Wanaka offers a vast range of options for your pre and post trip accommodation. It can be busy, so it is a good idea to book well in advance. There is everything from shared backpacker accommodation to five-star hotels, and lots in between. Click here for a list of places we usually find to be pretty good.
As a general rule: the more technically advanced/higher climb grade - the lower the guide-to-client ratio. All professional mountain guides contracted to Aspiring Guides are qualified professionals and operate under the terrain guidelines issued by the New Zealand Mountain Guides Association.
Our maximum group size for introductory mountaineering/climbing courses is typically 1 guide with 4 clients. We write this as 1:4 guide ratio. Advanced courses run with 2 (1:2) or 3 (1:3) clients depending on the course & objectives. As a general rule: the more technically advanced/higher climb grade - the lower the guide-to-client ratio. Private instruction is also available 1:1 or 1:2.
We can also offer instruction and mountaineering trips for larger groups but the maximum guide to client ratio stays the same - eg. 2 guides: 8 clients. If you have a larger private group, contact us for further details.
For ascents of most NZ peaks, the guiding ratio is 1:1 or in some cases 1:2.
Aspiring Guides is based in the small & scenically beautiful town of Wanaka. Situated on the shores of Lake Wanaka, on the South Island of New Zealand, Wanaka is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park - a World Heritage Area.
Wanaka is a 1-1.5 hour drive from Queenstown (which has an international airport for flights from Australia), 5 hours from Christchurch (with an international airport) and 3 hours from Dunedin. Wanaka has ample accommodation to suit all budget types and a wide range of outdoor sports stores necessary to equip you for a mountaineering, skiing or hiking trip with us.
We are located at 58 McDougall St, Wanaka, a short 10-15 minute walk from the centre of town.
Our offices are at 58 McDougall St, Wanaka, a 10-15 minute walk from the centre of town. Here's a google map of our office location.
Unless otherwise instructed, for summer trips your guide will meet you at 8.30am on the morning of Day 1 of your trip. For winter trips we usually meet at 5:30pm the evening before the trip starts. We will confirm this meeting at the time of booking.
If you require pick up from your accommodation, please let us know.
At this meeting your clothing and equipment is checked and the final details of your trip are discussed. There will be time for last-minute purchases if required.
One thing we hear every trip is "the food was great! I never knew it was possible to eat so well on a climbing / skiing / trekking trip". We put a lot of work into supplying you with wholesome meals with a variety of healthy and tasty ingredients and snacks catering to common preferences.
Where possible, we provide fresh vegetables and real coffee. However, there will always be limitations when cooking in an alpine or wilderness environment. Meals like salads are limited or not possible to provide. Some trips/ courses are not recommended for people with very restrictive or complex dietary requirements. If you do have a restrictive eating regime we ask that you disclose this to us at the time of booking and we may ask you to provide us with an advance copy of what you would typically eat on a wilderness trip.
For highly specialised diets requiring special food purchases - we may ask that you attend our offices on the day before your trip is due to commence. If you are joining a scheduled group that doesn't have food requirements, we may ask you to shop & pay for some of your preferred dietary requirements. You will also be required to carry this food and your guide may ask you to assist in the preparation of any separate meals required for you individually.
Most of our mountaineering ascents & courses are based from a hut or camp. Most days there is only a need for lunch, snacks, water, camera, jacket & tools. When relocating or walking out, you will need to carry 15-20kg which includes personal gear and some food.
For most mountaineering trips we recommend a 50-60 litre capacity pack with gear loops for ice-axe & crampons. Resist the temptation to fill that space to capacity. Light is right. Your endurance and performance over a long trip can be severely affected if you are carrying "too much stuff". Your guide will be checking the contents of your pack before you leave the office on your trip.
