Mountaineering Skills Course


Franz Josef Glacier - one of our many excellent instruction locations.  

" A well structured, well paced course"

Travis, Brisbane, Australia

"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 there and watching and stepped in when we needed it.  I feel like I have a sound understanding, and appreciation to practice everything before heading back out, on what I need to do for basic mountaineering adventures to build my skill set. Were still able to get great learning on bad weather days. Andrea was really personable and worked with us. A very professional, entertaining, and fun course to give us the basics and confidence to mountaineer."


More Information

New Zealand is world famous for it's 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 includes:

* 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.

Available Dates

Dates 2019/20
27 Oct - 2 Nov 3 places available
17 - 23 Nov FULL
17 - 23 Nov (2nd course) C: 2 places available
8 - 14 Dec 2 places available
29 Dec - 4 Jan C: 2 places available
19 - 25 Jan Open
9 - 15 Feb C: 1 place available
1 - 7 March Open
22 - 28 March Open
9 - 15 April (Easter) Open


C = confirmed to run

A note about "waitlisting". Most times we only need another 2 people to put on a second course - so don't hesitate to contact us and let us know if you're interested in dates for which a course is fully booked. 

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.


Technical Difficulty

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.

Physical Difficulty

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.

Price Details

Guide Ratio Price  
1:4 NZ $3,050


What's Included
  • flight in (helicopter or fixed wing)
  • 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.
Not included :
  • flight out of the mountains

Itinerary / Trip Options (multi)

Day One

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 accomodation near the the heli- staging area in preparation for a flight into the mountains (2.5-3.5 hrs).

Getting dropped in the mountains at the start of the course !

Day Two

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 practiced 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. 

Glacier Travel

Day Three

After an early start, the group heads off to climb a small peak; along the way learning and practicing 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

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 foot work.  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 practice self rescue techniques. 

Learn to Climb, NZ

Day Five

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 practice.  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 practiced and depending on the weather, there will be the pportunity of bivi out in an emergency shelter or snow cave.

Day Six

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.  


Day Seven

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 abrubtly 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. 


Equipment Details

This video provides practical demonstration of the common equipment and clothing required for mountaineering.

Back to Top