Learn skills to keep you safe in the mountains
Learn mixed snow, rock and ice climbing techniques (photo: T. Naka)
Enthusiastic UIAGM & NZMGA mountain guides
Gear hire is included - no hidden costs (photo: T. Naka)
Learn how to move safely with crampons and ice axe (photo: T. Naka)
Maximum of 4 participants per guide
Heated, private hut with walk in/out access
Caroline Hut sits diretly opposite New Zealands highest ice face the 2000m+ Caroline Face
Introductory Mountaineering Course
The ideal introduction to alpine and snowcraft skills
Learn the skills to safely venture beyond tramping tracks and above the snow line! This introduction to alpine terrain is based at our privately owned Caroline Hut located straight opposite the mighty Caroline Face of Aoraki Mount Cook. This course will teach you not only the technical skills of mountaineering and snow craft, but more importantly, improve your risk awareness, and ability to keep safe in the mountains.
"For an introduction to climbing in the mountains, there wouldn't be a better facility in NZ." - P. Chapman, Dunedin. More client comments.
"An Intro to Mountaineering in New Zealand" - a blog review of this course by @bearfoottheory.
The Introductory Mountaineering Course covers the basics of snow craft and safe mountain travel techniques. Learn how to use crampons and ice-axe, place snow and ice anchors, assess mountain weather and hazards, and much, much more.
Courses are scheduled throughout our summer season (November - April) and include a climb of Kaitiaki Peak, with an emphasis on firm snow and ice skills on the Ball Glacier. Winter courses (July - October) are offered on demand. In winter the emphasis is on soft snow skills, snow shelter building, navigation and avalanche awareness.
|Individual bookings||5 days||1:4|
|returning client discount (on individual bookings), if you have been on an Alpine Recreation trip before.|
|Private Course Prices (NZ$ per person)|
|1 Person||4 days||1:1|
|2 People||4 days||1:2|
|3 People||5 days||1:3|
|4 People||5 days||1:4|
- IFMGA/NZMGA certified mountain guide
- National Park fees
- Heated PRIVATE hut accommodation
- Local accommodation for any nights required during the course
- Free transport (Tekapo - Mt. Cook return)
- ALL meals (including snacks & energy bars) for the duration of the course
- ALL technical climbing equipment - this saves you up to $100 compared with other guiding companies!
Meals and accommodation before/after the course are NOT included.
+Minimum Numbers & Course Length
A minimum number of 3 participants is required to run this course (this only applies to individual bookings, not private course bookings). If less than the minimum number is reached, we will run the course you are booked on, with the following changes:
- 2 participants only - the course will be shortened to 4 days.
- 1 participant only - the course will be shortened to 4 days and an additional fee of NZ will apply. Alternatively you will have the option to reschedule to another trip/date or a full refund.
Due to the shorter length, the course start date will be flexible within the scheduled dates (this allows some flexibility for bad weather without affecting your travel plans too much). With a lower guide:client ratio, you benefit by being able to cover the course content in a shorter amount of time.
Our private Introductory Mountaineering Courses are ideal for groups wanting to learn the basics of safe travel in alpine terrain. All levels of experience can be catered for with private groups.
Advantages of Private Courses
- Customized to your needs, experience and skill level
- A closed group of 1-4 participants with 1 guide, or up to 8 participants with 2 guides
- Your choice of dates, arranged to fit your schedule (subject to guide availability)
- Both of the following books are available for use at our private hut. Personal copies can be purchased at time of booking:
- Technical Manual covering course content
- Avalanche Awareness handbook
A course completion certificate is available on request.
We will run Introductory Mountaineering Courses during winter on request - please contact us to arrange dates.
Green : Minimum reached - guaranteed departure.
Orange : Only 4 or fewer places available.
Red : No availability.
The Introductory Mountaineering Course is intended to teach the basics of snow craft and mountain travel techniques and will be tailored according to the needs of participants and the weather, snow and ice conditions at the time. Want to take it further? We recommend our 7 day Intensive Mountaineering Skills Course and 7 day Specialized Alpine Climbing Course, to prepare for technical ascents. If you're not sure where to start, please contact us.
Summer courses (November - April) are scheduled for 5 days, but on request we will also run a 4-day course. The course includes a climb of Kaitiaki Peak, 2222m/7290ft, and will teach you snow and ice skills on the Ball Glacier.
