Skiers complete world-class ski route made from Antarctic igloos: Mahu Whenua

One of the five 'Turk' Igloos from the new Mahu Whenua trail. Photo / Mountain Turk Club; mountainturk.org.nz

A team of six young adventurers have just completed New Zealand's newest alpine ski route: the Mahu Whenua.

The Harris Mountains between Wānaka and Arrowtown are now in possession of a world-class traverse to rival the Swiss Haute Route. Unique to the Kiwi route is that skiers stay in shelters normally found in Antarctica.

50 kilometres long and taking five days to complete, the first to stay in the Antarctic "Turks" was a team led by the NZ Antarctic Heritage Trust's young explorers programme.

Lucky applicants were selected from young New Zealanders across the country, promising an adventure worthy of Ernest Shackleton and inspiration for the adventurers of tomorrow.

A team from the Inspiring Explorers programme were among the first to ski the Mahu Whenua route. Photo / Supplied
A team from the Inspiring Explorers programme were among the first to ski the Mahu Whenua route. Photo / Supplied

Aged between 18 and 31 the team included two final-year students from Wakatipu High School, Zoe Crawford and Sam Davis.

Year-13 pupil and mountaineer Crawford said there were big challenges from steep terrain but she had trust in the team and their guides.

"To push outside my comfort zone is definitely scary but I'm super proud of myself for overcoming any fears I had," she said.

Emily Wilson, 31-year-old adventurer and previous World Diabetes Congress representative for NZ, was also part of the team. The explorer with type 1 diabetes says her "passion is inspiring others to get outdoors and challenge what's possible". As an ambassador for the Antarctic Heritage Trust, Wilson praised the Inspiring Explorers Expeditions for giving young New Zealanders inspiration and opportunities to "grow as people and be better versions of ourselves."

18-year-old explorer and Wakatipu High School pupil, Zoe Crawford was among the team. Photo / Supplied
18-year-old explorer and Wakatipu High School pupil, Zoe Crawford was among the team. Photo / Supplied

Led by Antarctic Heritage Trust Director and polar expert, Nigel Watson, he said he was proud of what the team achieved despite many setbacks.

"We've had to delay this traverse a few times due to snow conditions and the Covid-19 outbreak so the team have really been holding out to get their skis on the ground and make this happen."

After over a year of postponement, the team were among the first to experience the multi-day route and living conditions in the unique huts.

Also travelling with the young explorers was Mahu Whenua Traverse founder and Mountain Turk Club President, Erik Bradshaw.

Having converted the insulated, fibre 26000-litre water tanks into igloos, Bradshaw helped bring the technology to Antarctica - establishing temporary Turk huts in Antarctica at Cape Adare and around polar conservation areas like Borchgrevink's huts.

Within the deceptively small-looking shelters, the huts contain solar power, gas cookers and space to sleep twelve.

Wanaka's 'Turk' shelters are insulated igloos previously used by the Antarctic Heritage trust in Cape Adare, Antarctica. Photo / Supplied
Wanaka's 'Turk' shelters are insulated igloos previously used by the Antarctic Heritage trust in Cape Adare, Antarctica. Photo / Supplied

He called the Mahu Whenua a "world-class alpine route" running through Coronet Peak Station and Public Conservation Land.

The five Turk Huts are spaced across Coronet Peak Station to make sure that skiers had safe and comfortable shelters across the exposed, long-distance ski touring route.

For more details about the Mahu Whenua Traverse and the ski experience visit the Mountain Turk Club at mountainturk.org.nz.

By Thomas Bywater

SOURCE https://www.nzherald.co.nz/travel/skiers-complete-world-class-ski-route-made-from-antarctic-igloos-mahu-whenua/H7XE5WP52KQ6MWTBMBBROUBWHM/
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