IMG_6497The Expedition training course that we run at ALPINE GUIDES is designed around basecamping, expedition style skills, footwork, camp management and rope skills as well as trying to get in as much movement as possible.

However when the weather doesn’t play ball we often have to retreat back to huts in the Mt Cook National Park to shelter from the weather.  The recent trip I ran was hammered by some of the most intense winds and rains I have ever seen in Mt Cook national park.  A grand total of 150 + mm of rain fell in less than 12 hours during one particular storm.

So Hut bound we were – this however didn’t mean that we were not able to get out and make the most of the environment when the weather allowed.

Intense winds and bad weather coming over the main divide

Intense winds and bad weather coming over the main divide

Scott and Tobias joined us for the course with a number of different objectives in mind – for Scott he is off to Nepal next year to climb to Camp 2 on Mt Everest before trying for high altitudes in the future whilst Tobias was there to get skills and experience for peak in Eurpoe and possibly Nepal.

IMG_6417For our first few days I focused on the importance of Footwork and glacier travel techniques and skill as well as self rescue techniques such as self arresting.  Being on expeditions (be they commercial or private) is quite different to climbing and guiding in New Zealand and you need to quickly develop the skills to look after yourself and self reliant  – footwork and being comfortable moving on various terrain is an essential part of this process.

Along with this we were able to get out on a selection of Alpine Rock and get used to moving with larger packs as well as learning abseiling skills in confined gullys and over variable snow.

Using fixed lines on peaks is also a huge skill to know and the importance of being safe and moving past belays and anchors independently is crucial.  Along with another guide from Alpine guides (James Madden ) and his group we fixed Alymer peak which allowed our groups to self navigate their way to the summit and back down again.  The summit ridge of Alymer peak is actually in many was very similar to the summit ridge of Island Peak so being able to put these skills into practice here is very realistic

With the weather changing so rapidly it was often hard to get very far from the huts  – however there is an excellent and highly realistic cliff very closs by to our mountain chalet (Kelman Hut) that we were able to use.  After Abseiling 90m down a almost vertical cliff the boys were then introduced to the joys of prussicing up steep terrain as well as climbing during snow and rain storms with buffeting and gusty winds.  The expression on their faces was worth every second as they were beginning to very quickly understand the importance of all the little skills and techniques that they had been practicing during some of the very noisy storm days we spent in the hut.

There are many other aspects to the course that we went into.

  • Glacier travel
  • Crevasse extraction
  • helicopter safety
  • AMS factors and identification
  • Acclimatization
  • sled hauling
  • ice climbing
  • fixed lines on rock (excellent training for AMA DABLAM)

I will leave it to the images below to speak for themselves.  Overall an excellent week despite the weather and a great team to be up in the mountain with.