Ice Axe Techniques Ice Axe Techniques

Mountaineering Skills Course

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7 days
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Big Challenges – Big Rewards – Supportive Environment

This is an intensive 7-day mountaineering course with comprehensive instruction in all facets of mountaineering and alpine climbing. Starting with the basics of ice axe and crampon techniques and glacier travel, moving onto more complex alpine climbing techniques; emphasis is placed on students learning to become self-sufficient in the alpine environment.

A wide range of technical terrain will be covered, climbing instruction takes place in heavily glaciated areas and student’s individual needs will be assessed and catered for. Whether you are looking to push your comfort zone or need friendly support, our guides are expert at getting you to achieve to the best of your ability.

Check out this blog by Jake Anderson (photographer) who was on an early season course a few years ago.

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A well structured, well-paced course. We had the freedom to be on our own rope teams but with the right level of supervision and guidance particularly when doing our practice scenarios eg crevasse rescue - go at our own pace and steps, but Andrea was...read more

Travis, Australia, Mountaineering Skills Course

Day One

Getting dropped in the mountains at the start of the course

We meet at the Aspiring Guides office in Wanaka for introductions and course outline. Equipment is reviewed and allocated by your guide. The weather and plan for the week will be discussed. We are fortunate to have several excellent venues to choose from and can move courses to where the conditions are best (West Coast, Mount Cook or Aspiring regions). If it is not possible to fly into the high mountains straight away, we utilise local instruction venues such as the Wanaka rock climbing crags and Remarkables mountains near Queenstown to begin introducing the wide range of topics on the syllabus. Either stay in Wanaka or drive to accommodation near the heli-staging area in preparation for a flight into the mountains (2.5-3.5 hrs).

Day Two

Glacier Travel

Once we have flown in we get settled into the mountain hut. Use of the ice axe, self arrest and cramponing skills are demonstrated by the guide and practised until it becomes second nature. Glacier travel skills are introduced and a walk on the glacier is followed by an introduction to glaciology and route finding by your guide. You can learn to identify the features of the mountains. Efficient movement on snow requires mileage so your guide will keep you moving as you learn to navigate through crevasse fields.

Day Three


After an early start, the group heads off to climb a small peak; along the way learning and practising snow anchors as well as belaying and pitching techniques. Doing short pitches you will learn how to build effective snow anchors and belay your partner. This is the chance to really learn what type of anchor will work for a given snow condition. Back at the hut, the group takes turn cooking using the menu provided by the guide. A lesson on weather forecasting after dinner ends the day.

Day Four

Learn to Climb NZ

Everyone loves to climb ice and today is the day to get technical. Using a vertical crevasse wall you will get to practise ice axe placements and footwork. Top roping allows participants to push their learning on lower angled slopes before tackling more technical terrain. Vertical and even overhanging ice can be experimented with in a safe environment. Learning ice screw placements and albalakovs is essential before being on the sharp end. This is a great chance to fine-tune your crevasse rescue skills. Lowering you deep into a crevasse, your guide will look after your safety as you practise self-rescue techniques.

Day Five

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Navigation is an important topic and today the students prepare a nav plan using chosen waypoints. Learning to understand time and distance in a whiteout takes patience and practise. Both map and compass skills, as well as GPS technology, will be covered. Weather plays an important role in mountaineering and learning how to deal with poor conditions is an important skill. Emergency shelters and bivouacs are practised and depending on the weather, there will be the opportunity of bivi out in an emergency shelter or snow cave.

Day Six

Alpine Rock

Alpine rock climbing is totally different from the usual crag or indoor climbing. Learning judgement and how to use minimal protection takes practice. Techniques such as slings and threads, friction belays and moving together are all ways to move fast and safe. Rock climbing in boots and carrying a backpack takes a change in attitude.

Day Seven

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Last day! Depending on the venue, it might be possible to pack up and head to a lower hut for a pick up by the helicopter. Learning to pack light weight will make sense now as you are carrying all of your overnight equipment. The helicopter gets you abruptly back to the real world to return to the Aspiring Guides base in Wanaka for a debrief our on our deck with long-awaited beverages.

New Zealand is world-famous for its challenging mountaineering. Wanaka is the ideal location for mountaineering training, with a range of local instruction venues such as Wanaka rock climbing crags and the Remarkables near Queenstown. Wanaka has access to both the western glaciers of Westland National Park and the eastern Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, and with Aspiring National Park on our doorstep so we can run our courses where weather and conditions are optimal.

