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New Zealand Mountaineering Course (Beginner/Intermediate)

The New Zealand Mountaineering Course is designed to give you a solid & comprehensive introduction to modern mountaineering & climbing techniques. The course teaches participants the important skills to be able to climb safely & independently in high alpine areas & glaciated mountain's around the world.

The New Zealand Mountaineering Course is a great place to start if you are planning on climbing New Zealand's highest mountains such as Mt Cook and Mt Aspiring or other significant peaks throughout the worlds great ranges.

Queenstown Mountain Guides philosophy is learning skills while climbing & we will aim to climb as many peaks as possible as part of the course so participants can see how the skills they are learning are applied to mountain terrain. Participants will have the opportunity to practice skills for themselves while under the careful supervision of the guide.

New Zealand's steep & heavily glaciated mountain areas are the perfect environment for learning mountaineering skills. We base the New Zealand Mountaineering course from helicopter accessed high mountain huts deep in the heart of New Zealand's highest mountains. 

New Zealand Mountaineering course skills syllabus

  • Climbing knots
  • Ice axe use & climbing techniques
  • Cramponing technique on easy, moderate, and steep terrain
  • Self arresting
  • Belaying
  • Use of a climbing rope on snow, ice, rock, and alpine ridge lines
  • Crevasse rescue
  • Rock climbing
  • Ice climbing
  • Decision making and judgment
  • Weather analysis
  • Map & compass use & route finding
  • Snow anchors
  • Rock anchors

Other related trips

3 Day Queenstown Mountaineering Course

Mt Aspiring Climbing Course & Ascent

Client review

"The mountaineering course with Mike Madden from Queenstown Mountain Guides was a huge step up in our mountaineering training. Mike is an amazing guide and instructor with literally a world of experience. Upon meeting Mike in Queenstown we knew this is a guy who knows his stuff. We instantly felt in safe hands. Covering a range of skills including glacier travel, crevasse rescue, ice climbing and many rope skills we feel ready to take on the next challenge. Mike has instilled in us not only a range of skills and safety consciousness that will serve us for years to come but a real sense of what is possible for us to achieve. If you want to experience an awesome week in the spectacular New Zealand mountains then call Queenstown Mountain Guides. You will love it! Thanks Mike." R Holland, Australia


Sample Itinerary

This is based on a past 7 day New Zealand Mountaineering Course

Every day in the New Zealand mountains is different and unique. Mountain conditions and weather are changing constantly so it is not possible to stick to a fixed itinerary in the mountains. Each day the guide will assess the conditions and weather and plan the best use of current conditions.

Each day of the course typically starts early. Often we will wake at 6am or earlier to make the most of the best conditions in the early morning.

Day 1 

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.

Day 2 

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.

After we return from climbing 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. 

Day 3 

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.

Day 4  

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.

Day 5

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.

Day 6

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.

Day 7

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!


Prices are per person and in NZ dollars.


Map 2014

Flight in included


Our New Zealand Mountaineering Course runs from October to April. Contact us for private bookings.

Experience Required

For this trip, the minimum requirement is that you have an intermediate level of fitness and an interest in learning climbing & mountaineering skills. Previous climbing experience is helpful but not required.

Whats Included

The price of the course includes

  • Guide fees
  • Aircraft access fees
  • Technical equipment hire
  • Hut fees
  • Meals and snacks
  • Ground transport
  • Group equipment

The price of the program excludes

  • Personal equipment & clothing
  • Aircraft egress fees
  • Accomodation in Queenstown & Wanaka

Program Location

The program will be based from a high mountain hut in the Southern Alps, for example the Mt Aspiring or Mt Cook regions. Likely venues for the trip are Plateau Hut underneath Mt Cook & Mt Tasman, Pioneer hut on the Fox Glacier, or the Mt Aspiring area.

Weather and conditions are changeable in the Southern Alps so often it is best for the guide to pick the location with the most favourable weather and conditions for the duration of the trip.

More Information

detailed trip notesequipment listFAQ