Climb FAQs

 Aspiring Guides has been guiding in the New Zealand Southern Alps since 1990 - so there's not many questions that we haven't answered before.   Here's a list of some of the most frequently asked questions from our clients grouped by category:-



If you don't find your answer here - please feel free to contact us directly.

COMMON QUESTIONS

Climb

How big are the groups on our mountaineering/climbing ascents & courses?

As a general rule: the more technically advanced / higher climb grade - the lower the guide to client ratio.   All professional mountain guides contracted to Aspiring Guides are qualified professionals and operate under the terrain guidelines issued by the New Zealand Mountain Guides Association.


Our maximum group size for introductory mountaineering/ climbing courses is typically 1 guide with 4 clients. We write this as 1:4 guide ratio. Advanced courses run with two (1: 2) or three (1: 3) clients depending on the course & objectives.   As a general rule: the more technically advanced / higher climb grade - the lower the guide to client ratio.  Private instruction is also available 1:1 or 1: 2.

We can also offer instruction and mountaineering trips for larger groups but the maximum guide to client ratio stays the same - eg. 2 guides : 8 clients.   If you have a larger private group, contact us for further details.   

For ascents of most NZ peaks the guiding ratio is 1:1 or in some cases 1: 2.

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How hard are your climbing trips? Am I fit enough?

All our trips in the mountains are physically demanding.  It goes without saying that the fitter you are the more you will achieve and the more you will enjoy the experience.  If you are new to mountaineering here's some suggestions: - 

Endurance Fitness is the Key
In terms of fitness training for any mountaineering objective - endurance (both mental and physical) is the most important personal attribute you can have.  You need to be able to keep moving at a steady pace for 10 hours + while carrying a load and sustain this over multiple days - very few of our mountaineering trips require only one day of effort!  

For big objectives like Cook, you really need to aim to be able to climb 1000m vertical in about 3 hours.   While you will start to feel the affects of altitude at 3000m, altitude is not generally a big factor in climbing NZ mountains.  The degree of difficulty and technicality of the climb is! 

Recommended Training
One of the best ways to get "endurance" is sustained hiking under load.   Short intense work outs at the gym are only slightly helpful.  Big hikes ie., > 10 hrs on rough terrain with a pack is best.   Hiking trips of 4+ days are ideal training.   But we understand that this type of training is pretty hard to get as a city dweller.     Stair hiking with a 15+ kg and 20+ floors works remarkably well.  But nothing beats getting out of the city to national park areas and mountain trails.   Make a pre-dawn start to get used to using a head torch & give yourself a 15+kg pack weight.  Filling your  pack with water bottles is a good way to get weight into your pack.    

If you already rock climb - keep it up.  If you have not done any rock climbing, then look at doing at least a few sessions with a local climbing instructor or indoor climbing wall.  Being able to abseil & belay are important basic skills.   Practice your knots - figure of 8, clove & italian hitches and prussik knots are important - here’s a great website to help.

If you have any questions at all, please contact us - we can send you information about a full training program for mountaineering and ski touring in NZ.
 

Climb

How heavy is my pack for a mountaineering trip?

Most of our mountaineering asents & courses are based from a hut or camp. Most days there is only need for lunch, snacks, water, camera, jacket & tools. When relocating or walking out, you will need to carry 15-20kg which includes personal gear and some food.

Do not bring an additional "day pack" . Only one pack is required for your trip and once items like sleeping gear and personal items are emptied out at your base location you use your pack straps to reduce the volume/size of your pack for each day's mountaineering excursion.

For most mountaineering trips we recommend a 60 litre capacity pack with gear loops for ice-axe & crampons.   Resist the temptation to fill that space to capacity.  Light is right.  Your endurance and performance over a long trip can be severly affected if you are carrying "too much stuff".   Your guide will be checking every item in your pack before you leave the office on your trip.

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How long do the trips last?

We can offer our guiding services for just a day of rock climbing, hiking or ski touring right through to a multi-week mountaineering, hiking or ski touring expedition in Peru and beyond.  

In NZ most of our climbing, skiing & hiking trips are typically 3 to 12 days. See our website for a comprehensive list of trips available.  

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I am travelling on my own. Can I still book as a single?

