Technical Mountaineering Course - Details for Summer 2018/19

The Technical Mountaineering Course (TMC ) is Alpine Guides advanced mountaineering course. It will provide a kick-start to your climbing exploits. The skills you acquire on the TMC will take you readily into any other mountain range in the world.

All instruction takes place in the serious mountain environment of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, although the course is flexible enough to move elsewhere for a few days should the weather become inhospitable.

Previous alpine climbing experience is a requirement. We expect a base level of alpine experience similar to completing our Alpine Skills Course, plus additional personal climbing.

On a TMC you will be ‘coached’ by your guide, while attempting multiple ascents or other objectives, in serious, glaciated terrain.

Climbing on Rock, ice and snow are covered and course balances instruction of techniques, and practical climbing. There is a focus on encouraging problem solving, advanced rope and rescue techniques and strategies for independent climbing.

TMC participants often have longer-term ambitions for future independent mountaineering. The course will update and increase knowledge of modern climbing techniques and self-rescue systems.

At 9 days, the TMC also allows for an immersion in the mountain environment. Throughout the course emphasis is also given to general awareness of all types of mountain terrain - not just purely technical climbing. We believe this is the most important element of a rounded “mountain education”. 

Aircraft access and egress are used to optimise the climbing time available. This allows us to gain exceptionally good instructional venues and reduces heavy load carrying. Each day’s activities will usually run for 8-10 hours, although longer and more strenuous days of up to 14 hours can be involved

Experience Required

Previous experience on snow and ice and mountaineering in glaciated terrain is essential - similar to the level of completion of our Alpine Skills Course and preferably, additional mileage in the mountains.  A background in rock climbing is required.

Some skills will be revised early in the course, but it is important that you have requisite experience. Equally important is a high level of fitness.

Unsure on experience? Please contact us directly to discuss your experience before booking if you are uncertain of meeting minimum requirements. We will advise on a case-by-case basis.

Prior to the course you must be able to:

  • Rope-up for glacier travel - through previous glacier travel training

  • Be familiar with self-rescue from a crevasse

  • Comfortably climb on sustained 40º to 50º ice - with two tools

  • Build simple anchors on rock, snow and ice, and operate a belay

  • Abseil with confidence

  • Confidently second on multi-pitch rock to at least AU grade 15

  • Move with crampons and ice-axe over a variety of terrain

  • Willingness to adapt and progress in a team environment

A high level of aerobic fitness is required

Previous bush-walking/trekking experience is expected, as you will carry a backpack each day, and a heavier pack for long days, if walking out at the course conclusion.

Read more about fitness for mountaineering.

What You Will Learn

Instruction topics include:

  • Equipment, what to bring and how to use it

  • Trip planning and preparation

  • Mountain weather and forecasting

  • Glacier travel and crevasse rescue (various systems)

  • Snow and ice climbing: a workshop on steep ice climbing

  • Alternatives for snow, ice and rock anchors

  • Rock self-rescue: a day spent looking at escaping the system, abseiling with an injured partner, hauling systems

  • Alpine rock climbing

  • Advanced rope techniques, such as ridge travel and maximising efficiency in movement

  • Avalanche hazard evaluation

  • Mountain navigation including white-out navigation

  • Emergency shelters and procedures, including camping and bivying in the mountains

  • Hut management

The TMC course is about learning while climbing. This means that much more emphasis is placed on instruction taking place on the mountain than in other courses.

We aim to get you on to routes and peaks that will challenge you, but also allow you to learn new skills and hone your technique. Routes climbed will normally be NZ Alpine grade 1+ to 3.

Price and Inclusions

Cost: NZ$3,650 per person
The course fee includes:
  • Alpine Guides Technical Manual

  • All meals (including snacks and energy bars)

  • Aircraft flights into AND out of the mountains

  • Hut fees

  • Local transport

  • Free use of a range of technical equipment

  • Local accommodation for any nights necessary during the course

Maximum and Minimum Bookings

All TMCs are limited to a maximum of 8 participants. The maximum guide to participant ratio is 1:4.
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 think 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. There is a better chance to climb bigger peaks.

With one person you will not be able to lead climb, but will have opportunities to tackle serious ascents with your guide that regular courses with higher ratios cannot.

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.

Reporting Details

All TMC’s begin at 13:30 on day one and finish at 12:00 on the final day. It is a 9-day course, but spans 10 days. Please report to Alpine Guides office in Mt Cook Village.

Check on public transport options to Mount Cook.

