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Instructor Development Course (Alpine)

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

The Instructor Development Course is an AURAC/AUTC-run course to develop our snow school instructor’s teaching abilities and alpine skills before teaching the students. It’s a fantastic opportunity to further develop our skills.

Covering off some rescue skills at Cornwall Park

We made it through the wet weather at Cornwall Park, where we practised teaching skills to each other and breaking down our teaching into small manageable chunks. On the other side of all the Auckland-based learning, the IDC weekend beckoned. The weekend provides another opportunity to hone our skills, but every second year, we also get the benefit of a real mountain guide coming along to share some of their hot tips and make sure that we are teaching the most up-to-date safety skills. We had the privilege of having Dean Staples return after two years to get us back up to speed.

My car made it down to Tukino early Friday morning so that we could play a little before getting to the hard thinking stuff. We arrived and quickly got our gear together to do some climbing at Tascmaster Wall, despite not having read the topos before the trip. Max and I eventually identified two grade 15 trad climbs that seemed possible in mountaineering boots and hopped on. I quickly discovered not all grade 15s are equal, as Max had picked a far better route that didn’t involve pulling up above underclings while standing on a 5 mm edge that I couldn’t feel.

Some spicy wet grade 15 trad in mountaineering boots

Most of the crew arrived at 1 am the next day due to some car troubles that, thankfully, were nowhere near as catastrophic as the previous IDC car troubles. Unfortunately, it did mean that Alex couldn’t make it to the IDC as he had to accompany his car back to Auckland, and Aidan & Brendan got to perfect their alpine starts, leaving Auckland at 3 am to arrive at the Mt by 9 am. We fuelled up the next day on spaghetti on toast and other refined culinary creations before hitting the books and running through even more theory.


After lunch, however, we had the opportunity to search out some snow which had been glaringly absent on an alpine course due to warm early-season conditions. About 300m up from the hut, we found a patch of snow to stomp about on and cover walking and arresting in snow.

Dean demonstrating how to teach self-arresting to nervous students, with Max playing student.

On the next and final day, we covered some more niche rescue techniques, including many ways to short rope, body & terrain belays, and the ‘Sherpa’ rappel, using just an arm and a rope. We had a lot of fun rescuing each other and picking Dean’s brain for nuggets of wisdom.

Dean rescuing Ryan.

After lunch, we had some time to play and develop some of our personal skills. Everyone headed back over to Tascmaster to practice building their trad anchors and have a go at climbing rock routes in mountaineering boots. Aidan also found the time to sneak away and claim a cheeky first ascent of some scramble. With all the scrambling, we were properly tired out and ready to head back home with some new tips on how to better teach people to stay safe in the alpine environment.

Top-roping in mountaineering boots

I would like to close out by saying a massive thank you to all the people who put in their time and effort to make IDC such a success. Thank you to Aidan & Oxana, our awesome Alpine Officers, for managing all the admin and bookings (special mention to Aidan for also assisting Dean this trip in teaching the rest of the instructors), to Alex for putting in so many years of effort to update the alpine courses so that they’re now super awesome and so that we are prepared to teach more effectively, to Dean for coming up to the North Island and teach us snow skills on mostly rock, and lastly to all our instructors for volunteering their time to teach and deliver the courses. IDC is an awesome opportunity to learn, upskill and develop the soft skills that are so critical in any outdoor sport, but especially in mountaineering.

Inspecting the trad rock anchors we had just climbed on.

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