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Alpine courses?
8:16:40 AM
Gday all,
A mate of mine in Qld has recently been bitten by the climbing bug. He has been climbing for about 12 months (up to around gr20 i'm told). Anyway he has his sights set on trying mountaineering. He spoke to me about doing a local Australian alpine course. I suggested these may be of limited use and going to NZ to do the course and then climbing there may be a better idea. I haven't done this so may I be talking out of my chalkbag.
Can anyone please suggest some companies, give advice, do's/don'ts and other ideas that will help him. If anyone has recent experience and was happy with the experience/package/price please pipe up. Mr Monteith etc?


8:50:05 AM
Hi Take!
You could also suggest to your friend to contact the New Zealand Alpine Club - once he does a climbing course (if he elects to do that through a company) then it's good to also keep up contacts with other like-minded people - I believe the NZAC is starting a branch based in Brisbane. The NZAC also offers volunteer-run workshops and courses by accredited instructors in NZ throughout the year, and may offer cheaper options for introduction to mountaineering - tell your friend to email for more info.
9:46:02 AM
did a course with Alpine Guides a few years ago. 10 days, ~$2k. highly recommended. do the course,
then hang round the village (NZAC's Unwin Hut is good) & go climbing for a few weeks at least to reinforce
what you learnt on the course. Another option is to get a few friends together & go for private guiding.
Cost will be similar, shorter time in the mountains, but guide/client ratio will be higher. Some people teach
themselves about alpine climbing, but it is really bloody scary - most of the danger you can't control (ie
objective danger) so you need to learn how to read the conditions & avoid the *most* dangerous bits. go
nuts - alpine climbing rocks!

10:18:57 AM
I'd recommend doing a course with one of the established companies. aspiring guides, alpine guides etc or go for the private guiding option. the longer the time you can afford, the better. you will get bad weather. I've never done a course, but all the people ive talked to have said it was a worthwhile experience.
i'd agree with the point that a course in australia would be of limited use because there are no glaciers in australia. crossing glaciers is one of the more dangerous aspects of mountaineering and some experience here is invaluable.
I know a couple of guys who did a short (cheaper course) with alpine recreation out of the caroline hut near ball pass and they didnt do a whole lot of glacier stuff. they went back the follwing year a bit too gripped to head into the main range because they didnt feel that comfortable in the terrain. they ended up drinking alot of bee in the pubs.
the best thing you can do after the course is just spend time in the mountains, refining crampon techniques and just gettting comfortable reading conditions and being in the mountains.
alpine climbing is great. it offers a whole new range of experiences like no other.
hint - get really fit before you go and you'll suffer less.


1:39:41 PM
i did a technical mtneerign course (TMC) with fox alpine guides in 2004- 8 days- 4 /8 good weather days where we climbed some nearby peaks and then did avalanche stuff/ crevasse jumping/ traversed the hut roof on the Hut bound days. cost $2300ish. choppered into centennial at top of franz josef and choppered out/ast day spent doing a touch of ice climbing at fox. REALLY great course. guide ratio 1:4.

only prob for me now is, i cant remember stuff so really trying to get into rock to keep being around rope and keep skills and trying to find some people to climb some easy peaks with- and still looking!


2:41:31 PM
On 17/02/2006 beefy wrote:
>hint - get really fit before you go and you'll suffer less.

Option B - if you arn't fit when you start you will be by the end of week 1!

3:00:01 PM
I think it is worthwhile to try and get some winter experience before going to NZ. Maybe go cross country skiing or try and get someone to take you ice climbing? The winter courses arent that much in australia and if you've never done alpine before you can learn heaps over here. The NZ courses are great (I spent 6 days with a guide instead, but did similar stuff) but you cannot expect to be a confident alpine climber after 7 days instruction, you need teach yourself before and after...
3:12:15 PM
I did the shorter/cheaper course with Mountain Recreation in NZ over 10yrs ago and although I think we covered a fair bit at the time, I later realised there was alot of stuff we didn't cover which was perhaps more important stuff. Their attitude was just go up there and learn, but this also has a downside in that the course wasn't very structured and so we just learnt things when confronted with a situation. Eg. A friend who did the same course later, did completely different things to what I did. It may have improved though (?). Your friend needs to check out what is covered by each company's course, and definately go for a longer course because they can fit in more (and count on bad weather days).

