New Zealand's highest peak
Descending the summit ice cap while the sun rises on Mt. Tasman
Enjoying the summit of Aoraki / Mount Cook
Technical rock, snow and ice climbing
Morning light on the East Face of Aoraki / Mount Cook
Guided ascent of New Zealand's highest peak
Mount Cook is New Zealand's highest mountain at 3724m/12218ft. In local Maori legend, "Aoraki" is their most sacred ancestor from whom they derive their identity and status. Aoraki possesses power over life and death and represents a link between their natural and spiritual worlds.
Aoraki/Mount Cook is often underestimated by international climbers - although not high by international standards, it is its relative height and level of glaciation that makes this mountain so impressive. From the road end at Mount Cook Village to the top of the mountain it is over 3000m/10,000ft. Most climbers choose to negotiate the first 1200m by ski plane or helicopter to maximise the chances of success on the mountain.
The climb involves sustained glacier travel with rock and ice climbing and a 15-20 hour summit day. The level of difficulty can change dramatically depending on weather and snow and ice conditions. This is expedition-style climbing, where you have to be patient for the right weather.
"Mount Cook is a world-class climb. Fantastic guide, extremely strong climber and great instructor." - L. Freitag, USA. Ski ascent.
|Guide:client ratio||6 days|
|returning client discount, if you have been on an Alpine Recreation trip before.|
- IFMGA/NZMGA certified mountain guide
- National Park fees
- Hut accommodation
- Local accommodation for any nights required during the trip
- Free transport (Tekapo - Mt. Cook return)
- ALL meals (including snacks & energy bars) for the duration of the trip
- ALL technical climbing equipment (with the exception of boots)
Meals and accommodation before/after the trip are NOT included.
We strongly recommend aircraft access. Most climbers opt to fly to Plateau Hut, because of the roughness of the Tasman Glacier moraine, unstable rock on Haast Ridge and the time taken to walk in. Chances of a summit success are increased by flying in, because you can take immediate advantage of a fine weather day for a summit attempt (if you walk in you will need a rest day before commencing your summit attempt at midnight).
The peak climbing season for Aoraki/Mount Cook ascents is October to January, but it is sometimes possible to climb the mountain outside of these dates, depending on conditions. Please contact us with the dates you would like. We recommend that you settle guiding dates well in advance as guide availability during peak season is limited. Please allow extra time in case you are held up in the mountains due to weather.
Snow & Ice Conditions
↑ Ice fall hazard above the Linda Glacier route
Climbing times on Mount Cook depend largely on snow conditions and the crevasse situation of the Linda Glacier. During winter and spring there is often little difficulty in finding a route through the Linda ice-fall, however, skis or snow shoes must be used during these times.
Early during the season, November - December crevasses are usually well filled in, however, deep snow can make progress very slow, while firmer snow and more stable weather conditions during January must be weighed up against more broken and sometimes difficult conditions on the glacier. Access during late summer (February-March) is usually cut off completely.
Suspension of guided ascents
- In September 2007 Alpine Recreation suspended guided ascents on Aoraki Mount Cook via the Linda Glacier. Hot summer temperatures and relatively low snowfall rates during the previous winters had left the Linda Glacier, the standard ascent route, heavily crevassed, forcing climbers closer underneath dangerous ice cliffs and it was felt that the objective hazard of this route had become unacceptably high.
- After a very good snow winter in 2008 and good glacier conditions in summer 2009-2010, the decision was reviewed.
- The 2009 winter brought another very good snow season, so that crevasses were nicely filled in making for much safer conditions on the Linda Glacier for the 2009-2010 summer. The 2010-11 season was good during November-December, but access up the Linda became difficult earlier than usual (from mid-January).
High objective hazard
The Linda Glacier route is known for its significant objective hazards and by attempting this route, you must be willing to accept these risks. You may wish to consider other options with less risk, such as Mount Tasman or an alternative mountain or to participate on one of our Intensive Mountaineering Skills and Specialized Alpine Climbing Courses and learn the necessary skills so that you can work towards attempting one of the harder routes on Aoraki. Such a route could be the Zurbriggens Ridge, or the Hooker Face, which are not affected by the ice fall or crevasse problems that you encounter on the Linda Glacier.
