Whichever route you climb, this is a beautiful mountain and is a highlight of many people's climbing trip in New Zealand. Mount Aspiring is a classic horned peak, often called the "Matterhorn of the South." Its beauty and technical climbing make it one of New Zealand's premier mountain peaks. Climbing Mount Aspiring is a significant undertaking and not to be underestimated, which is why our guided ascents are so popular. It is, however, achievable without much prior mountaineering experience with suitable physical preparation. For those with minimal mountaineering experience, we recommend a course like Sharpen Up - Mt Aspiring Training Weekend prior to a guided ascent. In the interest of safety and quality, we only guide Mount Aspiring as an ascent with one client and one mountain guide unless as part of a longer mountaineering instruction course. After the climb, the walk from Colin Todd Hut out to the road end is a very big, technical descent (1400m) that many people find as challenging as the climb itself.book now Skills required
Graham, New Zealand, Mt Aspiring
Ben, New Zealand, Mt. Aspiring
Meet at our Wanaka office, where you will meet your guide and complete a check of all gear. After a short drive to the helicopter staging area, we load into our helicopter. It is a stunning flight into Bevan Col where you begin the ascend with your guide. Your guide will give you the required instruction on glacier travel, ice axe and crampon use. A one hour walk across the Bonar Glacier gets you to Colin Todd Hut, which will be the base for your ascent. This amazing hut is perched high on the side of the mountain at 1800m and is owned by the New Zealand Alpine Club. Under agreement with the Alpine Club, Aspiring Guides is allowed to keep equipment at the hut which minimizes the gear you are required to carry. The hut can be busy and in nice weather we often choose to bivi or tent outside.
Often clients benefit from an acclimatisation day to get used to their surroundings and to explore the area. There are several smaller summits close to Mount Aspiring that can be climbed to give the guide time to familiarise you with the equipment and techniques required. This day also gives you some time up your sleeve should the weather not cooperate.
Summit day usually starts at around 4 am. After a good breakfast and a strong cup of your second favourite beverage, the climbing begins. Guides usually time it so you arrive at the more technical climbing around daybreak. The nerves begin to settle down as you watch the shadow of Mount Aspiring dominate the horizon and stretch out towards the Tasman Sea. The most technical climbing is usually spent gaining the upper ridge of the mountain either by the "ramp " or the NW Ridge. It is a thrilling climb as you begin to rise above the many peaks in the area. The summit ridge takes about 2 hours, but it can seem an eternity as your fitness is put to the test. The summit of Mt Aspiring is one of the more aesthetically pleasing peaks you will ever climb. The summit rises to a sharp point from where you can get a staggering view of the South Island mountains. The descent is a mixture of walking, down climbing and abseiling. It is slow work for tired legs but there is an uplifting sense of achievement as you realize that you just might pull off this great accomplishment.
It is a slow start for tired bodies but after a massive breakfast the journey continues. There are two options for getting to the valley floor. Either way, it is 1400m of descent to get down, if your thighs don't feel it yet, they will. The faster/bad weather option is to cross the Bonar Glacier to Bevan Col and descend this improbable rocky gash of a route to the valley floor. It is a pretty wild ride finding your way down steep rock slab, an abseil and some amazingly over-steepened boulder fields. Nine hours gets you to Aspiring Hut. It is only a few hours from there to the trail end but most people decide they have had enough long before they get to the hut ... the sight of a soft bunk is too tempting to pass up.
The other option is to make your way from Colin Todd up the Bonar to the summit ridge of Mt French then descend to French Ridge hut. This can be smooth travel in early summer, but as the season wears on, the route gets more and more broken. The route will take you through vast crevasse fields and roped descents through towering blocks of ice. A very nice route, but since it rises from Colin Todd, it can be a daunting route-finding mission in bad weather.
The final walk out to the trail end and the waiting vehicle can seem like a dream since over your shoulder you can catch glimpses of the summit of Aspiring. It can seem beyond belief that you were so recently there. The car and your trip to the nearest shower is 5 hrs from French Ridge Hut or 2 hours from Aspiring Hut.
North West Ridge is an ideal but challenging route for climbers who are fit but have little serious climbing experience. There are a variety of rock and snow approaches that may be used to attain the upper slopes of the mountain. This is the perfect climb for people who have done walk-up peaks such as Island Peak, Kilimanjaro or Mont Blanc and want to try something more technical.
The South West Ridge offers sustained and exposed snow and ice climbing for the more technically adept mountaineers. The majority of the route is 45-50 degrees with three pitches of 60-degree ice at the summit. Good cramponing skills are paramount. Expect to be thrilled by the exciting finish to this wonderful climb. Only clients with previous steep ice experience will be accepted for this route.
The South Face is a sustained 50-70 degree ice. We only accept previous clients for this route.
Mount Aspiring takes on average 12 - 16 hours return from Colin Todd Hut. The walk out from the mountain is a further two days through spectacular alpine scenery.
In the early season, snow and ice routes will push ankle and calf strength to the limit. The day of the climb you will be carrying a light alpine pack 5-7 kg but for access and egress you will be required to carry a pack of 12-15 kg up and down steep hills. The walk out from Colin Todd Hut to the road end is a very big, semi-technical descent (1400m) that many people find as challenging as the climb itself. A good endurance training aim is to be able to climb 300 vertical meters in under an hour.
The altitude and exposure mean that for most trips you can expect at least some inclement weather such as wind, snow, rain and intense sun.
While objective hazards such as rock and ice fall certainly exist, in general, Mt Aspiring is a safe mountain to climb making it a good option for people who are fit but relatively inexperienced mountaineers. The guide can handle the technical difficulties leaving the client free to concentrate on the climbing.
In the early season (October to December), The Ramp is the normal ascent route and involves 10 pitches of snow or ice of 35-50 degrees to gain the summit ridge. The summit ridge is exposed walking.
Conditions vary annually but usually by New Year, The Ramp becomes cut off and for later season climbs, the Full NW Ridge is the normal ascent route and is viable through to early May. It is a primarily very exposed rock scrambling done in mountaineering boots with several pitches of snow or ice at the summit. For the most part the rock is exposed but easy scrambling but being comfortable climbing grade 14 (5.6 US, 4b HS British) will be beneficial for the trickier sections.
The South West Ridge is continuous snow and ice arête rising out of the Bonar Glacier directly to the summit. It culminates in 3-4 pitches of 50-60 degree ice. Descent is usually by the NW Ridge. The season varies a great deal since it largely depends on the condition of the ice in the upper couloir. It is not generally climbed after mid-January.