Classic Alpine Rock Ascents | Summer 2017-18 and Summer 2018-19

Tucked away throughout the Southern Alps are many long, stunning rock routes, leading onto spectacular summits. The Classic Alpine Rock Ascents package allows one or 2 participants to seek out as many of these hidden gems as weather and time allow.

This program was developed by senior AGL guide Sam Bosshard. The goal is to introduce climbers to the fantastic but less visited areas of the Southern Alps, and then climb the best routes. These places are mostly well off the beaten track, and you will often have the mountain all to yourself!

You need to be a capable rock climber, and super-keen to climb on some of the best, most sought-after alpine rock routes in the Southern Alps.

Your Guides

Our Alpine Rock program is guided by IFMGA or full NZMGA Climbing Guides who are passionate about introducing climbers to long routes, with quality rock - especially in locations like the Darran Mountains (Fiordland).

Experience Required

  • This trip can be tailored to suit all levels of rock climbing ability. Some previous rock climbing experience is essential.
  • You should be familiar with basic rope skills including belaying and abseiling. Training in rope work and other mountain skills will be included during the course of the trip.
  • You must be very fit. Walking in with bivvy gear and food, plus technical equipment will be necessary for some climbs.
  • You should also have a good head for exposure!

Prices | Valid to 30 April 2019

Cost includes the following:

  • Guiding fees
  • All meals (including snacks and energy bars) 
  • Hut fees
  • Local accommodation, as required 
  • Road transport, as required
  • Free use of a range of technical equipment

Not included: Aircraft access. Unlikely to be used, but if required for the venue this is an additional cost. 

Alan on Bruce Peak, South Temple Valley area.

Climbing Season

Recommended timing is January through March. This period usually brings the most settled weather patterns, and the best chance for clean, snow-free rock.

Booking Classic Alpine Rock

All bookings must be made well in advance. There are no scheduled dates. Your guide will work around your travel plans (subject to his availability). Contact us with your proposed dates and we take it from there. 

Flexibility around objectives
Some flexibility is possible with this program, to work around weather disruptions. You guide may be available to postpone the start of the for up to 2 days if it is seriously compromised by bad weather. This is not guaranteed, but always try to be flexible. Please keep this in mind when thinking about your travel arrangements.

Reporting Details

Bruce Peak, South Temple.

Unless otherwise arranged, Classic Alpine Rock Ascents starts at 08:30 at Alpine Guides office in Mount Cook Village, and finishes at 17:00 on the last day of your trip.

We can also arrange to have your guide meet you in Queenstown, or Wanaka, if more convenient and suitable for your trip objectives.

Trip Structure

Unless otherwise arranged the Classic Alpine Rock program will start in Mt Cook Village. You will then relocate by vehicle to your chosen venue. Some climbing venues may require aircraft access, to maximise your potential climbing time.

When organising a climbing trip like this (and dealing with New Zealand’s temperate maritime climate), flexibility, and not becoming fixed on a specific goals is important.

The best approach is to have general objectives, but be prepared to rely on your guide’s judgement, and to travel to and climb in locations offering the best conditions at the time.

Relocating could involve anything from a 15 minute drive and helicopter flight into Twin Stream, to a 4.5 hour drive to the Darrans. Travelling by road gives the flexibility to relocate to alternative areas should weather conditions change.

A high level fitness is required. It may be necessary (at times) to carry heavy packs containing both camping gear and food, plus a full rack of technical gear and ropes. Basic snowcraft will be taught if necessary, as ice axe and crampons may or may not be needed to access the climbs.

Sean on Mt Sabre - Darran Mountains.

Objectives for Classic Alpine Rock

A selection of some of the many climbs available. Routes marked with an *asterisk are only available on a 1:1 guiding basis.

Darran Mountains

The Darran Mountains in Fiordland are the first choice for many Kiwi alpine rock climbers both for the quality of the rock and for the stunning alpine scenery. The rock is primarily diorite and is great to climb on, being very coarse and solid.