Most of our mountaineering ascents are conducted on a 1:1 basis, so no problem there.

For all other group climbing, skiing or WildWalks hiking trips, we have a 2 person minimum number to operate a trip.   If you are travelling on your own, try to organise your itinerary to match up with the dates scheduled for the course or trip listed on our website.  

If you can't join a trip on our scheduled dates: then you have two options:-

  1. Book a private 1:1 trip for any dates you wish or 
  2. We can book you as a single and we will try to match others to your dates. If we cannot find at least one other person for the dates you want, one month before the start date we will give you a full refund or offer you an alternative trip 1:1 for a fewer number of days. 

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What do we eat? I have a special diet, is this OK?

One thing we hear every trip is "the food was great! I never knew it was possible to eat so well on a climbing/ skiing/ hiking trip".  We put a lot of work into supplying you with wholesome meals with a variety of healthy and tasty ingredients and snacks catering to common preferences.  

Where possible, we provide fresh vegetables and real coffee. However, there will always be limitations when cooking in an alpine or wilderness environment.  Meals like salads are limited or not possible to provide.     Some trips/courses are not recommended for people with very restrictive or complex dietary requirements.  If you do have a restrictive eating regime we ask that you disclose this to us at the time of booking and we may ask you to provide us with an advance copy of what you would typically eat on a wilderness trip.

For highly specialised diets requiring special food purchases - we may ask that you attend our offices on the day before your trip is due to commence.  If you are joining a scheduled group that doesn't have food requirements, we may ask you to shop & pay for some of your preferred dietary requirements.   You will also be required to carry this food and your guide may ask you to assist in the preparation of any separate meals required for you individually.   

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What equipment do I need for a trip?

At the end of every trip description on our website, we provide detailed information about the equipment required for the trip. Typically this includes a checklist which you can use to "tick off" your gear, a document giving more detailed explanations as well as some of our best "guide tips" and a video to visually explain some of the terminology.

For our climbing and skiing trips we have 3 categories of equipment:-

  • Compulsory items - this is equipment you must have with you. You can either purchase or hire depending on the item.
  • Trip Dependent - these are items that maybe needed but will depend on the venue for the trip and prevailing conditions.  Most times this cannot be decided ahead of time.   Our best advice is that if you already own the items listed in the trip dependent section & you can fit in your pack then bring them along.   Things like your own rock shoes and snow goggles are good things to bring - but disposable eating utensils can easily be obtained in Wanaka.
  • Optional - these are items which you can choose to bring or leave behind. But we think you should at least bring your camera!!   Your trip will to some of the most breathtaking locations on the planet!!   
 

Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about the suitability of equipment to avoid purchasing or carrying unncecessary equipment.

Climb

What time of year do your mountaineering trips run?

Mountaineering
The summer mountaineering season in NZ is generally from late October to early May.  The peak season for mountaineering is Nov - Jan each year.

The NZ season for Winter ice-climbing is very short - typically from late June to early August.  

Mountaineering during the winter months from May - October is highly variable and while still possible all trips can be affected by adverse mountain & weather conditions.   For this reason we do not "schedule" mountaineering trips over the winter months.  However, if you have a particular objective in mind, please do not hesitate to contact us for further details.
 

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Where do we meet?

Our offices are across from the lake, at 99 Ardmore Street, Wanaka. Entrance is around the back and up the stairs. Unless otherwise instructed, your guide will meet you at 8.30am on the morning of Day 1 of your trip. We will confirm this meeting at the time of booking. At this meeting your gear is checked and the final details of your trip are discussed. There will be time for last minute purchases if required.

Here's a google map of our office location.

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Why helicopter in & out?

MAXIMISE YOUR TIME ICE-CLIMBING

Four days is not that long to perfect your ice-climbing technique and the daylight hours in the NZ winter are short.  By using helicopter to fly in & out of our private hut you will maximise your time climbing - you won't waste a day just hiking.    Other NZ ice-climbing locations require a 2 - 3 hour drive & then up to a 5 hour hike  (often through deep snow) to access or egress from the ice-climbing location.  Our helicopter base in Wanaka is a short 15 - 20 minute drive and you are lifted into the ice face early morning  on your first day and out again in the late afternoon on your last day.  

WHAT IF's

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How does the Aspiring Guides Weather Contingency work?

