Expedition Training Course
Learn the skills to climb expedition-style in New Zealand's Southern Alps for your Seven Summits mission. The Mount Cook region is a great training and proving ground for mountaineers. Sir Edmund Hillary trained for his successful Everest and Antarctic expeditions here, and some of the worlds most successful climbers and guides began their climbing careers at Mount Cook.
Big mountain training at "low" altitude
Aoraki Mount Cook area offers Himalayan vertical scale, steep glaciers, and fast-changing weather. The benefit of training here is the high-altitude feel, without the dangers of extreme cold and lack of oxygen.
8 Days of high alpine immersion
Our Expedition Course base camp is at a prime location, deep in Mt Cook National Park. We fly you in and out, to avoid heavy load carrying, and to maximise training time.
During your 8 days you will focus on camp management, fixed-line techniques and how to travel and climb safety in extreme glaciated mountain terrain.
What you will learn
Equipment, what to bring and how to use it
Trip planning and preparation
Camp management skills: tent camping, and emergency shelter options
Crampon and ice axe technique refinement
Rope skills - including “fixed” rope techniques and alpine self-contained rope craft
Mountain weather and snow conditions analysis
Decision making and risk analysis at altitude
Glacier travel techniques
Anchors on snow and rock
Previous alpine climbing or rock climbing experience is not required.
The most important prerequisite is a high level of aerobic fitness, and the ability to carry a backpack.
As we fly the course in and out of the mountains, extended heavy load carrying is usually not required - only when moving base camps.
Expedition Training Course Details
+ Course Itinerary
When dealing with the dynamic mountain environment we work around prevailing weather and snow conditions, to provide the most comprehensive coverage of all course topics.
After meeting your teammates the first part of the day involves a comprehensive gear check, and organisation of equipment and clothing. Food, tents, cooking equipment, ropes and technical equipment need to be prepared for flying in.
Weather and snow conditions will be studied and discussed. In any mountaineering objective planning is the key to a successful trip.
Early afternoon we will fly deep into the Southern Alps to your base camp location. Aircraft access quickly gets us in to the high alpine terrain we will work in for the rest of the course.
Given the right weather conditions we will set up an expedition style BC ("Base Camp") using tents and/or snow caves/natural shelter features.
If the weather is considered too limiting for learning progression, we may spend some time based out of alpine huts.
With BC set up we will combine learning and instructional sessions with getting out there and experiencing the alpine environment - and climbing some peaks!
The syllabus will cover many of the “base” skills needed for safe and successful mountaineering anywhere in the world. Throughout the course your guide(s) will be evaluating weather and conditions. Course theory and practical sessions are tailored to the weather/conditions.
You will cover cramponing, anchors, fixing ropes, rope craft and more. We will also introduce some of the specific technique found on the highest peaks and longer expeditions: fixed lines, “arm wrapping”, etc.
Instructional days will begin at around 07:00. When climbing on good weather days you may have “alpine starts” - as early as 04:00. Most day's activities will have you out for 8 to 10 hours.
We pack up BC that morning and fly out of the mountains early afternoon. After breaking down and returning gear the course will finish with a few drinks and meal at a watering hole in Mt Cook Village.
+ Maximum and Minimum Bookings
Maximum Bookings: All ETC'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 6 full days
- 2 people only: We shorten the course to 7 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.
The course price includes aircraft access and exit flights to maximise your time in the mountains.
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
+ Base Camp Accomodtion
As part of course training you will help set up and maintain a working base camp (BC). This will be your working and living space for the majority of time in the mountains. Our tent camp will be backed-up with snowcaves that you will help build and maintain. All cooking gear, utensils, and fuel are provided by Alpine Guides.
+ Base Camp Location
Your base camp will be in the high mountains on a glacier, usually in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park (around 2,000 metres elevation). The locations we use feature moderately graded snow and ice peaks, crevasse fields, and seracs.
Our main camp venues are:
- Murchison Glacier
- Darwin Glacier
- Tasman Glacier
These locations are slightly east of the Main Divide. It is often possible to be out climbing here when parties at West Coast venues (just kilometres away) are hut-bound due to bad weather from the west.
Mountain Hut Use The Aoraki Mount Cook region has a network of excellent mountain huts. If weather conditions become so severe so as to hinder training, your course may use a hut for part your trip. Your base camp will be located within a half-days travel (on foot) to a hut.
+ Aircraft Use
We fly the course in and outfrom 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 and training opportunities. Read about air transport here.
+ Equipment and Clothing
Please download the gear list and let us know what you need to rent - including any equipment supplied free of charge.
Choosing your clothing and Seasonal Variation
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.