The course syllabus

  • Mountain hazards identification and avoidance including avalanche awareness
  • Mountain weather
  • Ropework, including belay, abseiling and rescue
  • Protection and anchors on snow, rock and ice
  • Glacier travel techniques and crevasse rescue
  • Multipitch climbing and rescue
  • Snow, ice and mixed climbing
  • Alpine rock climbing
  • Mountain shelter and camp management
  • Equipment and clothing selection
  • Route selection & navigation
  • Trip planning including assessment of weather and conditions, human factors and terrain

At the end of the course you will be a competent member of a mountaineering team, being able to contribute to decision making on mountaineering expeditions, attempt summits via routes graded 1 to 2 (NZ grade) or undertake guided ascents of more technical objectives.

If your goal is to climb Aoraki-Mt Cook one day, then our Mountaineering Skills Course is a great place to start ... check out the Progression Chart developed by our chief guide Tim Steward.

Comprehensive course notes are supplied which will assist in your trip planning and equipment selection. We supply advice on where to stay on your visit and our friendly office staff are ready to help with any questions you might have.

No one will ever tell you that mountaineering is easy; the better shape you are in, the more you will be able enjoy the course.

Instruction courses are different than ascents in that we are able to adjust the physical difficulty to the group. Some days are spent with learning focused activity while other days are more physically challenging. Expect to be pushed hard physically but there will be time to recharge your batteries. Participants need to be accustomed to regular exercise. You should be able maintain a slow but steady pace up steep hills for an hour or more while carrying a 10-12kg pack. Good balance and a comfort with heights will be required. The good news is that with a little dedication just about anyone can achieve the required level of fitness. Endurance workouts are key to building up stamina. Part of any routine should include pushing your legs and lower body for extended periods of time, preferably with alternating periods of steep up hill and downhill.

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This course is designed as an introduction to mountaineering alpine climbing.

While many people have some previous experience with rock or indoor climbing we find that for a good transition to the alpine environment you need to start at the beginning. Previous experience with knots, belaying and rope work will be an asset but the shift from rock shoes to crampons is a complete change of focus. This course is the time to concentrate on the skills that will be the foundation for all your future alpine adventures. Skills such as good footwork with crampons and ice axe technique are essential for your safety. Our guides will show you the right way to protect your self and gain a lifetime of solid technical skills.

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Trip Date Available
25-31 Oct Confirmed : 3 places available
29 Nov - 5 Dec Confirmed : 3 places available
28 Dec - 3 Jan Confirmed: 1 place available
17-23 Jan, 2021 Open
7-13 Feb, 2021 Confirmed: 3 places available
7-13 March, 2021 Open
11-17 April, 2021 Open
C = confirmed to run
Dates don't suit? Have your own group? If you already have your own group and these dates don't suit - please contact us. We can always organise a Private Instruction Course for you.


Client Ratio Price
1:3 - 1:4 NZ$3,100

What's included

  • guide fees
  • meals and energy snacks
  • alpine hut / tent accommodation
  • technical equipment - see equipment section below for details
  • 150-page Aspiring Guides Technical Manual
  • radio network or satellite phone comms
  • national park & landing fees
  • 15% goods and services tax

What's not included

  • flights in and out of the mountains

Frequently asked questions

Most of our mountaineering ascents are conducted on a 1:1 basis, so no problem there.

For all other group climbing, skiing or trekking trips, we have a 2 person minimum number to operate a trip. If you are travelling on your own, try to organise your itinerary to match up with the dates scheduled for the course or trip listed on our website.

If you can't join a trip on our scheduled dates: then you have two options:

Book a private 1:1 trip for any dates you wish or we can book you as a single and we will try to match others to your dates. If we cannot find at least one other person for the dates you want, one month before the start date we will give you a full refund or offer you an alternative trip 1:1 for a fewer number of days.

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.

Australian residents:

UK residents:

Canada & USA residents:

NZ residents: NZ Alpine Club Cover

All clients:

Equipment Detail

We include all technical climbing equipment, crampons, ice-axe, helmet, harness etc. You only need to provide your personal equipment like your boots and clothing, pack and sleeping bag. However many of these items are available for rent from us.

Equipment Detail Checklist & order form
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