My first expedition, and first course in the beautiful New Zealand Alps, with Aspiring Guides.
Aspiring guides is based in Wanaka, South island of New Zealand. Wanaka is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park – a World Heritage Area. Also not far from Mount Cook region.
I choose Aspiring guides for there years of experience in mountaineering, One of there statements is “Your safety is our priority”, A big thing for me! Price was affordable – including free hire equipment,- all technical climbing equipment, crampons, ice-axe, helmet, harness etc., they have a fantastic website offering a range of courses to suit everyone, Accommodation – (where to stay before – after course), gear lists, transport and travel information is all provided, there friendly reply’s to all my other questions via email, and helped me organize booking / paying from overseas, also kept in contact. (Currently living in Brisbane, Australia)
About the course:- Mountaineering skills course New Zealand
Big Challenges – Big Rewards – Supportive Environment
The course i went on was a intensive 7-day mountaineering course with comprehensive instruction in all facets of alpine climbing. Starting with the basics of ice axe and crampon techniques and moving onto more complex route finding and climbing methods, learning to become self sufficient in the alpine environment.
This course takes you from being a beginner to advance stages which was really important for me, Comprehensive course notes were also supplied which will assist in the future, remembering everything from the course.
The course syllabus included:-
• snow and ice climbing
• belaying and rope skills
• alpine rock climbing
• glacier travel techniques
• route selection & navigation
• weather analysis and forecasting
• avalanche awareness
• camp management and emergency shelters
• crevasse and alpine rescue
My Course Diary:-
Mountaineering skills course New Zealand, Sunday April 10th to Saturday 16th, 2016
Some of the Notes i Kept during my trip to the alps.
Day 1 Sunday April 10th, 8.30am start, – meeting at aspiring guides center, Address 99 Ardmore St, Wanaka 9305, south island, New Zealand
Meeting everyone on the course and our guides, Gear checking and chat, get any extra gear if needed, last paper work check. We are told about weather and conditions for the coming days of our course / planning and adapting to conditions, We had bad weather forecast so we decided to change to the mount cook region. *Walk out and then,*Additional flight out was needed out
First night we stayed in Wanaka “Matterhorn South – BBH ” All i can say is Don’t do it! Don’t stay there this was a one night paid accommodation because of weather by aspiring guides, there was a group of us, so hard to get accommodation at last minute / plans change weather wise, staying in the Dorm rooms, i was going to stay on the top bunk bed when i noticed a lot of the slates were missing underneath the mattress lucky i noticed and didn’t jump on into bed! As i could have fallen straight though the bed, Lucky! Not a total great start to the course….
Monday Day 2
We got driven to the Mount cook region staying in the Unwin hut to do all our pre-training, safety preparation training, Knots practicing, talking about gear and questions also waiting for conditions to get better for a flight up to the alps.
Wednesday Day 4
My first helicopter ride!
Fly out from mount cook airport to the alps. Learnt how to put crampons on, rope up quick ! and welcome to the alps, Our first mission learning to walk in crampons with all our gear walking our way around huge crevasses to get to our base hut, we had to make a few trips to get all our food and supplies up to the hut. Based out of the Kelman Hut.
First night in the alps (Kelman hut) watching the sunset over the mountains is so beautiful all the colours in the sky, and the shadows of the huge dominant mountains, the views into miles of unknown crevasses below, who knows how deep they go or where they all lead too.
Knowledge on food and Health:- Our guides told us a lot about eating and drinking plenty one of the biggest killers of the mountains is fatigue and an empty stomach! And even at this altitude we all lose weight from doing nothing!, So we all would be losing a lot more weight because of what we needed our bodies to do, Long demanding days, mountaineering being psychically demanding,
For me to begin with this was hard forcing myself to eat Breakfast ( I never normally do) , snacks and two other huge meals per day. Feeling like i don’t want to eat (weather conditions take there toll) but forcing myself to eat because i need to have the energy / strength to do everything.
Keeping sugars and salt intake is also important after every long day our guides made sure we had some of the following:- chocolate, peanuts and raisins, crackers and cheese, salami this was to help your body recover and good to keep energy levels up. Tea and Raro (Make up Juice with sugar ) was to help with keeping fluids up.
Thursday Day 5
Ice climbing wall, ice screws
Tonight i hardly slept i had a bad headache, (head felt very heavy like a bowling ball) and fever, very cold and then hot! All i could think about was getting through the night and summit day tomorrow, pushing my body to get better before the morning! So i got up in the middle of the night to have painkillers and tried to get some sleep, i listened to the howling of the wind against the walls of the hut, all the wooden boards making weird creepy noises, anytime anyone opened the solid front door (to keep the snow out), to make the walk to the toilet in the cold it would be very loud cricking even with care opening it. And it was morning up early because of summit day, i think i slept for a couple of hours at most, feeling tired i pushed to get ready, breakfast and putting gear together for the huge day ahead. I was lucky i didn’t have a headache or fever anymore so i made sure to drink more today than other days, I even had Tea, i never drink tea but i did with my time in the alps, tea helped my sore throat, keeping my fluids up, and good when you need a warm drink in your tummy!
Friday Day 6
Summit Day, x5 Multi pitch climbing to the top of Hochstetter Dome, and abseiling back down. Climbing higher than a scenic helicopter flight, was an epic feeling!, a sense of achievement! seeing a tiny little helicopter flying by, and nothing but beautiful mountains around.
Saturday Day 7
Mountaineering Course, seven intense days!,
Got to the summit of Hochstetter Dome, snow and ice climbing, learnt about anchors, glacier travel techniques, crevasse and alpine rescue, jumping crevasses and so much more…..Here is some photos
Summary of Health:- Forcing myself to eat three big meals a day with snacks, started drinking Tea in the alps helped my throat and keep warm, Heat cream which i had taken to the alps helped a lot with back issues, my back would feel like it was on fire after applying but soon heal and feel better ( after carrying a heavy back pack for 11 hours a day, jumping crevasses with it on) when i got back to Wanaka i got throat medication, getting my voice back and not so sore eating,
My feet i did get one large blister on the right foot – heal from rubbing in my boots (this even happens to guides can only minimize this with taping it up) and my two big toes were swollen and bruised, nails uplifting this was from kicking the crampons into the ice over and over, also my plastic hard rigid boots ended up being tight because of the awkward positions i needed to get my feet into with ice climbing or walking up slopes. Do not recommend plastic boots they are too hard and rigid-ed for your ankles and feet, for a course like this – Buy leather ones. (Also found out you should buy a size bigger in mountaineering boots.) Learnt the hard way with the boots ! When i came home back to Brisbane i needed antibiotics because they were so bad and discolored….going dark purple/ black …fall off and then….new nails.
Ears i had a few issues with the flights and altitude with my ears not wanting to pop, would try holding my breath and having a sweet to help but theses haven’t / didn’t help, my ears felt like they wanted to pop but wouldn’t , felt like a lot of pressure in them, at times it was hard to hear for a while until they readjusted. (Will have to research future solutions to this.)
Webpage link to Aspiring Guides who i did the course with:- http://www.aspiringguides.com/
Some Photos of my trip below:
Please Note All my photos are copyright.
Photos below credit to my guide Andy Cole
An adventure to remember for a life time! And more adventures to come in the future!