Because of the hardness of the rock the glacial origins of the landscape are very much in evidence; incredibly sheer walled U-shaped valleys, sprinkled with small lakes and tarns, crowned by snow-capped glaciated summits.

Many climbs are accessible as day trips from the hut, but peaks such as Mt Sabre require a bivvy at the lovely Lake Adelaide.

Moirs Mate, "Bowen Allan Corner"
A day trip from Homer Hut. 2.5 hours walk and climb along the exposed ridge from Homer Saddle lead to the bottom of the face. Then 10 pitches of slabs and cracks finishing with the amazing 2 pitch open book corner (crux grade 17) lead to easier scrambling to the summit. This is the classic introduction to serious Darrans rock.

Mt Sabre, "North Buttress" *
A very long, serious, and sought after climb. A long day’s walk takes one in to the huge "Phil’s Bivvy Rock" in Moraine Creek. An intricate route weaves up the waterfall face to get to the bottom of the route. 12 or so pitches of climbing straight up the prow of the Buttress (crux 17 but mostly easier) lead to 200m of easier climbing to the summit. And then you have to get down…

Mt Talbot, "JC crack"
An early morning walk up past Black Lake leads to a small glacier under the east face of Talbot. This is crossed, and then 8 pitches of grade 15 corner, chimney, and crack, lead on to the upper east ridge which is followed to the summit. The peak is then traversed in order to make the descent.

Brothers in Arms/Craddock’s Retreat
Another day trip from Homer Hut, and again via Homer Saddle. A fantastic line, sustained grade 20-21 for 5 pitches up the steep face of the Mate’s "little brother". The overhanging corner pitch halfway up the face is one of the best rope lengths in the country.

This is just a very small sample of what the Darrans has to offer… Any ability of rock climbing skills can be catered for in this amazing playground, be it an easier or harder technical challenge that you are after.

Reference: "The Darran Mountains", Craig Jeffries, 2nd Edition, 2006, NZ Alpine Club.

South Temple Valley

The South Temple is a tributary of the Hopkins Valley. At it’s head lie two impressive rock peaks. These are Bruce Peak and Steeple Peak. It is a scenic 5 hour walk in to the high bivvy site, firstly through native bush and then more open alpine vegetation.

Bruce Peak, "Butterfly Buttress"
500 metres of sustained grade 12-14 climbing up the amazingly prominent buttress.

Steeple Peak
10 pitches of great climbing grade 15 lead straight to the summit.

Reference: "Barron Saddle – Mt Brewster", Ross Cullen, 2nd Edition, NZ Alpine Club

Fox Glacier Area

High on the Fox Glacier nevé are a number of fine rock routes. While you are climbing these routes you will be looking down the huge icefalls of the Fox Glacier and see waves breaking on the West Coast beaches!

These climbs are accessed from Pioneer Hut and this will involve the added cost of flying both in and out.

Mt Conway "Moonshine Buttress"
Nine pitches sustained climbing at grade 14-15 with a crux of 17. The route goes straight up the spectacular pink buttress.

Mt Humdinger
Great climbing up the west face slabs, 7 pitches, up to grade 16.

Reference: “Aoraki Mount Cook, a guide for mountaineers”, Alex Palman, 2nd Edition, NZ Alpine Club

Other areas providing excellent alpine rock:

  • Remarkables (Queenstown): Double Cone – Single Cone traverse
  • Glenorchy: Chinaman's Bluff , "The Ravages of Time"
  • Mount Aspiring area: Mt Aspiring, "North Buttress"

Aoraki/ Mount Cook Area:

  • Mount Dilemma, "Strauchon Face" *
  • Mount Nazomi, "Gledhill Buttress" *
  • Mount Malte Brun, "West Ridge" *
  • Mt Chudleigh, "Langdale Buttress"

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

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.