed. Your guide’s local knowledge is especially significant if this is your first visit to the Southern Alps. The Ascents Program is flexible in terms of objectives, and the venue. We base this upon:
Your previous alpine experience
The potential peaks and routes - subject to conditions for the time you book
We normally recommend a trip length of 7 or 8 days duration, to get the most out of your time in the mountains. Some peaks can be climbed with a 5 or 6 day trip, others require longer - especially if a number of peaks are considered.
Mix Instruction and Mountaineering
For those newer to mountaineering the Ascents Program can be used for a mix of instruction and climbing, or ski touring/mountaineering.
Refreshing Your Technique?
The package is ideal as a refresher for those coming back to the mountains after a long period of “urban retirement”.
Consider the Ascents Program Advantages
One to one ratio allows for more challenging objectives
Open schedule - we will arrange your guide to work around your travel plans
Flexible objectives – keep your options open, or focus on a specific mission
Tap into your expert guide’s local knowledge
Alpine Guides are the experts in the area, and we have Department of Conservation concessions to guide through the major Southern Alps climbing regions (Mount Aspiring, Fiordland, etc.). We are happy to discuss any guiding mission not on our list.
Price and Inclusions
The price includes:
Guide fees on a one-to-one basis
All meals including snacks and energy bars
Local accommodation, as required
Free use of a range of technical equipment
Does not include:
Cost of flight out of mountains
Summer and Winter Trips
The summer season (November – April) in New Zealand offers the best conditions for alpine climbing and alpine rock.
Winter (July - October) is a great time for experienced alpinists, especially those who want to refine backcountry ski touring, mixed or ice climbing skills, and ski mountaineering.
Winter presents different challenges for climbers and ski/snowboard tourers - deep snow and avalanche risk can make some routes/peaks inaccessible. Read more about seasonal variations - summer and winter.
Sample Ascents Program Objectives
The Aoraki/Mount Cook and Westland region offers any number of great climbing objectives. Below are some (a fraction) of the many guided climbs that may be considered.
Keep in mind that the more time you commit, the more likely you are to achieve your goals, and the more you can do within a given area.
+ Upper Tasman Glacier Area
This is a superb location, with 2 huts in the area. It allows for easy access by air and a straight-forward (though long) walk out. A 7 or 8 day Ascents Program will allow attempts on one or more of the peaks listed below.
Elie de Beaumont (3,109 metres)
- Season: August – December
- Classic Route: Anna Glacier
- Grade 2+
- Recommended – 5+ day Ascents Program
A beautiful 3,000 metre peak offering stunning views of the Tasman Sea, and West Coast. This is a great winter, and early season peak, but can become cut off by crevasses by late-December. In good conditions it can be ascended part way with ski touring equipment. Fly in to Tasman Saddle, fly or walk/ski out.
Mount Aylmer (2,699 metres) & Hochstetter Dome (2,827 metres) Traverse
- Season: August – April
- Grade: 1+ to 2-
- Recommended– 5 day Ascents Program
These two peaks at the head of the Tasman Glacier are an excellent traverse. During winter/spring Hochstetter Dome makes for an exciting ski descent above Lendenfeld saddle. For first time visitors to the region they provide a taste of the big mountain feel of the area. Fly in to Tasman Saddle, fly or ski/walk out.
Mounts Green (2,837 metres) and Walter (2,905 metres)
- Season: July– February
- Grades 2 – 3+
- Recommended: 5 day Ascents Program
Mount Green offers various routes from the East Face (grade 2) through to grade 3+ on southern routes. Mount Walter has a number of approaches at grades 2 to 3. Winter and early summer season can offer more challenging ice routes.
+ Murchison Glacier Area
The head of the Murchison Glacier is a great climbing and ski touring area. Being east of the Main Divide it can often avoid the worst of westerly weather systems.
Relatively remote, air access is required to get to Murchison Hut. We recommend at least a 7-day program.
Winter ski touring/mountaineering options include
- The Murchison Headwall
- Mannering Glacier
- Mount Phyllis (2,444 metres)/Classen Saddle
- Mount Sydney King (2,521 metres)
Summer Climbing Mounts Mannering (2,669 metres), and Broderick (2,669 metres) make good summer ascents, with bivouacs possible at Whataroa Saddle.
+ Pioneer Hut Area
It’s hard to find a more spectacular venue for climbing, and apart from access on to Mount Tasman, there are a number of 3,000+ metre peaks close to Pioneer Hut.
Due to the area’s remoteness and exposure to westerly weather systems we recommend at least 8 days (including air access and egress) to really make the most of the location.