Aspiring Guides is the only NZ Guiding Company that offers this bonus to its clients. You can defer your trip for one day and not waste any precious guiding time. You will start the next day with the full number of days allocated for the trip still available.   Effectively your guide is holding themselves available for 1 extra day of guiding at no extra charge.


While one day may not be the cure for all bad weather situations, sometimes a one day delay at the start of your trip can make all the difference.   If you want to take advantage of this bonus, make sure you allow for this extra day in your itinerary.

The bonus one day weather contingency applies to all Summer Ascent based trips, any Winter trips (whether ascent, course, ski tour or Wildwalk) and also summer Wild Walk: NZ Glacier Hiking  . The Weather Contingency does not apply to any Summer Climbing Courses.  As you will appreciate - no matter what the weather there is always mountaineering skills you can learn indoors.

But please note:
The one day Weather Contingency applies only to the start date of your trip. This means your trip could start a day later if your guide recommends and you agree to choose this option. It is important to understand that once a trip begins no weather contingency days are included. There are no refunds for bad weather during the trip.

Climb

What about insurance for my mountaineering/climbing trip?

Good travel insurance is essential. In addition to medical/accident cover we highly recommend purchasing travel cancellation insurance. In some instances, our clients have injured themselves in totally unrelated accidents or had a family emergency which has meant that they have had to cancel their trips at short notice. Unfortunately we were unable to resell their places and had to insist on our cancellation policy. A bad situation for everyone! But it’s also one that can be avoided with relatively cheap travel insurance. You may have your own preferred travel insurer. If not, here are some suggestions.
We do not recommend any company over any other.

               

Climb

What if I don't fit in with the group ability or otherwise?

This tends to be one of the major concerns of clients going on group trips. However, in our experience, it is very rarely a problem. Due to our small group size we largely avoid compatibility issues.

However, almost all of the trips we are offer are physically demanding.  It is very important  that you are realistic in the self-assessment of your skills and experience.    If you are not familiar with the NZ mountain and wilderness environment it is hard for you to judge how you will go.   However, our Chief Guide and all our guides are widely travelled and can give a good assessment before you join a trip whether your experience in other countries will work well for NZ conditions. 

If you are joining a group, tolerance is an important personal quality.  Tiredness from lack of fitness or sleeping in an unfamiliar environment can take its toll over a long trip.  But it is important to remember that while you might be the fastest, you might be the weakest at tying into your harness, crossing a river or making turns in deep powder snow.  Inevitably every person on a group trip will have their own unique strengths and weaknesses.    An upbeat temperament & accepting attitude go a long way in the mountains.

If you are really concerned about your compatibility with others and you have not done many group trips then we are happy to offer private options on request.

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What if someone is injured?

Obviously every situation is different.  But in the case of a serious accident the guide will notify our base and a rescue will be started usually by helicopter. Injuries are covered by the New Zealand Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).  ACC pays for the majority of costs incurred in evacuation and treatment of injured people. They do not cover you in case of illness. For more information concerning what ACC covers click here. We recommend that you have travel insurance that will cover you if you need to be repatriated to your home country.

Climb

What if the weather is bad for our trip? Do I have to pay?

New Zealand is famous for its changeable weather. The mountains here are characterized by long sunny fine periods mixed with sudden and sometimes heavy rain or snow. Our experienced guides are well equipped to provide the best possible trip and have many years experience in judging the conditions.

Travel in bad weather is an art in itself. By using Aspiring Guides you give yourself the best chance of success dealing with whatever the weather may throw at you. We also offer a bonus one day weather contingency on ascents and winter trips that require helicopter access. This means your trip could start a day late if you choose to use this option.

If the weather remains adverse and prevents the trip from operating as originally planned, you have the opportunity to carry out sub alpine adventure and skill development activities. The Guide fee applies and any trip costs not utilised will be refunded.

It is important that you have read and understood our booking terms and conditions. Once a trip begins there are no refunds.

ACCOMMODATION

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Where do we stay when we are on the trip?

Depending on the trip we use a mixture of camping and mountain huts.  