All our trips in the mountains are physically demanding. It goes without saying that the fitter you are the more you will achieve and the more you will enjoy the experience. If you are new to mountaineering here are some suggestions: -
Endurance Fitness is the Key
In terms of fitness training for any mountaineering objective -endurance (both mental and physical) is the most important personal attribute you can have. You need to be able to keep moving at a steady pace for 10 hours + while carrying a load and sustain this over multiple days - very few of our mountaineering trips require only one day of effort!
For big objectives like Cook, you really need to aim to be able to climb 1000m vertical in about 3 hours. While you will start to feel the effects of altitude at 3000m, altitude is not generally a big factor in climbing NZ mountains. The degree of difficulty and technicality of the climb is!
One of the best ways to get "endurance" is sustained hiking under load. Short intense workouts at the gym are only slightly helpful. Big hikes ie., > 10 hrs on rough terrain with a pack is best. Hiking trips of 4+ days are ideal training. But we understand that this type of training is pretty hard to get as a city dweller. Stair hiking with a 15+ kg and 20+ floors works remarkably well. But nothing beats getting out of the city to national park areas and mountain trails. Make a pre-dawn start to get used to using a head torch & give yourself a 15+kg pack weight. Filling your pack with water bottles is a good way to get weight into your pack.
If you already rock climb - keep it up. If you have not done any rock climbing, then look at doing at least a few sessions with a local climbing instructor or indoor climbing wall. Being able to abseil & belay are important basic skills. Practice your knots - figure of 8, clove & italian hitches and prussik knots are important - here’s a great website to help.
If you have any questions at all, please contact us - we can send you information about a full training program for mountaineering and ski touring in NZ.
Under 'equipment' on each individual trip web page, we provide detailed information about the equipment required for the trip. Typically this includes a checklist which you can use to "tick off" your gear, a document giving more detailed explanations as well as some of our best "guide tips" and a video to visually explain some of the terminology.
For our climbing and skiing trips, we have 3 categories of equipment:-
Compulsory items - this is equipment you must have with you. You can either purchase or hire depending on the item.
Trip Dependent - these are items that may be needed but will depend on the venue for the trip and prevailing conditions. Most times this cannot be decided ahead of time. Our best advice is that if you already own the items listed in the trip dependent section & you can fit in your pack then bring them along. Things like your own rock shoes and snow goggles are good things to bring - but disposable eating utensils can easily be obtained in Wanaka.
Optional - these are items which you can choose to bring or leave behind. But we think you should at least bring your camera!! Your trip will to some of the most breath-taking locations on the planet!!
Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about the suitability of equipment to avoid purchasing or carrying unnecessary equipment.
This tends to be one of the major concerns of clients going on group trips. However, in our experience, it is very rarely a problem. Due to our small group size, we largely avoid compatibility issues.
However, almost all of the trips we offer are physically demanding. It is very important that you are realistic in the self-assessment of your skills and experience. If you are not familiar with the NZ mountain and wilderness environment it is hard for you to judge how you will go. However, our Chief Guide and all our guides are widely travelled and can give a good assessment before you join a trip whether your experience in other countries will work well for NZ conditions.
If you are joining a group, tolerance is an important personal quality. Tiredness from lack of fitness or sleeping in an unfamiliar environment can take its toll over a long trip. But it is important to remember that while you might be the fastest, you might be the weakest at tying into your harness, crossing a river or making turns in deep powder snow. Inevitably every person on a group trip will have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. An upbeat temperament & accepting attitude go a long way in the mountains.
If you are really concerned about your compatibility with others and you have not done many group trips then we are happy to offer private options on request.
Good travel insurance is essential. In addition to medical/accident cover, we highly recommend purchasing travel cancellation insurance. In some instances, our clients have injured themselves in totally unrelated accidents or had a family emergency which has meant that they have had to cancel their trips at short notice. Unfortunately, we were unable to resell their places and had to insist on our cancellation policy. A bad situation for everyone! But it’s also one that can be avoided with relatively cheap travel insurance. You may have your own preferred travel insurer. If not, here are some suggestions.
We do not recommend any company over any other.