Private Courses

If the TMC format, or dates do not work for you - contact us about arranging a private course based on our Private Instruction framework.

Private courses can be arranged at any time over the summer months (mid-October through April) for groups of 2 or more people. You can choose dates, duration, and tailor the content to your specific requirements (subject to guide availability).

See the "Private Instruction" package for our tailored group instruction options and details.

Mountain Hut Venues

The TMC can be run from multiple venues, your guide will chose the best venue based on general mountain conditions and the upcoming weather weather for your trip.

In order to make optimum use of time available, the course will fly in and out. This avoids a 2 day walk in, and a 1 to 1.5 day walk out. 

Tasman Saddle

A classic venue at the head of NZ’s longest glacier where most TMCs are held. Arguably, this is NZ’s best alpine training ground. Peaks include Mount Green (2,837 m), Mount Walter (2,905 m), Hochstetter Dome (2,810 m), Mt Annan (2,934 m) and others. Tasman Saddle is slightly east of the Main Divide, often offering more settled weather than the neighbouring West Coast

Grand Plateau

Based on the massif of Aoraki/Mount Cook. This is big-mountain terrain with complex glaciation. Peaks include The Anzacs (2,528 metres) and Mount Dixon (3,004 metres).

Pioneer Hut

Visited with a settled weather forecast. Based at the at the head of the Fox Glacier, with multiple peaks from grade 1+ to 3 within close proximity.

In order to make optimum use of time available, the course will fly in and out. This avoids a 2 day walk in, and a 1 to 1.5 day walk out. 

Read more about mountain hut living conditions.

Course Daily Organisation

When dealing with a dynamic environment it is not realistic to plan fixed day-to-day schedules which can easily be disrupted. Instead, we work around prevailing weather and snow conditions to provide the most comprehensive coverage of all the course topics. This makes each TMC unique.

Day One and 2

After meeting your teammates and guide, the first afternoon involves an outline of the course, an equipment check, and organising rental equipment. If there is time, some initial instruction (roping-up for glacier travel, for example) will be covered.

Generally you do not fly into the mountains until the morning of day 2. However, you need to be ready in case we decide that flying in on day one will make better use of time and weather opportunities.

You normally fly into the mountains on the morning of day 2. Expect to be in the mountains for up to 8 nights of the course.

After roping up for glacier travel you will haul your gear and food to the hut (often a 20 minute hike). You guide will introduce you to your mountain abode for the week, and go through hut etiquette and management, while getting the kettle on and thinking about lunch.

The rest of this day typically focuses on revising crampon technique and self-arrest.

Day 3-9

Once in the mountains, the focus of the TMC is using available weather for 'on the hill' training.  Any enforced downtime will be spent maximising the technical skill/theory topics.

Each day will have an objective suitable to the conditions, weather, and leaning pathways of the group. Typically this will be a process where the course participants take part in planning and driving the execution of each day's activity, The guide will assist in the role of mentor and safety/technical advisor.

In some sections, in particular earlier in the course, the guide may take a more active leadership role - as the terrain dictates.

As you progress the focus shifts to climbing on more complex terrain, and refining rope and anchor skills. You will spend at least a half-day working on crevasse rescue scenarios. We aim to spend a day on technical day ice climbing on glacial seracs.

As a more advanced course there will always be a degree of flexibility in the content delivered. This is dependent on the experience of the participants and the need to ensure that course skills are well understood (and developed) by all involved.

Instructional days will begin at around 07:00. When climbing on good weather days you may have “alpine starts” - as early as 04:00, if tackling a longer ascent. Most day's activities will have you out for 8 to 10 hours.

We aim to have you back in Mount Cook Village by afternoon on the final full day. This allows for a "debrief" and meal at a local Mt Cook watering hole.

Day 10 - final morning

The final morning is spent on revision, perhaps a few hours at the local crag and returning gear, before finishing around noon. Most bus transport leaves Mt Cook about 14:00, so you have time to take lunch and to bid farewell to your team mates.

Egress from the mountains

Almost all TMC's fly out of the mountains. It maximises time spent on climbing and instruction and avoids an extremely arduous trip that must be done inside the course time.

The cost of flying out is built into the course price. There is no additional cost to you.

If based at Tasman Saddle your group may walk down the Tasman Glacier for 2-4 hours to a suitable lower aircraft landing site, or fly out on the aircraft that drops another group into the mountains.

Read more about walking out.

Equipment and Clothing | TMC

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

We require a deposit of NZ$1,000 and completed booking form for each person.