Learning the Ropes (Part One) – Aoraki / Mt Cook Winter Travel Training

“On a Mish” #35 Learning the Ropes (Part One). Aoraki / Mt Cook Winter Travel Training. Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park.16.7.2011. The year 2011 was dominated by the disastrous Christchurch earthquake. The event in my hometown made me realise that life is short and no day is promised to you so you better get out and enjoy every day you get! With this in mind I knew if I kept going into the mountains without any proper training I might not make it back. A wise person once told me “You’ll never know everything” so training is a must in the mission toolbelt…

Up until 2011 I had been very lucky when it came to avoiding accidents in the mountains. Apart from some minor scrapes and scratches, I’d done alright considering I was going into the Aotearoa alpine environment during the winter months with outdoor education learnt from TV. Bear Grylls was my teacher up until I decided I needed to get some training from an expert instead of the telly.

After doing some research I found a ‘Winter BackCountry Travel Course’ with AGL (Aoraki Guides Limited) which looked perfect. Four days and three nights in New Zealand’s premier alpine village learning the ropes sounded as close to perfect as possible!

Aoraki Mt Cook Village is a place a description will always fail. The small area of flat that the village is built on is dwarfed by the monstrous mountains that jut up out of the ground as if they are racing each other to the sky. If you are heading to Aotearoa and want to be impressed then I highly recommend a trip to Aoraki Mt Cook. Please prepare your neck muscles for some upward alpine gazing. With gigantic snowy peaks found all times of the year (I hope it stays that way!). Most of the time you will be looking up at land lifted up by extreme pressure, and many get to witness their first avalanche as another chunk of Mt Sefton peels off and begins its thunderous journey down to the Mueller Glacier.

For a successful winter course you need snow, and as the date for the course approached I watched the forecast and saw that just before we were meeting in the village the area was going to be bombarded by a snow storm. Little did I know that that storm would leave 30cm of snow on the ground around the village (and metres of the stuff higher up), but it would also cover the hills so much that we wouldn’t be pretending when it came to avalanche danger. There was so much snow that there was a chance the course might be rescheduled or even cancelled completely. As I began to prepare for the mish I knew I needed to pack some extra warm gear because it was going to be bloody cold!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

Subscribe To my newsletter