I think the most important alpine skills to learn are mountain safety - how to read snow conditions, negotiate glaciers, pick lines and move through the mts, assess weather - although alot of this is learning through experience too - and also snow/ice anchors & belays etc. How to walk in crampons, self-arresting, climbing techniques, rope-work and such are the easy bits which you can learn almost anywhere, even out of books - by the way 'Freedom of the Hills' is an excellent reference book (the bible!) which is great for brushing up on techniques.

The good thing about the NZ courses is that conditions and terrain in the NZ mts are similar to many of the big mt ranges in the world, so it's a great training ground.

7:52:10 AM
Hmmm, my opinion, rather than putting $2500+ into an expensive NZ commercial course aimed at the lowest common denominator, rather spend that money buying alpine gear (basic axe, good basic boots, basic crampons, shell gear, HELMET), air tickets and beer for experienced partners. Buy a comprehensive mountaineering handbook, read it!, join a club (eg NZAC), get on their basic instruction courses and hook up with their section trips to get mileage. If you find you're not that keen on alpine (you'll know after the first trip!) you can sell the kit you bought second hand for some return. This is the 'in it for the long term' approach.

If you are dead set on the fast-track approach... consider whether the course will get you anywhere. I reckon most people who do the commercial courses still don't have the confidence after the course to head into the hills without more experienced people by their side. You need partners to climb mountains - you may as well put your efforts/money into hooking up with experienced people (by getting involved with a club) - having done a course won't really mean much to them, they want to see that you have your own gear (shows commitment - very important aspect in mountaineering), they want you to have some mileage on basic terrain (you get this on club trips), be fit and keen (joining a club helps show you are keen).

If you just want to bag a peak or two (the 'been there, done that' mentality) then get really fit and hire a guide.

If your mate is absolutely dead set on this idea that a course is the best way into mountaineering - last year I did the Advanced Alpine Skills course by Alpine Guides Limited based in Mount Cook Village and would recommend the company (see

10:43:49 PM
Did a TMC in NZ with Aspiring Guides 2 years ago. Got lucky and had a 1:2 guide:client ratio. Only 2 fine weather days (bugger). Great experience. Felt confident enough to go climbing unguided (with a less experienced partner) in the French Alps in northern summer 2005, had an awesome time and did some cool stuff.

Looking forward to the next challenge!

4:56:01 PM
try contacting this guide. she has set up her own company and guides in NZ and Europe. All the reports and feedback are great.

Caroline Ogden (Caro) email
Caro is based in Wales at the moment and can guide Europe and NZ.
10:24:08 AM

I just came back from the Alpine Guides Summer Technical Mountaineering Course in the Mt Cook National Park, New Zealand. Awesome course...shame about the weather though. The course runs for 10 days and we only managed to get 2.5 days out on the mountain - climbing Alymer~~ and Mabel, crevasse rescues, cutting steps, self arrests, etc. The rest of the time was either spent in the mountain hut (Kelmen Hut - real nice hut!) or in the charlets in Mt Cook village. The days spent in the hut consisted of theory such as rope skills, weather forecasts, and practical skills - e.g. setting up anchors, escaping the system, pulley systems, etc.

The course itself costs NZ$2950, but if you work in an outdoor shop, you can get a very good price... The price doesn't include the optional flight out on the last day however. You have the option to either fly out or walk out. Half our group decided to walk out, avoiding the helicopter flight fee of NZ$210 per person.

Any questions, please feel free to drop me a PM.

1:15:31 PM
On 17/02/2006 nmonteith wrote:
>On 17/02/2006 beefy wrote:
>>hint - get really fit before you go and you'll suffer less.
>Option B - if you arn't fit when you start you will be by the end of week 1!

Should you adopt option B you will be broken by the end of the week and not only will you enjoy it less but so will the other members of your party who will have to carry you. Even at the level of basic instruction which you are aiming at, risk control of objective danger usually comes down being able to traverse dangerous ground expediently. really fit before you go.
I did a couple of the Alpine Guides courses some years ago and learnt much more from them you would ever imagine. Plus you get to hook up with "new" partners and learn what their capabilities are like in a controled environment. The alpine environment isn't very forgiving and is a hell of a dangerous place to be learning from scratch.
So..........Hang the expense. Do the course.

