Backcountry ski touring traverse

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An Arrowtown adventurer plans to create a “world-class” ski touring route between Coronet Peak and Treble Cone skifields.

Erik Bradshaw says the 60km Mahu Whenua Traverse will be an “alpine traverse the likes of which does not currently exist in the southern hemisphere”.

Running along the backbone of the Harris Mountains, it’ll be similar to famous ski touring journeys such as the Haute Route between Chamonix and Zermatt, and Canada’s Wapta Traverse, he says.

Traversing Coronet Peak Station and public conservation land, it’ll have five four-bunk ‘Turk’ huts of his own design spaced along the route.

The route’s named after 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.

The project has the backing of Coronet Peak Station owner Mutt Lange and supervisor Russell Hamilton. The QEII Trust, Walking Access Commission and Federated Mountain Clubs are also on board, Bradshaw says.

He’s now busy putting together information for a resource consent application he expects to lodge with Queenstown’s council next month.

A club will be formed to own and maintain the huts, which will be managed through a booking system.

Membership will be required for overnight stays, with people able to join by contributing labour or money for building materials. Those materials will cost $70,000, and building and installing the huts along the route will take about 1500 hours of community labour, he reckons. His goal is to have the huts built and in place by next winter.

Bradshaw, the first person to ski-traverse the length of the Southern Alps, says the route suits a wide range of ability, and offers a “once-in-a-lifetime experience of staying in high mountain huts away from human complexity”.

The terrain is particularly suited to backcountry skiing because it provides “enough excitement without excessive risk from steep country and glacier travel”.

Although most people could complete the route in three-to-four days, having five huts gives flexibility about speed of travel, and means safe shelter is never far away should the weather deteriorate. The huts could also be used in summer by walkers and mountain bikers.

He has already built four Turks, which use 26,000-litre plastic water tanks, as a starting point. Three were ordered by Antarctica New Zealand for a hut restoration project on the continent.

project and who’re keen to see a partly-built Turk, Bradshaw is holding an open day at his home at 92 Centennial Ave, Arrowtown, this Sunday, from 3pm to 7pm.