Winter courses (July - October) are offered on demand. In winter emphasis is on snow skills, snow shelter building, navigation and avalanche awareness.
- Trip preparation and equipment
- General mountain movement - use of crampons & ice-axe, self-arresting
- Climbing knots and rope management
- Belaying and abseiling
- Rock, snow and ice anchors
- Alpine rock, snow and ice climbing techniques
- Mountain weather
- Risk awareness & avoidance
- Route selection
- Map and compass navigation
- Avalanche awareness
- Emergency survival skills
- Camping out/bivvying
Kaitiaki Peak 2222m/7290ft.
Bad weather options
Caroline Hut makes a good classroom as it is warm and cosy and well equipped with instruction material - there is still much that can be covered on a hut day and your guide will keep you busy. The optional topics listed above can be covered on a bad weather day either near or in the hut. If the weather is fine the whole time, then you'll be out in the field, and there may not be time to cover all the optional topics.
Venue: Caroline Hut
↑ Caroline Hut is an ideal venue for mountaineering instruction courses.
Caroline Hut is the only guide/operator-owned mountain hut in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and is available for the exclusive use of Alpine Recreation parties. It provides a high standard facility for professional instruction.
No aircraft required: the hut can be reached in 4-6 hours' walking from the road end and can be accessed in most weather conditions, maximizing time spent in the mountains.
Private facilities: uncrowded, clean and with a guaranteed bunk. Spend more time learning skills than managing your camp!
Comprehensive climbing equipment and instruction aids at the hut enhance the quality of instruction. This includes a solar-powered iPad which can be used to complement field instruction.
Great location: Caroline Hut sits at 1820m on Ball Ridge, directly opposite the stunning Caroline Face of Aoraki Mount Cook, with ready access to alpine rock, snow & ice sites.
Fully equipped with firewood, gas, solar lighting, satellite phone, Department of Conservation radio, sleeping bags and nonperishable food. A wood-fired stove provides good heating and drying facilities.
Endurance, Agility & Technical Difficulty
↑ Exposed, rocky sections of Ball Ridge - you need to be sure-footed, well-coordinated and have good balance. Photo: B. Boucinhas
Endurance: Grade 3 - "Challenging"
A solid level of fitness with aerobic training prior to the trip is expected. Ability to carry moderate to heavy backpacks (8-10kg) for 6-9 hours if required. Expect ascents of 800-1200 vertical meters. Some discomfort expected due to long days and exposure to elements. Prior multi-day hiking/trekking/tramping trips through rough untracked terrain are recommended.
Agility: Grade 3 - "Moderate scrambling agility"
Scrambling over rough ground with hand placement needed (eg. pulling yourself up on vegetation, clambering over boulders). Good foot placement required across a variety of terrain, including steep grass, alpine scrub, scree, boulder-fields and snow. Must be competent and efficient at moving over uneven and untracked terrain carrying a moderate backpack. Sections of steep and/or exposed terrain at times. May involve crossing snow slopes and/or glaciers, requiring the use of crampons and ice axe if conditions are firm.
Technical: Grade 2 - "Introductory Mountaineer"
In-depth crampon, ice axe, self-arresting and climbing skills instructed by guide. Basic rope skills, knots, abseiling, anchor placement, belaying skills instructed if applicable. Ability to apply skills with coached practice and demonstrate proficiency required to progress to next grade. Prior rock climbing experience beneficial.
+Trip Difficulty Ratings explained
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For the Introductory Mountaineering Course you need to have extensive hiking, backpacking, tramping or bushwalking experience. The route to Caroline Hut crosses rough, untracked alpine terrain and traverses snow, scree and boulder fields.
Please see this photo gallery for examples of the terrain to and from Caroline Hut.
Regular hikes of at least 6 hours' duration involving significant vertical ascent are recommended as preparation for this trip. All trips to Caroline Hut require a solid level of fitness to cope with the mountain terrain. Early-mid season (November-December) you are likely to encounter soft snow even below the hut. If you have never walked in deep snow before, then the best way to prepare for this is to walk through sand dunes or somewhere where there is loose sand, where you lose a good percentage of your momentum with each step. Mid to late season (January - April), when the snow has melted back, you will encounter firmer snow and loose scree (rock) slopes in places. The best training for this is to hike over smooth rock slabs and rough stony riverbeds or beaches where there is an uneven surface, where you have to watch your foot placement.
