Ascents Program | Details for Summer 2019-20

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.

The Ascents Program is flexible in terms of objectives, and the venue. We base this upon:
  • Your previous alpine experience

  • Your aspirations

  • The potential peaks and routes - subject to conditions for the time you book

We usually 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.

For an Ascents Program including both Aoraki Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring,  10 to 12 days are required.

Get Serious

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.

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.

Refresh Your Technique

The package is ideal as a refresher for those coming back to the mountains after a long period of “urban retirement”.

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. We are happy to discuss any guiding mission not on our list...

Price and Inclusions

Valid to: 30 April 2020

All prices are per-person, in New Zealand Dollars

For Ascents Programs beyond 10 days: add NZ$750 per day

Pricing includes the following:
  • Guide fees on a one-to-one basis

  • All meals including snacks and energy bars

  • Hut fees

  • Local accommodation, as required

  • Local road transport

  • Cost of air access to your venue

  • Free use of a range of technical equipment

We buy fresh food for every program we run, so you are guaranteed to eat well. Most dietary regimes can be catered for. Please make a note of what you like to eat on your booking form.

Not Included

Cost of flight out of mountains. See Aircraft Access and Egress From The Mountains for more 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.

High on Mt Haidinger

Reporting Details

Unless otherwise arranged, the trip will start at 08:30 at Alpine Guides base in Mount Cook Village, and finish at 17:00 on the last day of your trip. A morning start makes most effective use of time, allowing you to fly into the mountains by lunch time.

Alternatively, we can arrange to start at 13:30, and finish at 12:00 noon on the last day, to better fit in with public bus services ›

If you a 13:30 start it is less likely that you will be able to fly into the mountains on the first day. Please double-check you choose the right start time on your booking form.

If you arrive in Aoraki/Mount Cook Village on the day before your trip begins, your guide will probably not be available.

Our office staff will be happy to answer any questions you have. Your guide will look after equipment rental, and other gear requirements at the start of your trip. Initial preparation takes on average 2 hours.

More information about transport to Mount Cook.

Winter or Summer trips

The summer season (November – April) in New Zealand offers the best conditions for alpine climbing.

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. 

Aircraft Access and Egress from the mountains

The cost of air access (usually required) 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 the most common choice.

Please - ALWAYS BUDGET FOR A FLIGHT OUT even if you want to walk

1. 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

Read more about aircraft use here.

2. 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.

Read more about walking out here.

Mountain Huts

Most often (if not camping/bivying for a specific objective) you will be based out of one of a number of mountain huts maintained by the Department of Conservation or New Zealand Alpine Club.

Read more about mountain hut living conditions here.

Ski Touring 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!


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 about seasonal conditions, summer and winter. 

Make a Booking

Book online here using a credit card or by bank deposit 

  • 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.

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)

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 out.

  • Season: August – December

  • Classic Route: Anna Glacier

  • Grade 2+

  • Recommended – 5+ day Ascents Program

Mount Aylmer (2,699 metres) & Hochstetter Dome (2,827 metres) Traverse

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 walk out.

  • Season: August – April

  • Grade: 1+ to 2-

  • Recommended– 5 day Ascents Program

Mounts Green (2,837 metres) and Walter (2,905 metres)

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.

  • Season: July– February

  • Grades 2 – 3+

  • Recommended: 5 day Ascents Program

Malte Brun (3,199 metres)

See the 6-day Malte Brun Expedition 

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 (head of Fox Glacier)

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

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)

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.

  • Season: November – April

  • Classic Route: West Ridge, grade 2+

  • Recommended length: 7+ days Ascents Program

La Perouse (3,078 metres)

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.

  • Season: November – February

  • Classic Route: Divide Route, grade 3

  • Recommend: 8 day Ascents Program

Multiple Peaks 3,000 metres peaks

With the flexibility of the Ascents Program we can put together other extended guiding missions combining more than one significant peak, in more than one geographic location area.

For example:

  • Mount Cook plus Mount Aspiring – 10 days +

  • Mount Tasman plus Mt Aspiring – 10 days +