Outdoor Education Students Gain Alpine Skills

September 02, 2020 at 10:35 AM

With thanks to Mr Richard Lange, TIC Outdoor Education

With so many students activities cancelled or postponed this year, as we move our way through Covid-19 Alerts Levels, the College Outdoor Education students have been fortunate; so far they have been able to undertake much of their planned offsite practical skill learning, including squeaking in a trip to Mt Ruapehu just days prior to the second lockdown!

Two Year 13 Outdoor Education classes travelled to Mt Ruapehu to spend three days learning about staying safe together in an alpine environment. Accompanied by Mr Lange, Miss Beban, Mr Cloonan and instructors from Adventure Specialties Trust, their accommodation was in an alpine lodge surrounded by snow where they lived, cooked, ate and did duties together. 

Although the temperature up the mountain was cold, the weather conditions were changeable and ranged from beautiful blue mountain skies and sunshine, to cloudy conditions followed by freezing sleet and snow. In other circumstances, these changeable weather conditions could have been a drawback, but when you are there to test your alpine skills, they were perfect!

On the first day students got to grips with essential mountaineering skills such as using ice axes and crampons to walk on steep and icy terrain, building snow shelters and how to ‘self-arrest’ a slip – digging in quickly with an ice-axe to prevent sliding down the mountain in a fall.  

The second day involved making the most of a short break in the weather and climbing to the summit of Mt Ruapehu in icy conditions. It was a challenging day but the views from the top and the sense of accomplishment made the effort worthwhile. The last day involved students taking their newfound skills to the next level and being challenged to climb and be lowered off vertical rock and ice faces using ropes, harnesses and ice tools. 

Throughout the trip students reflected on the significant safety issues in a challenging mountain environment and on return were tasked with creating a report on how those issues were managed for their NCEA Level 3 Achievement Standard 3.7. 

Both students and staff enjoyed the amazing mountainous environment of the central North Island, the challenging conditions and the chance to bond and learn some specialised skills together. Year 13 student, Chris Anderson summed up the feeling of many, ‘The highlight of the trip for me was definitely reaching the summit as the view from the top was breath-taking. It was a great experience taking our classroom learning to the snow and learning new skills such as the challenge of walking in crampons and using an ice axe safely.’ 


Outdoor Education at the College and is offered at NCEA Level 2 (Year 12) and Level 3 (Year 13). It is not for the faint hearted and prospective students must demonstrate a real passion for the outdoors and be prepared to meet the many challenges! 

The course aims for students to become actively knowledgeable, skilled and safe in a range of outdoor adventure activities, with care for the environment a paramount focus. It provides opportunities to develop initiative and the leadership skills of decision making, accepting responsibility and coping with adversity through challenge-based activities.

The modules provide a range of outdoor challenges as diverse as sea and white-water kayaking, bush craft, mountaineering skills, mountain biking and SCUBA diving. The students examine the concept of outdoor education as a worthwhile, life-long interest, as well as exploring its potential for future employment.

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