Participants for an Introductory Mountaineering Course need to:
- have a high level of fitness (able to climb 300 vertical metres per hour with a 12kg pack and hike/climb 8+ hours a day without difficulty)
- have extensive hiking, tramping or trekking experience
- be able to walk/scramble over steep, rugged, untracked and exposed terrain
- be sure-footed, well-coordinated and have good balance
- have no fear of heights or problems with vertigo
Rock climbing experience is an advantage, but is not essential. You do not need prior mountaineering experience.
Routes & Itinerary
↑ Aerial photo of Ball Pass and Caroline Hut.
BALL HUT & CAROLINE HUT ROUTE CHANGES
The intense and prolonged rainfall of 1-8 December 2019 caused significant damage to the traditional route to Ball Hut and Caroline Hut across Husky Flat. Alternative foot access routes to Ball Ridge have been successfully established, and Alpine Recreation guides are familiar with ongoing changes to the routes. The current foot access to Caroline Hut takes approximately 2 hours longer than traditional route up Ball Ridge and is through rough and challenging terrain (some sections involve pulling on steep vegetation, clambering across loose scree and negotiating large boulder fields). Please see this photo gallery for examples of terrain. If you are unsure whether your fitness and agility are sufficient, please contact us before booking your trip.
8am on the first day. Meeting point is at Alpine Recreation's Edelweiss Lodge, 8 Erebus Place, Lake Tekapo. If you have requested a pick-up from your accommodation, please be ready for pick-up at 7:50am.
5-7 hours trekking, 5.5km distance, 1200m ascent.
You'll meet your guide and once everyone in the group has arrived, your equipment will be checked. Any items of equipment that you have been unable to provide yourself will be provided free-of-charge. Good leather climbing boots are available if you do not have your own. All technical mountaineering equipment is provided (helmets, harnesses, slings, carabiners, rope etc.) but you are welcome to bring your own if you have them.
Drive to Mount Cook (about 1 hour), transfer to 4WD vehicle and drive as far as possible up the old Ball Hut Road, parallel to the Tasman Glacier. The effects of glacial recession are very evident as we hike beside the lateral moraine. Climb 850m steeply up onto Ball Ridge and to Caroline Hut at 1800m, perched right opposite New Zealand's highest ice face, the Caroline Face of Mount Cook.
Your guide will choose one of two routes (Waterfall direct or Cove Stream) depending on conditions and weather. If snow conditions are firm below Caroline Hut, you are likely to be introduced to crampons and ice axe.
In addition to our personal clothing, the crampons, ice-axe, helmet and harness, we will be carrying some fresh items of food (e.g. bread, fruit, vegetables, meat). The hut is stocked with nonperishable food, mattresses, pillows, sleeping bags, cooking and eating utensils, gas and firewood.
After reaching the hut there may still be time to practise some knots.
Access to Caroline Hut on Day 1 is subject to safe snow and weather conditions. The professional judgement of your guide will take into account all factors, including client fitness for the conditions. Please see our Bad Weather Policies.
Ball Hut Road → Caroline Hut: Elevation profile
Snow and ice instruction on the Ball Glacier or near Ball Pass, ascent of Kaitiaki Peak. For rock climbing and abseiling practice there is good quality sandstone on Ball Ridge near Caroline Hut.
Practise various kinds of belays and anchors, and how to select a good route. Good cramponing techniques are emphasized, likewise knowing different methods of self-arresting and choosing the right methods for the conditions. Weather assessment will be covered. For climbers who already have considerable rock experience the focus will be on snow and ice skills.
Please see the Course Content section for more details.
There is still time to do a half-day of instruction, before returning to Mount Cook Village via the Tasman Valley (Cove Stream, Waterfall direct or Ball Ridge routes). Depending on conditions and group ability, the guide may opt to take you back via a different route to your ascent. The descent routes allow good views out over the ever-expanding terminal lake of the Tasman Glacier. Finish back in lake Tekapo at about 6pm.
All of your equipment will be checked during the gear check at our office at the start of your trip. Any equipment you need to borrow from us will be issued by your guide.
Alpine Recreation provides helmets, harnesses, crampons and ice-axes. Outdoor clothing, packs and boots can also be provided at no extra cost if necessary. Please see the equipment list for further details.
→ Introductory Mountaineering Course Clothing & Equipment list.