Snow training: Queenstown's Sam Davis in the Soho Basin last Tuesday


After two postponements, an Antarctic Heritage Trust expedition to cross a new ski-touring
route near Queenstown has been put off until next winter.

In May, the trust advertised for five young Kiwis to take part in a five-day journey on the
Mahu Whenua Traverse, a 50km route across the Harris Mountains between Coronet Peak and Treble Cone.

The successful applicants include Wānaka adventure racer Emily Wilson.

Two Wakatipu High School students with skiing backgrounds, Cameron Marshall, 18, and Sam Davis, 16, were also added to the party.

Originally scheduled for early August, the expedition was initially postponed once because of a lack of snow.

It was then postponed again, to last week, due to the Alert Level 4 lockdown.

In a case of history repeating, a lack of snow’s now forced the expedition to be put off until
next winter.

The party would’ve spent the nights in four-bunk huts, built from plastic water tanks, which
were placed along the route last spring.

They 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.

However, the group came together in Queenstown last week for three days of ‘‘training
and familiarisation’’, Bradshaw says.

They went ski touring in Soho Basin on Tuesday, where they did an avalanche exercise scenario, and tramped up to the Mountain Turk Club’s hut in the Crown Basin last Wednesday.

As well as Bradshaw and trust representative Marcus Waters, the party was accompanied by local mountain guides Steve Schreiber and Thomas Vallietet, who provided mountain safety refresher training in transceiver use, and assessed the team’s backcountry skiing skills.

The group’s members are a ‘‘very capable group of people, and very fit’’, Bradshaw says.

‘‘I have a lot of confidence in them.’’

Despite the year’s delay, he’s looking forward to the expedition being the first of many traverses of the route ‘‘to encourage young people to engage with New Zealand’s backcountry’’.

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