Mountain & DOC Huts
For climbing and WildWalks trips the huts are public and administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC).  They provide open plan bunk sleeping & "long drop"/ composting toilet facilities. There is a communal cooking area and tank water supply. Most high alpine huts have eating utensils but no other cooking facilities and we provide stoves & fuel.  There is no plumbing or electricity and no shower or separate bathroom facilities.  No high alpine huts have heating.  It is not possible to reserve bunk space in these public huts.

Ski Touring Huts
Aspiring Guides has a number of small basic huts which are reserved for their private use. The huts are very small as they are transported by helicopter to their location and have simple bunk style sleeping, but no indoor toilet or shower facilites.  They also do not have heating.

Camping
Camping is generally in 2 or 3 man tents with sleeping on a thermarest or closed cell foam pads. For Wild Walks trips, we have some pre-placed camps which also have a communal cook tent.

Alternative accommodation out of the mountains
If your trip comes out of the mountains early (typically due to weather issues), we will provide similar shared bunk & bathroom style accommodation until the trip finishes. You may choose to stay elsewhere if you wish, but you will be responsible for settling your account directly with your chosen accommodation and we will refund an amount to the nightly charge for use hut or camping as if you had stayed in the mountains.

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Where is a good place stay before and after the trip?

Even though Wanaka is small it has excellent accommodation options for all tastes. We recommend the Wanaka Hotel for good value traditional hotel style accommodation right in the town centre. But there are also many other places that may suit your tastes and budget.   If you'd like us to make a booking for you please let us know.

Click here for a list of accommodation, and click here for map of Wanaka.

Unless you will have your own transport - we don't recommend staying at accommodation further than walking distance to our office. There are no local bus services.   We can provide a pick up & drop off service if you book this in advance but for any accommodation properties located more than 5km from the town centre there will be a $20 per trip fee (up to 5 people).

TRANSPORT AND TRAVEL INFORMATION

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Can I leave my extra bags and valuables with you while we are in the hills?

Yes, no problem.  We have storage for anything you aren't taking on your trip.  There's no electricity, internet or phone connection available on any of our trips - so it's best to leave most of your electronic gear with us for the duration of your trip.

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Can I rent a car in Wanaka?

You can rent a car in Wanaka but there is no facility for dropping it off in another town or city. To do this the vehicle must be rented in either Queenstown or a larger city such as Christchurch.

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Do I need a car?

No. Most people use shuttle bus transport from Queenstown Airport and accommodation in central Wanaka and find that they do not need to rent a car. Most cafes, restaurants and activities are within easy walking distance.

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How do I get to Wanaka?

The closest airport to us is in Queenstown.  There are regular shuttles between Wanaka and Queenstown airport (one hour drive).

For shuttle and taxi information:
Queenstown -Wanaka

Alpine Connexions
Connectabus
Yello Taxi Service
KT Sightseeing Taxi Service

Christchurch - Wanaka

InterCity Coachlines
Atomic Shuttles
Naked Bus ( don't worry you don't have to take your clothes off to use this service!!)

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Where can I leave my car?

While free long term parking is available in Wanaka, we cannot provide off-street secure parking for your vehicle while you are on a trip. You should ensure that any valuables are stored with us in our office.   If you are returning to the same Wanaka accommodation after your trip it is often worth asking if they are happy for you to leave your vehicle with them. 

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Where is the Aspiring Guides located?

Aspiring Guides is based from the small & scenically beautiful town of Wanaka. Situated on the shores of Lake Wanaka, on the South Island of New Zealand, Wanaka is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park - a World Heritage Area.

Wanaka is a 1 hour drive from Queenstown (which has an international airport for flights from Australia), 5 hours from Christchurch (with an international airport) and 3 hours from Dunedin. Wanaka has ample accommodation to suit all budget types and a wide range of outdoor sports stores necessary to equip you for a mountaineering, skiing or hiking trip with us. 

 

BOOKING

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How do I book a trip? How do I know if the dates I want are available?

You can book directly through our website using our online booking form.

Please make sure you include details of the trip you want to book and the dates that you prefer.

Provided that we have minimum numbers (ie., generally 2 persons) we will run all trips listed on our website.  If you have dates that don't match our scheduled dates or you want to check whether a particular trip or course is running - please contact us

 

We cannot confirm your place on any scheduled group trip or your guide for any 1:1 trip until we receive your payment of a NZ$500 deposit.  The balance of the trip price is due 60 days before the start of your trip.  If you are booking within 60 days of the trip start date then the full trip price is payable to confirm your booking. 

