Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ Mahu Whenua Traverse

Grand Opening of the Turk Trail

credit: Antarctic Heritage Trust

Mahu Whenua Traverse

This expedition will mark the grand opening of a new and unique alpine trail in the Queenstown Lakes District of New Zealand, the Mahu Whenua Traverse, in partnership with the Mountain Turk Club.

After an open process inviting New Zealanders aged 30 and under to apply to join the official opening expedition, the Trust was delighted to receive a stellar response for the sought-after places on the expedition team.

Led by two Trust staff (Nigel Watson and Marcus Waters), the team will take on an epic 50 kilometre five-day cross-country ski expedition between Treble Cone and Coronet Peak in the Central Otago region of New Zealand.

The Inspiring Explorers™ selected for this expedition are: Isaac Giesen, Emily Wilson, Ana Ross, Blake Hornblow and Libby Clifton. They’ll be joined by local Wakatipu High School students Sam Davis and Cameron Marshall.

These seven young New Zealanders will travel a world-class alpine route along the backbone of the Harris Mountains, spending four nights in new purpose built ‘Turk’ huts along the way.

This expedition is a fantastic celebration of the region’s pristine backcountry, Kiwi inventiveness, and the spirit of exploration.

Queenstown accommodation for expedition team generously provided by Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel.

Logistical support generously provided by the Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski fields.

Expedition Update & Team Building – October 2021

Due to snow conditions, the traverse was postponed from its original date in August until September and unfortunately, the COVID-19 outbreak delayed the expedition further. It has been decided that the snow conditions would make it unsafe to undertake the full traverse this year.

Instead, the Inspiring Explorers met in Queenstown for three days of team building and skills training in preparation for the 2022 Inspiring Explorers Expedition™ Mahu Whenua Traverse.

After having the opportunity to connect and learn about the Trust’s work conserving the early explorer bases in Antarctica and inspiring the next generation of explorers, the team joined expedition guides Steve Schreiber and Thomas Vallietet for mountain safety refresher training in transceiver use. The guides also assessed the team’s backcountry skiing skills.

On day two the team headed out for a day of ski-touring in Soho Basin along with an avalanche exercise scenario. On the final day, the team tramped into one of the Mountain Turk Club’s alpine huts known as ‘Turks’.

The team are already enthusiastically looking towards next year’s expedition and enjoyed meeting each other and improving their skills.

About Mahu Whenua Traverse

The Mahu Whenua Traverse travels through the iconic Harris Mountains linking ridge tops, valleys and bowls to create an amazing winter ski and summer hiking route between Treble Cone and Coronet Peak ski fields. It has 3781m of elevation gain, and 4029m of elevation loss throughout the journey.

It’s the first ski traverse of its type in New Zealand and will be an amazing community asset.

The traverse is also the first to use inventive ‘Turk’ alpine huts for accommodation.

A Turk (tank hut) is a lightweight, helicopter flyable mountain hut based on a large plastic water tank. Creative interior design combined with the circular shape results in a highly efficient and relaxing space that is safe in even the most extreme of storms. The name derives from the saying “Not a hut and not a yurt, not a tank so must be a Turk”.

Read more on the Mahu Whenua Traverse website here.

History of the Turks

Turk huts are made from large plastic water tanks and they are ideally suited to remote locations with extreme weather conditions.

Mountain Turk Club founder Erik Bradshaw had the vision to utilise Turks as affordable backcountry huts for a five-day journey though otherwise hard to explore terrain. Turks are 26,000 litre plastic water tanks that Erik has retro-fitted with bunks and benches to create snug shelter for the ski tourer and backcountry traveller.

Five Turks are strategically positioned along the Mahu Whenua Traverse.

Early Turk hut design was pioneered by Al Fastier, the Trust’s Programme Manager Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project, in collaboration with Erik Bradshaw and Trust Structural Engineer Win Clark. The Trust uses two Turk huts in Antarctica,  at the field camp established to support the restoration of Borchgrevink’s Huts at Cape Adare. These Turks are the first to be utilised in New Zealand.

Turk huts being installed at Cape Adare, Antarctica

Meet the Mahu Whenua Traverse Inspiring Explorers™

They are Isaac Giesen (28) and Libby Clifton (25) of Christchurch, Emily Wilson (30) of Wanaka, Ana Ross (23) based in Melbourne and Blake Hornblow (25) from Dunedin.

Two students from Wakatipu High School, Queenstown will also join the team: Year 13 student Cameron Marshall (18), and Year 12 student Sam Davis (16).

The team will be led by Trust staff, AHT Executive Director Nigel Watson and AHT General Manager Commercial and Partnerships, Marcus Waters and accompanied by Erik Bradshaw, President and Founder of Mountain Turk Club.

Read the team’s bios here or by clicking through the photos below.

Mahu Whenua Traverse Gallery

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