Roped up for glacier travel

Private Instruction Course

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Our Private Instruction Courses are ideal for a group looking for an introduction to mountaineering or to further developing their alpine climbing techniques.

Essentially you nominate the dates and duration, and we design a course syllabus around your skill base and objectives. This course allows you to choose your party and develop skills at your own pace. Groups may be anyone from a couple to a group of people who need specific training for venturing on to an expedition or special project. A minimum of two people is required which allows you to extend yourself as a climbing partnership. For our private one-on-one climbing program see Private Guiding.

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Day One

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We meet at the Aspiring Guides office in Wanaka at 8:30am for introductions and course outline. Equipment is reviewed and allocated by your guide. We are fortunate to have several excellent venues to choose from and can move courses to where the conditions are best. Snow and weather conditions are discussed and once a decision has been made as to the venue for the course (West Coast, Mount Cook or Aspiring regions) we drive to the heli- staging area or airport (2.5-3.5 hrs). Once we have flown in we set up camp using either a snow cave, tent or mountain hut. Self arrest and cramponing are taught and demonstrated by the guide and practised until it becomes second nature. We go over the basic skills to ensure a consistency of technique before moving onto the more advanced skills.

Day Two


Crevasse 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 and associated nomenclature. Efficient movement on snow requires mileage so your guide will keep you moving as you learn to navigate through crevasse fields. Roping up techniques will be practised as well as how to stop your partner from falling into a crevasse.

Day Three

Snowstake Placement

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

Guided crevasse rescue techniques

Everyone loves to climb ice and today is the day to get technical. Using a vertical crevasse wall you will get to practice ice axe placements and footwork. Top roping allows students 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 trying them “in anger”.

Day Five

People on top of 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 back pack takes a change in attitude. If you have never traveled “au cheval” this is where you will get a BIG thrill. In preparation for the next day your guide will teach you prussicking principals in the evening.

Day Six

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Last day (six day option)! Packing up and heading to a lower hut will make it easier to get picked up by a helicopter in case the cloud builds up in the afternoon. Learning to travel light weight will make sense now. This is a great chance to fine-tune your crevasse skills. Lowering you deep into a crevasse, your guide will look after your safety as you gain the skills needed to self-rescue. An afternoon rendezvous with the helicopter gets you back to the real world. Back in Wanaka by 5:00pm we usually “debrief” our on our deck with long-awaited beverages.

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 instructor will show you the right way to protect yourself and gain a lifetime of solid technical skills.

The emphasis of our instruction courses is on developing and expanding the essential skills:

  • snow and ice climbing
  • anchors
  • belaying and rope skills
  • alpine rock climbing
  • glacier travel techniques
  • route selection & navigation
  • weather analysis and forecasting
  • avalanche awareness
  • camp management and emergency shelters
  • crevasse and alpine rescue
  • emergency shelters

No one will ever tell you that alpine climbing 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 to 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 uphill and downhill.

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Private Instruction Courses can be tailored to meet your specific requirements.

A good level of fitness and comfort with heights is desired but many people use this course to test themselves for the first time. Whether you are brand new or looking to push your limits your guide will be able to take you as far as you want to go.

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Trip Date Available
Get in touch for Spring/Summer 2023 from 1st November to 31st March OPEN
5, 6 or 8 day courses


Client Ratio Price
1:1 up to 1:4 $1500pp per day

What's included

  • guide fees
  • meals and energy snacks
  • alpine hut accommodation
  • all technical equipment - see equipment section below for details
  • 150-page technical instruction manual
  • national park & landing fees
  • GST

What's not included

  • Flights in or out of the mountains

Frequently asked questions

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.

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 and 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.

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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