Try Alpine Guides or Sunrockice (Bill Atkinson) for Mt Cook NP
or if you are more attracted to the Aspiring Region try looking up Geoff Wyatt or
Mark Whetu both of whom have operations done there.
And check out the net. Lots of stuff ......and easy to find.

7:01:01 PM
Another possibility is at Temple Basin (Arthurs Pass) in winter. See
Not having done any alpine course, I'm considering doing this myself this winter

Advantages I can see are:
Cheaper - NZ $1150 for 9 days (it's probably meant for New Zealanders, not wealthy foreigners)
Possibly better weather being in winter
Easier to get to
You can ski

Not sure how they do glacier travel as there's not much glaciers @ AP
Limited dates
Short daylight time

Any comments on this would be appreciated.

James Mc
8:15:52 PM
7:21:53 AM
2nd the Alpine Guides course. I completed mine last year TMC 2 from Nov 15 to 25. Great course buy you have to be careful about what months you choose as the later ones there are more crevasses which mean that you're going to walk longer, the ice isnt going to be a good.
11:10:54 AM
get 'Mountaineering Freedom of the Hills' take a holiday to South America. Go trekking for a while and see how you deal with altitude. If all is good, go to Bolivia, it costs from $50USD per person to get a guided climb. Go climb some mega easy stuff (remember altitude can be a bitch), get heaps of experience, drink lots of booze, and dance with lots of foreign girls and enjoy life!!!

2:06:48 AM
On 22/02/2006 beefy wrote:
>try contacting this guide. she has set up her own company and guides in
>NZ and Europe. All the reports and feedback are great.
>Caroline Ogden (Caro) email
>Caro is based in Wales at the moment and can guide Europe and NZ.

I had her for an alpine guides TMC about 5 or 6 years ago and she was excellent. A good instructor as well as a guide.

These courses are variable and do cater for the lowest skill level of the group. So you are best to gather a group of semi-skilled fit friends to get the most out of them. New Zealand Mountain Guides Assoiciation have a list of qualified guides and contact details. You will save some $ if you go direct to a guide instead of through a company.

Any instruction you get will be helpful. I doubt though that a course in Oz will be adequate on its own to deal with the kind of alpine environment you will get in NZ. You would still need some instruction over there.

Expect to have bad weather every second day in NZ.

5:59:04 PM

Just returned from a really fun alpine climbing holiday in NZ (my 4th!) so thought I'd chime in with some
advice for people who are contemplating their first alpine season.

1. Being aerobically fit is more important than the grade you are climbing. (Walking uphill carrying a pack
is a good form of training)
2. Learn and practise alpine rock techniques (e.g. simul climbing, terrain belays, efficient anchors/
transitions) before you go. Ditto for roping up for glacier travel, crevasse rescue systems, etc.
3. Do some ski touring so you have some idea about a range of snow conditions.
4. Plan to go with climbing partners who you already know, like and trust.
5. Hire a guide and do a course
6. Do some independent (i.e. unguided) alpine climbing straight after your course. Otherwise you'll forget
everything you've learnt by the next season and you're throwing money away. At the end of your course,
your guide will have plenty of good suggestions about what you are ready (and perhaps not ready) to try
on your own.
7. Join NZAC.

I did quite a bit of independent alpine climbing after doing a course in my first season, but between my
first and second seasons there was a gap of 3 years. So I hired a guide 1-1 (Stuart Hollaway) to help me
brush up my skills, and to give me the chance to climb some significantly steeper and more technical
routes than anything I had done so far. This turned out to be a brilliant idea - as well as being awesome
fun it was a big boost to my skills and confidence. The second time around you've done all the basics so
can spend a lot more time actually climbing. Having someone very experienced explain all their decisions
(about route selection, anchor selection, weather etc.) in real time is something you can't get from a book,
and Stu was also careful to point out how I might approach things differently when climbing in an amateur
party rather than a guided situation. Straight afterwards I went climbing with my housemate and
consolidated everything I'd just learned.

Looking back at those first 2 seasons, I think they were a pretty much ideal mountain apprenticeship...

11:03:33 PM

>7. Join NZAC.

8. Join CMC too

There are 20 messages in this topic.


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