Ultimately, we want you to complete this course with the foundation for a successful and safe climbing future. Those attributes that we feel are most important and useful are:
- Solid climbing standard and mountain awareness
- Sound judgement of own ability
- Good planning and preparation skills
- Informed decision making
- Technical mountaineering proficiency
The following are the basis of skills taught during the course, however factors such as weather and climbing conditions may, at times, dictate that some skills are not covered in full.
- Basic to advanced snow and ice craft
- Rope skills applicable to alpine climbing
- Glacier travel and crevasse rescue skills
- Weather analysis
- Alpine rock skills
- Introduction to mountain rescue
- Route finding
- Avalanche awareness
We operate our courses in the Mt Aspiring, Mt Cook or Westland National Parks. Being based in Wanaka gives us more flexibility than any other location in the Southern Alps to be able to travel directly to the best area for running the course. Operators based in Mt Cook are shut down by weather for extended periods.
However, due to Wanaka’s central proximity to all the regions, we have the ability to anticipate these weather systems and will travel to the opposite side of the mountain range and get into the mountains often days before it clears on the windward aspects. We consider factors such as: weather and snow conditions, hut occupancy rates, and our knowledge of where to find the best climbing conditions at the time. The course will commence and finish at our Wanaka office.
THE WAY THE COURSE OPERATES
We will spend as much time in the mountains as possible actually climbing peaks whilst developing skills. Initially we will develop and reinforce skills in non-threatening environments and move on to more ‘interesting’ terrain during the course.
The emphasis of the course will be on alpine routes involving fairly long days where your guides will progressively introduce a wide range of skills and techniques.
The following is a typical outline for the Alpine Climbing Course based on a prior course based in Westland National Park.
The group will congregate at the AC office in Wanaka at 9.00am where the course participants meet the guides and are introduced to the other course members. After everyone has had a chat, the guide outlines the course syllabus and in which mountains the course will take place. Next, we get together to discuss and then organise our personal and group equipment (bring all your gear with you, including those items you are not sure whether to include or not). Equipment pertinent to the course will be discussed and you can get all the advice you need concerning equipment from the guides. Anyone requiring rental equipment will be fitted at this time (but please advise in advance of your requirements to ensure you are catered to) and final purchases can be made. Food is pre-sorted for the trip by the guides to save time. It's very important to ration food effectively, too much and your packs become overly heavy, too little and you starve! Basic rope skills and tying in are covered to ensure consistency and revision for those who already have rope skills. This enables us to get right into it when we reach the glacier in a couple of days. Trip planning is covered followed by rescue first aid and decision-making. Once all this is completed we pack up for the trip. Excess items can be left at our office for storage.
We travel by road to Fox Glacier township (or Aspiring or Mt Cook) depending on where weather and conditions are best! Please remember a travel bag for use when overnighting in Fox Glacier/Mt Cook village/Wanaka village before and after the trip, see equipment list for details.
An early breakfast is 'processed' then the group is bundled into aircraft for the flight to the remote Fox Glacier and we get to see the awesome peaks of the region we will be soon scaling. An initial familiarisation talk to clarify nomenclature and identify the peaks will help you absorb this wonderful environment before moving into the more practical elements of the trip. We utilise the hut system in the region when they are not too full and we move our gear in before we sort ourselves to get out onto the snow. The group ropes up for crevasse travel training and we go for a walk on the glacier. Our other mountaineering gear is introduced as we go along with the rudimentary techniques needed for mountaineering - use of an ice axe, learning to crampon and to self-arrest. There'll be a lunch stop, even though in mountaineering, lunch starts straight after breakfast, and goes all day...The first day out in the mountains is always exciting and eventually we will retire to the hut for a team cook-up and maybe a lesson on weather forecasting while watching the sunset.
An early start sees the group roped up and away just on dawn towards a traverse of Grey Peak on the upper reaches of the Fox Glacier. It's good to clear the lungs with a 2 hour climb up the slopes to Pioneer Pass. Here we actually have to place snow anchors and belay on snow or ice towards the summit. At the summit we rest with Aoraki/Mt Cook right there in front of us and we get to see right up into the upper Tasman Glacier! After a quick lunch it's time to descend. We find some suitable seracs and experience ice climbing. It's a chance to hang onto those tools and find the balance point on the crampons. Tired and elated we return to the hut for the night.
