Late season mountaineering is on and we are privileged to live in a country with majestic peaks and stunning alpine scenery. Especially on the South Island, which is home to 23 3000-meter peaks. But as mesmerizing as the mountains are, we all know they can be
challenging places and must be treated with the utmost respect.
If you want to step it up and explore the more remote parts of our country, why not strap on some crampons, grab an ice axe and add a whole new set of skills to your outdoor toolbox?
Aspiring Guides offers a mountaineering skills course that can equip you for future alpine adventures, taught in a stunning classroom. To give you a feel for what this generally entails, get the firsthand account of one student who recently decided to learn more about the art of mountaineering.
The course starts with a spectacular helicopter flight from Raspberry Flat in Mt. Aspiring National Park. You’ll feel on top of the world as you see the valley getting smaller beneath you and the snowy peaks getting closer. Landing on Bevan Col marks the start of the day in the classroom and lesson number one is walking with crampons.
A funny, yet challenging task with lots of practice and lots of laughing when falling and sliding down easy slopes. Managing a good crampon technique is crucial when heading into mountaineering and your guide will make sure you’re getting all the right cues.
This is important because a part of the course goes through an ocean of ice. You’re roped up and heading into crevasse country.
The sharp, blue and tall ice cliffs make you wonder if you are Beyond the Wall in George R.R. Martin’s “The Game of Thrones”. But walking along the giant ice pillars is truly unique, and we students has time to enjoy the spectacular views while having well-deserved breaks.
Your heart indeed skips a beat when the “whumping” sound of a thin snow bridge is tested by your weight. But as a part of the Mountaineering Skills Course, the guide teaches you how to rescue yourself or a team member from these sometimes seemingly bottomless crevasses.
You also gain experience in glacial travel and develop an understanding of the characteristics of avalanche terrain.
Colin Todd Hut is one of the million-star hotels you may ever sleep in, and one of the fun ways to access the hut involves climbing roughly 100 vertical meters up a steep slope.
Here students get familiar with their ice axe and hammer, and after a while, the motion of ‘hook, hook, step, step’ becomes a well-known rhythm.
Colin Todd has a glorious view of Mt. Aspiring and the North-West Ridge, which is the most popular route to summit the mountain. Colin Todd is also known for its feather-covered guest: the Kea, New Zealand’s only alpine parrot with a massive appetite for outdoor gear, so climbers make sure to store all equipment inside.
An alarm from a GPS watch at 3 AM marks the alpine start. Hot drinks and muesli with powder milk are downed before heading out on a pitch-black glacier. Only lit up by narrow beams from head torches and flickering stars above.
One of the lessons you learn in the school of mountaineering is to catch the curveballs the weather throws at you. From a crisp and hard surface, the snow turns into a thick and saturated paste sticking to your crampons or snowshoes.
But no matter the weather, the classroom is still open, and your toolbox of mountaineering will grow bigger by the hour. Practicing in different circumstances will constantly bring you a well-rounded learning experience.
And by the end of the course, you will be able to tackle even bigger mountaineering missions – maybe even Mt. Aspiring.
To learn more about Aspiring Guides’ mountaineering course and other outdoor courses, visit their website.