Note that this itinerary is a sample only. Your final itinerary is subject to weather and other conditions.
Meet at your accommodation at 8.30 for introductions and discuss the course outline and your goals for the trip. We are lucky that we have several areas that we can choose from to run the mountaineering course and we will choose the best location for the weather and conditions (Mt Cook, Fox Glacier, or the Mt Aspiring region). Before we depart we will check through your equipment. It is a 2.5 – 3.5 hour drive to get to the helicopter staging area.
Once we arrive in the mountains we will get set up in the hut before getting straight into the learning. Often we will start our course by teaching mountaineering knots and the technique for roping up for glacier travel, this will be followed by an outing on the glacier learning safe glacier travel technique. We will show you how to safely hold a fall if your climbing partners falls into a crevasse.
Use of ice axe and crampons are introduced. This is followed by a self arresting lesson. You will learn how to safely move on snow and ice and practice self arresting until you are confident at the technique. The best way to get proficient with ice axe and crampons is by moving through mountain terrain. We will continue learning about glacier travel and route finding through crevasse fields as we move towards todays climbing objective – the ridge route on Mt Alymer at the head of the Tasman glacier. As we climb the steep snow and ice on Mt Alymer we will learn more snow and ice climbing techniques and how to apply them on mountain terrain.
We wake up early and head down the glacier to the ice climbing area in the ice fall below Tasman Saddle Hut. We will learn modern steep ice climbing technique using two tools. The guide sets up several top rope climbs and makes sure that everyone has the opportunity to challenge themselves. For many clients ice climbing is one of the highlights of the trip. As part of the learning your guide will show you how to place ice screw anchors and make V threads.
By 2pm the weather has deteriorated and we climb back up the glacier to the hut in a whiteout using a compass, map, and GPS for navigation. This is also a good opportunity to learn about travelling safely on glaciated terrain in a whiteout with flat light.
Back at the hut and after hot drinks we have an afternoon theory lesson on navigation in the mountains. We learn about reading maps, compass use, and navigation in the mountains. These skills can be applied while navigating in the mountains in good weather and poor weather/white out conditions.
We awake to the sound of wind. Looking outside there is 20cm of new snow outside, poor visibility, and the wind is blowing at 80km/h. This morning we have an indoor lesson on crevasse rescue rope work. This lesson includes how to tie prussik knots and climb out of a crevasse with prussiks, and how rescue a climber with assisted hoist (2:1 pulley systems) and unassisted hoists (6:1 pulley systems).
After lunch the weather clears enough for us to get out of the hut and learn about building snow anchors in hard and soft snow. After testing the anchors we introduce the rope and look at belaying and pitching skills and building snow anchors in climbing terrain. We will find a steep slope to practice climbing, placing snow anchors, and belaying.
Time to practice the skills we learnt about climbing, building anchors, pitching, and belaying. Todays objective is a traverse of Hochsetter Dome with you and your climbing partner leading the pitches. The guide will climb along side you giving you instruction as you climb and keeping a watchful eye on you. This is a full day of climbing and at the end of the day you head back to the hut with the satisfaction of climbing a significant peak in the NZ Southern Alps.
The goal today is to learn alpine rock climbing skills including building multi-point anchors with natural protection, belaying on rock, and abseiling techniques. We make an ascent of Peak 9144, a 4 pitch alpine rock route. Near the top of the peak we learn to move together on an alpine ridge line, threading the rope between rocks and placing runners as we move together. From the summit we use this technique to descend to the top of the pitched climbing. From this point we we abseil the 4 pitches we climbed, learning about multi-pitch abseiling on steep alpine rock terrain.
We wake up early and travel down the glacier. We have time to find a crevasse and practice crevasse rescue. Under the supervision of your guide you lower your climbing partner into a crevasse and then practice the crevasse rescue skills you have learnt. After the crevasse rescue practice we head down the glacier to the helicopter pick up location. After the flight back to Mt Cook we drive back to Queenstown. We should be back by 5pm in time to enjoy a beer and talk about the mountains!