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The school of mountaineering

Gain alpine experience in the coolest classroom and unlock your coveted summits.

Mountaineering season is on and privileged as we are, we live in a country
with majestic peaks and stunning alpine scenery. Especially on the South
Island which is the home to some 23, 3000-meter peaks. But as
mesmerizing as the mountains are, we all know they can be challenging
places to be and must be treated with the utmost respect.
For many of us tramping is not unfamiliar and provides us with the
opportunity to connect on some level with our unique alpine environment.
However, 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?
A Mountaineering Skills Course can equip you for future alpine adventures
– all taught in stunning classrooms.


To give you a bit more of a feel for what a Mountaineering Skills Course
generally entails we have captured the experiences of one student who
recently decided to learn more about the art of mountaineering.
The course was hosted by Aspiring Guides, which is a long-time mountain
guiding company that has been based in Wanaka for over 30 years.
The course starts with a spectacular helicopter flight from Raspberry Flat in
Mt. Aspiring National Park, and you’ll feel on top of the world as you see
the valley getting smaller beneath 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 gettting all the right
cues.
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 you will have time to enjoy the
spectacular views while having well-deserved breaks.


Your heart will surely skip a beat when the “whumpfing” sound of a thin
snow bridge is being tested by your weight. But as a part of the
Mountaineering Skills Course, the guide will teach you how to rescue
yourself or a team member from these sometimes seemingless bottomless
crevasses. You will 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 you’ll get familiar with your 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 make sure to store all
your 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 the toolbox of
mountaineering is growing bigger by the hour. Practising in different
circumstances constantly will bring you a well-rounded learning
experience.


As the days in the mountains fly by, you will get sweaty from digging pits
for your snow anchors, discover new and narrow cracks for your rock
protection, and you will sigh with relief when your ice screw finally sits
solidly in the icewall after spending time with an the hammer and axe.
The sun is out, making the glacier look like a thin blanket of sparkling
crystals, and you reach for your camera to perpetuate this magical moment
in the mountains.
And as you turn your face towards the camera to take a selfie, you face
something yourself: You’re an aspiring mountaineer, and you’re looking
forward to climbing some more great peaks in the future.
Your heart will surely skip a beat when the “whumpfing” sound of a thin
snow bridge is being tested by your weight. But as a part of the
Mountaineering Skills Course, the guide will teach you how to rescue
yourself or a team member when falling into the deep gaps. And also how
to travel safely when you see the remains of a fresh avalanche – commonly
at the bottom of Mt. French.


Colin Todd Hut is one of the million-star hotels you may sleep in during the
course, and the direct way to the hut involves climbing roughly 100 vertical
meters up a steep slope. Here you’ll get familiar with your 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 make sure to store all
your 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 the toolbox of
mountaineering is growing bigger by the hour. Practising in different
circumstances constantly will bring you a well-rounded learning
experience.
And as the days in the mountains fly by, you will get sweaty from digging
pits for your snow anchors, discover new and narrow cracks for your rock
protection, and you will sigh with relief when your ice screw finally sits
solidly in the icewall after spending time with an the hammer and axe.

 

The sun is out, making the glacier look like a thin blanket of sparkling
crystals, and you reach for your camera to perpetuate this magical moment
in the mountains.
And as you turn your face towards the camera to take a selfie, you face
something yourself: You’re an aspiring mountaineer, and you can use your
new skills to access summits in our beautiful country

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