Can I climb Mt Cook?

A climb of Aoraki/Mt Cook is harder than you might think - how to prepare for it.

Mt Cook and Westland National Parks contain all 29 of New Zealand’s 3000m peaks, apart from Mt Aspiring. What better training ground for Mt Everest, as Sir Edmund Hillary proved. In fact many mountaineers say that a climb of Aoraki/Mt Cook is actually technically more difficult than a climb of Everest and involves more altitude to climb on summit day.

Most people underestimate Aoraki/Mt Cook and tend to judge its difficulty by its height. They fail to recognize that because of its heavy glaciation and New Zealand’s rapid changes in weather and strong winds, Aoraki/Mt Cook is a far more serious climb than peaks such as Island Peak, Mt Whitney or Mt Elbrus, which, although higher, are just trekking peaks by comparison.

Naturally, because Aoraki/Mt Cook is our highest peak, many adventurous climbers are drawn to this majestic goal. However, considerable mountaineering experience is a prerequisite, with a high degree of competence in cramponing techniques and steep ice climbing. This is not to say that fit, keen hikers cannot be trained up for such a climb – at least two 6-day instruction courses are recommended.

If you already have rock climbing experience but have not spent much time on snow or ice, then Alpine Recreation recommends going straight into their 6-day Intermediate Climbing Course in the heart of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, right opposite the awesome 2000m high Caroline Face.

At 1800m on the Ball Ridge, high above the Tasman Glacier, sits Caroline Hut, an ideal base to spend 6 days practising ice-axe, crampon and roping skills to equip you to become safer in the mountains. Professional mountain guides will take you up onto the upper Ball Glacier to learn navigation, crevasse rescue and ice climbing techniques. Abseiling on alpine rock, all in view of the 2000m high Caroline Face of Aoraki is quite something!

To hone your technical skills an Advanced Climbing Course with just a 1:2 guide-client ratio is ideal. With two mountain skills courses behind you then you can look forward to your ultimate goal of climbing Aoraki/Mt Cook.

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