All bookings are subject to the our company Terms & Conditions relating to cancellation & liability issues.  Please make sure your read our Terms & Conditions carefully before booking your trip with us as you will be asked to confirm that you have read and agreed to them before your booking is finalised with us. 

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How do I pay?

We offer a number of different options for you to make payment for your trip:-

  • Web-based Foreign Exchange Dealers
  • Bank Transfer - NZ Domestic & International
  • Credit Card - Visa, Mastercard & AMEX

 

Click here for a full list of payment options and details.

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How much do trips cost?

See each individual trip descriptions for any trip or courses. All prices are in New Zealand Dollars and include the government 15% Goods & Services Tax (GST).
There is a currency converter on all trip pages to give you an estimate of the trip price in your own currency.

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What happens after I pay my deposit?

Your deposit confirms your trip. We then respond by emailing you a booking confirmation.  

Your trip balance is due 60 days before your trip commences. We will contact you to arrange final payment.

Approximately 4 weeks before we are due to meet you we contact you again to give final trip details. This email will also prompt you for any outstanding paperwork and ask you for a copy of your equipment list, your travel information, and accommodation booking here in Wanaka, etc.

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What is included in the price?

Generally the price includes all meals and snacks, your qualified and friendly guide, park fees, Goods and Services Tax, hut fees and communications with Aspiring Guides Operations base. Most technical equipment is included but transport costs like vehicle, jetboat, helicopter and/or air plane costs are not always included and vary with individual trips. See each individual trip description to see what is included or excluded from the price.

The company has the feel of a small scale, intimate, welcoming operation. It treats clients as friends and avoids the aura of imperious, smug, self-inflated egotists that one can sometimes associate with mountain guiding companies. I was very impressed.  Thanks, again for a great experience with a fantastic guide. Ervin was everything you could want in a guide.

Michael, Australia

"It was an amazing week regardless of the weather conditions. Gianni was a great guide and took time to understand our goals and current experience levels. He then tailored the course objectives to suit. He would watch everything closely and correct any mistakes if we didn't fix them ourselves. Gianni was passionate about climbing and the mountains, and he had a wealth of knowledge. It was great transition from rock climbing to mountaineering."

James Graham, Australia, January 2017

Thank you for all your help making the trip such a success, I had a great time with Aritza. Before the trip I received a comprehensive overview of what to expect and preparation advice. I felt comfortable after your careful review of my experience. On the ascent I never felt like I was being 'baby-sat' and had a part to play in the ascent. I felt comfortable and could speak out if not. The walk out was long but a great experience still.  It was a great next step up in terms of technical progression and a long day. Being able to delay a day due to weather and get some rock climbing was also great. Thanks again and I look forward to more climbs in the future.

Charlie, Jan 2017

"Its awesome!!!! Some things were hard mentally and physically. Looking back now, there's a lot more I need to learn. The course was invaluable and has given me some of the key tools I'll need to achieve some of my big objectives. Xavier was an excellent guide and did an awesome job of changing up our days and showing us new stuff every day.  Thanks so much for the adventure."

Luke Ellis, Australia

Having been with Aspiring Guides for 3 other adventures, I was very confident you would be the best company to lead us on our most challenging project to date. Apart from climbing Aspiring, I knew we would be well looked after in terms of food and every possible comfort, based on most recent experience on the Gillespie. Carla and the rest of the Team at Aspiring Guides were great in terms of providing the information / reassurance of our ability / and clear understanding of the challenge ahead. Also very helpful advising us on training before arriving in Wanaka, which proved to be invaluable on the climb, and meant we got up to speed with our guides on the 2 training days we had. The climb was a stretch even though I was very fit, I gave it my all and had an amazing climb.  I leant a new meaning of ‘exposure’. I thought it related to wind and rain, but now see it is more about ‘drop’…. The pre training ensured we were safe, but equally importantly so were the guides. The tranquility of the mountains, so peaceful and surreal when you’re up there. Still hard to believe I achieved my goal! Now I believe I can do anything if I put my mind to it!

 

Graham, New Zealand, Mt Aspiring, March 2017

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