Venue: Plateau Hut
Plateau Hut, built in 2005, is the base from which you climb Mount Cook. It is a public hut that works on a first-come first-served basis and cannot be pre-booked. Climbers must carry their own sleeping bags and food to the hut as well as some party equipment and their personal equipment. Plateau Hut photos...
Previous Experience & Agility
Participants need to be exceptionally fit, well coordinated and mentally and physically strong. Summit day involves 15-20 hours climbing.
The Linda Glacier route on Mount Cook has a Grade 3, which corresponds roughly to European AD, but grades in New Zealand provide only a rough indication of difficulty and are assigned as an "average" in normal conditions. Level of difficulty can change dramatically just with a rapid change in weather conditions and corresponding snow and ice conditions. The climb involves solid front-pointing and two-tool technique.
A climb of Mt Cook is more technically difficult than a climb of Mt Everest! For this reason we require participants to prove their suitability before Mt Cook will be attempted. This can be done by:
- undertaking a climbing trip or instruction course with Alpine Recreation before we attempt Mt Cook (recommended: Specialized Alpine Climbing Course); OR
- providing us with your 'Climbing Resume' including climbs of a similar technical standard to Mt Cook. These climbs will need to include:
- height gains in excess of 1300m (4000ft) in a single push
- technical ice and mixed climbing up to 60° steepness
- long sections requiring crampon and ice axe use
These requirements are in place to ensure the safety of you and your guide and to make sure you have a realistic chance of success on Aoraki. If you do not have the necessary experience or fitness to attempt Mt Cook now, contact us. We will create a customised pathway to prepare you to tackle Mt Cook in the future.
A climb of Aoraki Mount Cook takes at least three climbing days. To book a guide for less than 6 days is unrealistic as it allows no flexibility in case of bad weather, and reduces your chances considerably of a successful climb.
From Plateau Hut at 2200m climbers begin winding up the gentle (10-30°) Linda Glacier under torchlight following a 1am start.
Just as dawn is starting to colour the sky we move onto the much more challenging Linda Shelf. This 500m long ice-shelf requires us to traverse carefully along usually icy slopes of between 30-35°, demanding a high level of cramponing skill. This part of the route perhaps requires the most care.
Daylight should see us at the base of the famous Summit Rocks. This 150m high rock buttress holds 4 pitches (rope lengths) of mixed rock snow and ice climbing that provide a real thrill and require the use of two ice tools. This buttress is the technical crux of the route with short near vertical steps and a sustained grade of 60° or more.
SUMMIT ICE CAP
After the technical challenge of the summit rocks the summit ice cap awaits. 25-35° ice and snow slopes lead you up to the top of New Zealand. The knife-edge summit ridge winds away to the south and the whole country falls beneath your feet.
The descent is via the same route and requires a lot of careful cramponing and some steep abseils to return to the comfort of Plateau Hut some 14-20 hours since you left.
WARNING: The Linda Glacier route on Mt Cook requires climbers to pass below hanging glaciers. These glaciers collapse regularly and without warning. While there have been relatively few fatalities from these collapses, there have been many near misses. We will only climb Mt Cook when conditions allow us to avoid the bulk of these hanging glaciers, but some risk will always remain. There are other mountains that do not require travel beneath hanging glaciers. The choice to attempt the Linda Glacier route on Mt Cook is a personal one and should be made in the knowledge that these risks exist and are out of our control.
All of your equipment will be checked during the gear check at our office at the start of your trip. Any equipment you need to borrow from us will be issued by your guide.
Alpine Recreation provides all technical mountaineering equipment. The only equipment that clients are requested to bring are their own mountaineering boots as we only store a limited range of such boots. Outdoor clothing and packs can also be provided at no extra cost if necessary. Please see the equipment list for further details.