Possible options include:
- Mount Haidinger (3,070 metres). The West Face offers a number of routes at grades 3 to 4+
- Douglas Peak (3,077 metres) at grades 3 and higher
- Mount Lendenfeld (3,194 metres) at grades 2 to 3+
Various other peaks about from grade 1+ to 2+, like Mount Mallory (2,756 metres), Alack (2,759 metres).
+ Other Options and Areas
Minarets (3,040 metres) from Centennial Hut
- Season: November – March
- Grade: 2+
- Recommend length: 6 day Ascents Program
After flying in to Centennial Hut, at the Head of the Franz Josef Glacier, an ascent of the Minarets offers a wonderful opportunity to journey across the Main Divide.
With Centennial Hut being at 2, 400 metres the ascent is only 640 vertical metres. However, once above the Chamberlain snowfields the climbing is moderately steep and sustained - and will test the endurance of your calf muscles!
The vista from the summit offers uninterrupted views to the Tasman Sea and forests to the west, and down the Tasman Glacier to the dry grasslands of the Mackenzie to the east.
Fly in to Centennial, and walk out to bivy at De la Beche, and on to Mt Cook Village. Or fly in and out.
Mount Sefton (3,151 metres)
- Season: October – late-March
- Classic Route: West Ridge, grade 2+
- Recommended length: 7+ days Ascents Program
Mount Sefton towers almost 2000 metres above Mount Cook village. It is seldom guided due to the long approach, but makes a superb challenge for a fit climber keen for a remote wilderness experience.
Access is either on foot via Copland Pass (3 days return), or by Ski Plane to the Horace Walker glacier (saving 1.5 days walk), followed by a walk back to Mount Cook Village.
On foot the route is long and sustained, involving a 2,000+ metre ascent. You need to be very fit, and ready for at least 3 bivouacs and heavy load carrying.
La Perouse (3,078 metres)
- Season: November – late-January
- Classic Route: Divide Route, grade 3
- Recommend: 8 day Ascents Program
Access and egress is by foot only, so we need to allow 2.5 to 3 days for this alone. After walking into the Hooker Valley to your base at Empress Hut, the route is a long one, involving the ascent of another peak - Mount Jellicoe (2,837 metres) - before ascending the rocky Divide Ridge, or up a steep snow arête to the summit. Other, more difficult route options are available, depending on your experience.
Ascents Program Details
+ Why a 5 day minimum duration?
The Southern Alps has a temperate, maritime, alpine climate. A longer guided trip offers a better chance of your trip being successful, in the event of some bad weather.
Also (and importantly) access and egress by foot from many mountain venues can take more than a day, each way. Walking in/out needs to be done in “reasonable weather.” The time to get in and out from your venue must be factored into your trip duration.
We always recommend the correct and appropriate duration for your trip during initial correspondence.
+ Booking an Ascents Program
We will provide a guide to work around your travel plans (subject to availability). The first step is to contact us with your proposed dates.
Please note that we do not have guides standing by waiting for work. "Walk-in" and short-notice enquiries may not be filled. We recommend making reservations well in advance for the Ascents Program.
For our most popular period (December through February) 3 months advance booking is recommended.
+ Aircraft Use
The cost of air access is built into the price of the Ascents Program. Where possible we try to combine flights with other climbers to minimise aircraft use, and impact on the mountain environment.
Two means of egress are available at the end of the trip: walking/skiing or flying out. Flying out is by the most common choice. Please - ALWAYS BUDGET FOR A FLIGHT OUT even if you want to walk
Flying Out at Trip End
Most Ascents Programs fly out of the mountains. It maximises time spent climbing, and avoids a potentially arduous trip that must be done inside the allocated time.
The cost of flying out is ADDITIONAL to the trip fees.
N.B. You also have to cover the cost of your guide's flight out.
Range of costs possible: NZ$400 to NZ$1100
Typical average cost: NZ$450 to NZ$600
WALKING OUT AT TRIP END
Walking out (or skiing/walking in winter) may be the most physically demanding part of a trip, and must be done inside the time allocated time. In some situations it may not be possible to walk out.
Your guide is the final arbiter on whether a walk out will go ahead.
+ Ski and Snowboard Gear Hire
If your winter Ascents Program requires ski/snowboard gear, you should hire your rig prior to arrival. We have a handful of sets of aging gear - for emergency hire only!
Recommended Gear Hire Stores
Wanaka - MT Outdoors
Queenstown - Small Planet
+ 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 allow for all potentialities.