Harris Mts ski touring proposal

Erik Bradshaw
Erik Bradshaw
The "magnificent" landscapes along a proposed ski touring route between Coronet Peak and Treble Cone skifields should attract many outdoor enthusiasts, Coronet Peak Station manager Russell Hamilton says.

A plan by Arrowtown adventurer Erik Bradshaw to create a 60km winter-time route along the backbone of the Harris Mountains was a "great initiative" that would give people another way of enjoying recreation on the station, Mr Hamilton said.

Mr Bradshaw, who was the first person to ski traverse the length of the Southern Alps, said the Mahu Whenua Traverse would be an alpine route "the likes of which doesn’t currently exist in the southern hemisphere".

It would be similar to world-renowned ski touring journeys such as the French-Swiss Haute Route and Canada’s Wapta Traverse.

Crossing Coronet Peak Station and public conservation land, it would have five four-bunk "Turk" huts of his own design along the route.

Mahu Whenua is the Maori name (Healing the Land) for a vast tract of high country placed under the protection of QEII National Trust open space covenants in 2015.

As well as the backing of Mr Hamilton and the station’s owner, Mutt Lange, it has support from the trust, the Walking Access Commission and Federated Mountain Clubs.

Mr Bradshaw said the route would suit a wide range of abilities, and offered a "once-in-a-lifetime experience of staying in high mountain huts away from human complexity".

Although most ski tourers would complete the route in three to four days, having five huts provided flexibility about pace of travel, and meant safe shelter was never far away, should the weather deteriorate.

The terrain was suited to back country skiing because it provided "enough excitement without excessive risk from steep country and glacier travel".

Mr Hamilton said the skifields at either end would provide good access, and the terrain was "surprisingly easy going" along much of the route.

Safety needed to be a central aspect of the plan, and the use of five huts would help with that.

Mr Bradshaw’s goal is to have the huts built and in place by next winter. He is busy preparing a resource consent application that he expects to lodge with the Queenstown Lakes District Council late next month.

He plans to form a club to own and manage the huts. Membership will be required for overnight stays.

People could join by contributing labour or money for building the huts, and then pay an annual membership fee.

Building materials would cost $70,000, while constructing and installing the huts along the route would take an estimated 1500 hours of community labour.

He had put in the first $10,000, and had already received promises of sizeable financial contributions from six people.

He has built four Turks — which use 26,000-litre plastic water tanks as their outer shell — of which three are being used by New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust on the continent.

For those keen to find out more about the Mahu Whenua Traverse, and who want to see a partly-built Turk hut, Mr Bradshaw is holding an open day at his home at 92 Centennial Ave, Arrowtown, tomorrow, from 3pm to 7pm.

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