Ice Climbing Instruction Details - Winter 2018

Alpine Guides Ice Climbing Instruction courses caters to beginners, through to more technical trips for experienced ice climbers, those who want to learn to lead on multi-pitch steep ice.

Our trips strikes a balance between instruction of ice climbing techniques and practical climbing - in real mountain situations.

We run our courses as climbing ‘safaris’. Rather than always having one fixed location we take advantage of the best climbing conditions available, between our base at Aoraki Mount Cook and the Remarkables at Queenstown.

Bush Stream is just a 15-minute drive and short helicopter flight from our Mount Cook base. Wye Creek is only 2.5 hours south, and we know many locations tucked into shady valleys between these.

We helicopter in to the venue of choice, and set up camp. The icefalls are a few hundred metres from your campsite – an easy hike after a good breakfast. Helicopters to campsites optimise the climbing time available and reduce heavy load carrying.

While the emphasis of the course is on technical ice climbing, on longer trips will also gain an awareness of different types of alpine terrain and we can look at topics like weather, avalanche forecasting, and survival skills in a winter environment.

Course Timing and Length

Ice Climbing Instruction courses are a minimum of 3, maximum 5 days long.

Courses can run at any date, subject to guide availability,  through July and August - the most reliable period for water ice.

For shorter (3 or 4-day trips) booking closer to the date you want is a good idea (a week to 10 days out). We can give you an update on the ice quality and an indication on how conditions and weather is setting up, prior to booking.

  • Trips are designed to meet your level of experience
  • Longer courses (4-5 days) are perfect for climbers with some experience - allowing for a greater focus on lead and multi-pitch climbing
  • Ratios range from 1:1 to 1:4

Single-day Ice Climbing

See our Ice Climbing Experience over at Aoraki Adventures for a single-day introduction to ice climbing, operating year-round.

Experience Required

Enthusiastic, fit people with a sport climbing background, or some alpine climbing experience are ideal.

Base Experience Level:

  • Have rock climbing experience - be able to second to grade AU 15
  • A high level of aerobic fitness 
  • Be used to carrying a backpack
  • Prior alpine (snow and ice) mountaineering experience is not essential

No matter the level, you need to be motivated, and keen to learn new skills. You also need to be happy to tent camp during winter.

Price and Inclusions | Winter 2018

All prices are per-person - in New Zealand Dollars.


  • Guiding fees and access fees
  • Alpine Guides technical manual 
  • All meals (including snacks and energy bars)
  • Helicopter flights in and out of Bush Stream or a helicopter flight in to Wye Creek (walk out, or fly out at additional cost)
  • Local transport 
  • A range of technical equipment 
  • Camping equipment
  • Local accommodation for any nights necessary during the course (and final night)
  • One day weather contingency 

Other locations may be possible to walk in and out of, or may require helicopter access/egress. Your guide will discuss the various options at the initial briefing.

What you will learn?

Ice Climbing Instruction teaches modern ice climbing technique. As well as developing your climbing ability, you will learn how to place ice protection in different conditions, and how set up safe belay stations.

Typically, first pitches will be shorter and more laidback. As you develop your technique and confidence, your guide will select more challenging ascents - possibly multi-pitch, depending on your experience and aspirations.

Instruction topics can include:

  • Gear, what to bring and how to use it
  • Trip planning and preparation
  • Ice climbing (and climbing on snow approaches)
  • Use of technical ice tools
  • Knots and hitches
  • Belay techniques and systems
  • Ice, snow, and rock anchors
  • Abseiling
  • Rope techniques
  • Camp management, food preparation

Because your camping location is in the backcountry, basic avalanche theory and rescue may be covered as part of the syllabus. This can include:

  • Avalanche hazard evaluation
  • Trip planning and preparation
  • Mountain weather and forecasting
  • Route finding
  • Mountain navigation
  • Emergency shelters and procedures

Reporting Details

Trips begin at 08:30 and finish at 17:00 on the final day. Please report to Alpine Guides base in Mt Cook Village. 

Check transport options to Mount Cook Village. 

Weather Contingency

A day of flexibility is built into the trip (at no cost to you). Please allow some flexibility in your travel plans to allow for this.

How the contingency works: If we face a particularly bad weather forecast when you arrive to start the course, we can take the option of rolling the start date back by one day. This allows us to take advantage of upcoming fine weather, and your time.

Course Daily Organisation

When dealing with a dynamic environment we do not believe it is realistic to plan fixed day-to-day schedules. Instead we work around prevailing weather and conditions to provide the most comprehensive coverage of all course topics.

Also as skill and experience levels vary on each trip - every group is unique.

After meeting, your guide will run through the expected weather and plan for the week and discuss venue options.

Following an equipment check, you fly in to your climbing venue at the first possible opportunity (after a short drive).

Instructional days will begin around 08:00. The day’s activities will have you out for about 8 hours. Your guide will attempt to maximise fine weather and good conditions.

Poor weather will be used to cover more theoretical aspects of the syllabus, or to take advantage of instructional sites closer to your camp.

Course Venues

Trips can run at a number of locations. Our preferred sites are at the head of Bush Stream or Wye Creek.

Mount Cook - Bush Stream 

Bush Stream is only 14 kms from Mount Cook Village. We helicopter to our base campsite at an altitude of around 1,200 to 1,500 metres. This is about 4 hours on foot from road access.

This area has only been recently explored for ice climbing.  Generally, you will have the valley to yourselves. There are 18 named routes; 6 on the south side of the valley and 12 on the northern side. Route grades range from WI 2 to WI 5.

Bush Stream is part of a high country pastoral lease. Parties seeking to climb here need to seek permission from the run holders at Glentanner Station

Queenstown - Wye Creek

Wye Creek is one of NZ’s best and most notable ice climbing venues, as well as one of the most reliable.

In the valley itself there are over 20 routes, ranging from WI 2 to WI 5, and plenty of mixed routes to entertain you.

Also in the Remarkables, Alta Cirque is a 45 minute walk from the Remakables ski area base buildings. This has at least 3 good ice climbs, and 4 more on the South Face, a 1.5 hour hike from the ski area.

At Wye Creek we include the cost of helicopter access. Flight out costs (if you choose not to walk) are additional.

To maintain the state of the camping areas we carry out all waste at the end of every trip.

Technical Ice Climbing Reference

Not required reading, but we recommend:
“Ice & Mixed Climbing: Modern Technique”, Will Gad, The Mountaineers Books, 2003

See more recommended reading here.

Equipment and Clothing

Please let us know what gear you need to rent - including any equipment supplied free of charge.

Ice Axes

Choose a short technical axe. Either straight or curved handles, around 50 cm length with a re-curved pick is ideal. For example Black Diamond “Viper”, DMM “Fly”, or similar.


Old-style "Foot-fang" technical crampons (e.g. DMM "Terminator", or Grivel "Rambo 4") are appropriate for this course. General purpose 12-point crampons (with longer fangs) e.g. Grivel G12 are also adequate.

Choosing your clothing and equipment

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.

Always pack for cold conditions. A 4-season sleeping bag, down jacket, and heavy grade thermal layers are required.

Make a Booking

Please check with us about guide availability before booking.

  • We require a deposit of NZ$1,000 and completed booking form for each person.
  • Use a credit card or bank deposit for payment