An early start again, but this time up to Mt Von Bulow, a few kilometres from the hut. The glacier approach is done by headlamp until the dawn breaks just as we near Mt Von Bulow’s summit. We climb the final section with a belay and use of snow anchors to the summit. Then we move around on the Davis Snowfield to climb a snow ridge up to West Hoe, our second summit. It is a very tired group slugging back across the soft glacier and up the heart breaking hill to a welcome cup of tea at the hut and some time to dry out sweaty clothes and boots in the afternoon sun. The evening weather forecast is for a front the next day and we pop outside and take note of how the weather is changing.
Slightly sore legs are rested with the onset of a storm, which keeps us around the hut for the day. A cooked breakfast is followed by a navigation lesson and numerous cups of tea and real coffee. Navigation is a crucial skill and can mean the difference between comfort and concern in the mountains. By knowing these skills one can actually avoid ever getting (completely) lost! A more involved weather lesson follows lunch, and an introductory avalanche awareness lecture then it's time for a game of cards before dinner. The group listens to the evening weather forecast which promises improvement for the following day.
A windy dawn greets us and it is snowing lightly, a good sign the guide tells us. We practice equalising anchors and discuss some crevasse rescue theory while the weather continues to improve. We decide to make an attempt on the Minarets, two 3000m peaks in the Franz Josef Glacier area. This will require a bivvy at Graham Saddle, some five hours from our hut. Now it's time for the course participants to consolidate the skills they have already acquired by planning and executing a trip under the watchful eyes of the guides. Food is packed, stoves and pots loaded in, and sleeping gear stowed in packs as well. With heavy packs we set off in improving weather and it is late afternoon when we arrive at our bivvy site.
No-one likes to hear their alarm clock at 3.00am but we get away. The winds are building which makes the climbing more difficult than on a good day. Yet this is part of the game and the team moves on. Finally the summit is reached at 1pm yet due to the cold and wind, celebrations are brief. As a group we have to carefully make our way back down to pick up the bivvy gear before descending back to Centennial hut for the night.
Just near the hut is a perfect crevasse to practice rescue skills. We each take turns to jump into the crevasse while our climbing partners hold our falls. They then carefully pull us up out of the crevasse then we swap around. All the time watched carefully by our guides for safety pointers. In the afternoon we return to our food supplies. High cloud indicates the possibility of approaching weather and all are expectant of the coming day.
A fierce storm rages but abates late in the day and we escape to descend to Chancellor Hut on the Fox Glacier. We are all happy to be going downhill! Several times we have to utilise our navigation skills and it's a good chance for the course members to work through this under the watchful eyes of the guide. By the time we reach Chancellor Hut the weather has improved enough to allow a helicopter to land and we are soon on our way to Fox Glacier Township for showers, steak, beer and a morning’s ice climbing on the lower glacier.
A tired group gets up early and drives back to the Fox Glacier and walk 30 minutes up to some steep and overhanging ice faces. Some top ropes are erected and ice anchors practiced. The group descends back to the vans for lunch then return to Wanaka by road to sort out the equipment and debrief the course. The group members decide that after such a successful week it's worth a trip downtown for a group meal and social evening.
HOW TO FIND US
Insights to the world of ski mountaineering from professional freeride skier Lorraine Huber on the Adventure Consultants Alpine Expedition Course.
THE SNOWS OF AORAKI
Dan Slater of Climb Magazine (UK) published a wonderful insight into climbing New Zealand's highest mountain, with Adventure Consultant's guide Andy Cole.
MY OWN PRIVATE GLACIER
Jonathan Moody recently joined us for our Alpine Expedition Course. His blog about the trip features in Outer Edge magazine.
MINING LIFE AND LIVING - FROZEN PLAYGROUND
Christie Prior shares her experience on an AC Mountaineering Instruction Course last summer.
From the AC Blog page
Ama Dablam 2017 - First glimpse
Island Peak 2017 - Rest Day
Manaslu 2017 - Back in Ktm
Lux EBC #3 2017 - Farewell
Mustang 2017 - Kathmandu
Elbrus 2017 - Party Time!
Elbrus Private 2017 - Moscow
Everest 2017 - Wrapping Up