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ALPINE / Ice / Mountaineering

New Zealand offers alpine climbing opportunities for climbers of all abilities.


New Zealand is a land of mountains.

Much of New Zealand’s high alpine regions are heavily glaciated. The Southern Alps (Kā Tiritiri o te Moana) is a mountain chain approximately 500km long that runs down the spine of Te Waipounamu (the South Island).  

The Aoraki Mount Cook region offers classic snow and ice climbs on large-scale peaks, the highest of which is Aoraki Mount Cook itself (3,724m).

There are many sub-ranges within the Southern Alps, where there exists opportunities to experience true wilderness in rarely visited valleys and on remote peaks.

The Darran Mountains in Fiordland are the centre for summer alpine rock in New Zealand.

The best ice climbing opportunities are in the Southern Lakes region and the Darrans. And winter is a good time to climb the North Island’s volcanoes in the Tongariro and Taranaki regions.


Getting Started



Plan your trip

NZAC publish and sell a comprehensive set of mountaineering and backcountry guidebooks to the mountain ranges of New Zealand, available in the shop.

NZAC’s online route database,, is a community-generated resource for climbing information. It covers thousands of routes, peaks and areas, and is constantly being updated to provide up-to-date information.



A growing archive of New Zealand Alpine Journals is available to view online at

The NZAC Home of Mountaineering in Christchurch has a reference library with a full set of New Zealand Alpine Journals, guidebooks and other NZ mountain books.

NZ Topo Map is a fantastic free online map resource to New Zealand. The official Land Information New Zealand map index provides downloadable Topo50 maps.


Give it a try

NZAC run a variety of skills-based instruction courses, from beginner-level to advanced. To find a course that will suit you in your area, check out our Alpine Climbing Courses page.


Get into the hills

Looking for a climbing partner? Try our forums page.

New to the sport, or just moved to a new area? NZAC run trips, meets and instruction courses across the country through local sections. A great way to meet new climbing partners and get outdoors in the hills is to check out what’s happening in your region.

New Zealand alpine climbing areas

The following is a selection of some of the most popular and quality climbing areas in New Zealand.


Aoraki Mt Cook and Tai Poutini Westland national parks

This is the heart of New Zealand’s alpine country, containing all but one of the 30 peaks over 3000m.

Soaring above the bleached tussock plains of the McKenzie Basin to the east and majestic rain-forest to the west, the high peaks of the Southern Alps have been the focus of New Zealand mountaineers for over 100 years.

The area is heavily glaciated and the climbing is generally serious. Most of the peaks have long glacier approaches, with extensive moraine at lower altitudes. Approaches to some huts are serious climbs in themselves.

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Arthur’s Pass and the Eastern Canterbury Ranges

The Mountain ranges of Arthur’s Pass National Park are the most accessible in New Zealand, being located aside the main road/rail corridor traversing the Southern Alps between Christchurch and the West Coast. Terrain within the park varies considerably from low scree hills to heavily glaciated peaks and steep face routes.

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Barron Saddle to Mt Brewster

This area covers the ranges between the Haast Pass and Mount Cook. The valleys covered include the Hopkins and Huxley, the Landsborough, and other West Coast valleys north of Haast Pass.

The ranges covered offer many fine rock and snow climbs on peaks slightly lower and less glaciated than those at Mount Cook, though there are also many climbs of a technical nature.

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The Canterbury Westland Alps

The Warrior. Jagged Peak. The Great Unknown. Ivory Lake. The Thumbs. The Garden of Eden. The names alone are an invitation to climb, and they are all in the Canterbury Westland Alps, which are the mountains of the Southern Alps between Mt Cook and Arthur’s Pass National Parks.

As well as the Main Divide peaks, they include the arterial ranges such as the Arrowsmiths, Armoury Range and the Adams Range.

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Central Otago

It is one hundred years since Mount Aspiring was first climbed, and mountaineers continue to find new adventures throughout this section of the Southern Alps.

The Central Otago region is special. Mellow grassy valleys lead to backbreaking grinds through steep bush to the prize of wide open snowfields and rugged rocky and icy summits.

The climbing ranges from hands-in-pocket stroll to steep technical classics. This is a user friendly area, almost as if it was created for mountaineering.

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The Darrans

Hidden away in northern Fiordland, the complex range of granite peaks that make up the Darran Mountains provide unlimited opportunities for the adventurous climber.

Whether you aspire to sport climbing, alpine rock climbing, big mountain routes or technical ice climbing the range and quality of established and potential routes is exhaustive.

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South of the Darrans, Fiordland extends in a huge and remote wilderness.

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Nelson Lakes National Park

The Travers Range peaks, Mt Angelus (2084m), Mt Hopeless (2278m), Mt Cupola (2263m), and Mt Travers (2338m), are readily climbed from huts in the Travers valley and its tributaries. The Angelus basin is a popular base for ski touring; Mt Hopeless is the most difficult peak on the range; while Mt Travers is straightforward from Summit Creek.

Mt Franklin (2340m) has routes from both branches of the Sabine River. Mt Mahanga (2187m) is climbed from the head of the West Sabine. Mt Ella (2256m) is climbed from the D’Urville River, or by long routes from the Matakitaki River.

The Spenser Mountains, lying between the Matakitaki and the Waiau valleys, include Mt Humboldt(2217m) and Mt Una (2301m), the Faerie Queene (2237m), and Gloriana Pk (2210m). The latter two are climbed from the upper Ada River but the others are less accessible.

The mountains between the Lewis Pass road and Arthur’s Pass National Park are less interesting to the mountaineer, being open tops with only a few summits exceeding 1800m.

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