Insurance for Australian residents:
Insurance for UK residents:
Insurance for Canada & USA residents:
Insurance for NZ residents: NZ Alpine Club Cover
Insurance for all clients:
New Zealand is famous for its changeable weather. The mountains here are characterised by long sunny fine periods mixed with sudden and sometimes heavy rain or snow. Our experienced guides are well equipped to provide the best possible trip and have many years experience in judging the conditions.
Travel in bad weather is an art in itself. By using Aspiring Guides you give yourself the best chance of success dealing with whatever the weather may throw at you. We also offer a bonus one day weather contingency on ascents and winter trips that require helicopter access. This means your trip could start a day late if you choose to use this option.
If the weather remains adverse and prevents the trip from operating as originally planned, you have the opportunity to carry out sub-alpine adventure and skill development activities. The Guide fee applies and any trip costs not utilised will be refunded.
It is important that you have read and understood our booking terms and conditions. Once a trip begins there are no refunds.
You can defer your trip for one day and not waste any precious guiding time. You will start the next day with the full number of days allocated for the trip still available. Effectively your guide is holding themselves available for 1 extra day of guiding at no extra charge.
While one day may not be the cure for all bad weather situations, sometimes a one day delay at the start of your alpine touring trip can make all the difference. If you want to take advantage of this bonus, make sure you allow for this extra day in your itinerary.
The bonus one day weather contingency applies to all Summer Ascent based trips, any Winter trips (whether ascent, course, ski tour) and also summer Treks: Rabbit Pass, Lake Nerine and Adelaide Cirque. The Weather Contingency does not apply to any Summer Climbing Courses. As you will appreciate - no matter what the weather there is always mountaineering skills you can learn indoors.
But please note:
The one-day Weather Contingency applies only to the start date of your trip. This means your trip could start a day later if your guide recommends and you agree to choose this option. It is important to understand that once a trip begins no weather contingency days are included. There are no refunds for bad weather during the trip.
Yes, no problem. We have storage for anything you aren't taking on your trip. There's no electricity, internet or phone connection available on any of our trips - so it's best to leave most of your electronic gear with us for the duration of your trip.
The closest airport to us is in Queenstown. There are regular shuttles between Wanaka and Queenstown airport (one-hour drive). For shuttle and taxi information:
No. Most people use shuttle bus transport or a taxi service from Queenstown Airport to Wanaka. If you stay in accommodation in central Wanaka then you will not need to rent a car. Most cafes, restaurants and activities are within easy walking distance.
You can book directly through our website using our online booking form. Please make sure you include details of the trip you want to book and the dates that you prefer. Provided that we have minimum numbers (ie., generally 2 persons) we will run all trips listed on our website. If you have dates that don't match our scheduled dates or you want to check whether a particular trip or course is running - please contact us.
We cannot confirm your place on any scheduled group trip or your guide for any 1:1 trip until we receive your payment of a NZ$500 deposit. The balance of the trip price is due 60 days before the start of your trip. If you are booking within 60 days of the trip start date then the full trip price is payable to confirm your booking.
All bookings are subject to our company Terms & Conditions relating to cancellation & liability issues. Please make sure you read our Terms & Conditions carefully before booking your trip with us as you will be asked to confirm that you have read and agreed to them before your booking is finalised with us.
We offer a number of different options for you to make payment for your trip:-
Web-based Foreign Exchange Dealers
Bank Transfer - NZ Domestic & International
Credit Card - Visa, MasterCard only (3% fees apply)
See each individual trip descriptions for any trip or courses. All prices are in New Zealand Dollars and include the government 15% Goods & Services Tax (GST).
Here is a link to a currency converter to give you an estimate of the trip price in your own currency.
Generally, the price includes your qualified and friendly guide, all meals and snacks, park fees, hut fees, communications with Aspiring Guides Operations base and 15% Goods and Services Tax. Most technical equipment is included but transport costs like vehicle, jetboat, helicopter and/or air plane costs are not always included and vary with individual trips. See each individual trip description to see what is included or excluded from the price.