'Spirit of exploration': Skiers sought for opening of traverse

Ski tourers on the Mahu Whenua Traverse last winter. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
Ski tourers on the Mahu Whenua Traverse last winter. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
The Antarctic Heritage Trust is on the hunt for five young New Zealanders to take part in the first official expedition to cross a new ski-touring route.

In August, they will embark on a five-day journey on the Mahu Whenua Traverse, a 50km route across the Harris Mountains between Treble Cone and Coronet Peak near Queenstown.

The expedition, which will mark the traverse’s official opening, is part of the trust's Inspiring Explorers programme, which has taken five expeditions to the Antarctic and the polar regions since 2015.

The Christchurch-based trust's commercial and partnerships general manager Marcus Waters said Covid-19 had forced the trust to organise this year’s expedition in New Zealand for the first time.

However, the journey would be a "hard slog’’ over undulating terrain with some steep climbs.

"So those we're taking need to be resilient, competent skiers, be good communicators and have a spirit of exploration,’’ Mr Waters said.

"They don't need to be perfect, just willing to learn."

Expedition members would stay in four-bunk huts, built using plastic water tanks as a shell, which were placed along the route last spring.

The "Turk’’ huts were designed by Arrowtown adventurer Erik Bradshaw, who founded the Mountain Turk Club to build them and manage their use for ski-touring and tramping.

Mr Waters said the expedition would include the five successful applicants and two Wakatipu High School pupils.

He and Mr Bradshaw would each lead a party that would start from opposite ends of the route. Both parties would be accompanied by a local mountain guide.

A shortlist of applicants would be interviewed, and there would be a "shake-down’’ trip before the expedition started.

Mr Bradshaw, who in 2011 became the first person to ski traverse the length of the Southern Alps, said he hoped the expedition would be the first of many "to encourage young people to engage with New Zealand's backcountry’’.

"It's exciting to share what you have learnt from a lifetime in the mountains and wild places and to ensure young people have the strength and mental determination to succeed.’’

Applications are open at nzaht.org until May 19. Applicants must be aged 18-30, have backcountry skiing experience, good health and a high standard of fitness.










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