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Field trip: Council staff on Motatapu Saddle in October, at the site of the first hut on the Mahu Whenua Traverse

A major hurdle’s been cleared in the formation of an epic ski touring route between Coronet Peak and Treble Cone.

Queenstown’s council granted consent this week for five alpine huts that will sit along the 45km Mahu Whenua Traverse, which will run along the backbone of the Harris Mountains, crossing Coronet Peak Station.

First unveiled in Mountain Scene’s sister paper Otago Daily Times over a year ago, the traverse is the vision of Arrowtown adventurer Erik Bradshaw.

With the consent in the bag, Bradshaw’s now turning his attention to forming a Mountain Turk Club to build and manage the huts.

“I’m aiming to have them in this winter.

“I’m quite confident there’s enough energy and momentum.”

The club’s inaugural meeting will be held at the Queenstown Events Centre on February 12 at 7pm.

He’s already got more than 400 people on his emailing list, and interest has come from far afield Christchurch last month to hear him talk about the project.

He’s also going to call in the money promised by dozens of donors over the past year.

Construction can then start on his self-designed versions of ‘Turk Huts’, versions of which already sit on Mt Sale, above Arrowtown, and at Cape Adare, in the Antarctic.

The Mahu Whenua route, between Coronet Peak and Treble Cone

The insulated, double-glazed, four-bunk huts will be built in Arrowtown and choppered to their sites on Coronet Saddle, Vanguard Peak, Mt Saint Just, Mt Hyde and Motatapu Saddle.

The consent took much longer than he expected because he was “hopelessly naive”, Bradshaw says.

“I thought I would submit five or six pages and they would say ‘great idea, no one will know it’s there – go for it’.”

Pro bono work by Boffa Miskell and Patch Landscape means the cost of getting the consent across the line was only a fraction of the $50,000-plus it would’ve cost a commercial venture, he says.

He’s also grateful to Anderson Lloyd for its legal work, also at no cost.

The huts will be managed by an online booking system for use by club members, either for the winter ski traverse or tramping in the warmer months.

They’ll have rainwater tanks and solar panels to power a light and an electronic charging station.

There are also plans to install a separate long-drop toilet structure at each hut site.

Resource consent was needed because the huts will sit on an outstanding natural landscape, and small areas of indigenous vegetation will have to cleared for their foundations.

For information see http://mountainturk.nz/

guy.williams@scene.co.nz