The Footstool Guided Ascent Details

The Footstool sits on the Main Divide of the Southern Alps, flanked by steep glaciers. It looms 1,700 metres above Mount Cook Village. Footstool is a challenging peak requiring fitness, competency with various crampon techniques and use of two ice tools.

Main Divide Route, NZ Alpine Grade: 2+
Trip Length: 3 days
Total Ascent: approx. 1,700 metres
Season: October - January

Climb Description

On the  first day we head for an overnight stop at Sefton Bivouac. This small 4-person hut, at 1,660 metres is the oldest structure in the National Park. It commands a great view of the Tasman Valley and up the Hooker Valley.

From the Hooker Valley  floor, a vague route leads across stream beds to a zigzagging approach up and over rocky outcrops and snowgrass, before reaching the rocky plateau around the bivvy site. This is a steep climb through tussock and clusters of Mt Cook Lilies, taking around 4 hours with a pack.

An alpine start sees us off again about 3 or 4 am, roped up for glacier travel. You climb on moderately steep, glaciated terrain, before crossing the face of the Tewaewae Glacier and on to the Eugenie Glacier at around 2,100 metres.

Route finding on the upper Eugenie can be tricky through the large crevasses, especially in December and later.

The Main Divide is reached after dawn at about 2,400 metres, with an incredible view of the West Coast, the forests of the Copland Valley, and the Tasman Sea.

From this point the ascent to the summit is often exposed, requiring good crampon work. Your guide may pitch climb, if conditions warrant. The summit is gained about 9 am. Time is taken for a rest, and to enjoy the view.

The descent is by the same route, with a short break at Sefton Biv.  You will arrive back at the village mid-afternoon - the end of an 11 to 14 hour day.

Other Routes

The East Ridge and Couloir routes on Footstool can be guided but are rarely in condition. These are graded at NZ Alpine 3+ and guided only at a strict 1:1 ratio, if conditions are suitable.

Experience Required

The Footstool is a challenging climb requiring competency with various crampon techniques, and use of two ice tools.

We expect guests to have experience similar to completion of our Alpine Skills Course:

  • A background in general mountaineering with solid crampon mileage
  • Glacier travel and basic crevasse rescue skills
  • Ability to manage snow anchors and belays stations 


All prices are per-person, in NZ Dollars and include GST tax.

There is a maximum ratio of 2 participants per guide.



  • Guiding fees for 3 days
  • Alpine Guides Technical Manual
  • All meals (including snacks and energy bars) 
  • Hut and National Park fees
  • Local transport
  • Free use of a range of technical equipment
  • Local accommodation for any nights necessary during the trip
  • Weather contingency day

Trip Itinerary

Every Footstool trip is unique, due to weather and mountain conditions. When dealing with a dynamic mountain environment, flexibility is required.

Day One

  • Meet your guide, discuss plans, check and prepare gear
  • Take lunch, drive to Hooker Valley track start
  • Ascend to Sefton Bivouac

Day Two

  • Depart the bivouac in the early hours to climb
  • Back to biv for lunch. Re-pack and descend to base in Mt Cook Village
  • Or practice skills while waiting for a weather window for a day 3 attempt.

Day Three

  • Back-up day for summit attempt.

A weather contingency day is included at no cost to you. This allows us to roll back the start date of the trip by a full day to give more weather flexibility.

Sefton Bivouac

Sefton Biv rests at 1,660 metres. The hut was built in 1917 and is the oldest standing structure in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. The hike, just to the bivy, offers stunning scenery throughout the entire ascent.

The total height gain is almost 1,000 metres and takes around 5 hours of walking to reach the hut. Some exposed scrambling sections will involve using your hands for balance.

Hut Facilities

Sefton Biv is a simple shelter with a drinking water tank, mountain hut radio, and toilet. There are no bunks. We will carry sleeping mats and sleeping bags. Your guide will provide a cooker, stove, and utensils, as required.

The hut is available on a first-come first-served basis. There is no booking system. With only four sleeping spaces the hut may fill if another party arrives. All Alpine Guides parties will carry bivouac bags in case the hut is not available. 

Fortunately, the original Sefton Bivouac - a huge rock - is still on site. This can provide shelter for another 6 climbers. 

Booking Footstool

The first step is to contact us with your proposed dates. Your guide will work around your travel plans (subject to availability). 

“Walk-in” and short-notice enquiries usually cannot be filled. We recommend making reservations well in advance.

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.

If you arrive in Mount Cook 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.

Read more about transport to Mount Cook.

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.