What is a mountain Turk? Offering a world-class, alpine journey along the backbone of the Harris Mountains, Andy Carruthers and five mates test out Turk life by ski touring the Mahu Whenua Traverse.
A few years ago, I got a message from my mother-in-law telling me about the Mahu Whenua Traverse – Mountain Turk Club.
Erik Bradshaw created a club to build mountain huts out of water tanks, which opened up a world-class alpine traverse along the backbone of the Harris mountains connecting Wanaka and Queenstown.
We had done a few ski touring trips before and my mates were gearing up, so we could do some more.
The route is just over 40km and has a fair bit of up and down – 4000 vertical meters more than Aoraki Mt Cook, the highest mountain in Aotearoa. It also provides a lot of time with skis on your back. The route offers a world-class, alpine traverse. Routes like this are popular in Europe and North America, providing a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience of staying in high mountain huts.
The traverse runs along the backbone of the Harris Mountains. The terrain here is perfect for backcountry skiing, as it offers enough excitement without excessive risk from steep country and glacier travel. With the established five huts, you will never be too far from safe shelter should weather conditions deteriorate.
The hut’s design is based around the highly effective use of a large plastic water tank. Using this structure avoids many of the problems associated with standard construction techniques in the alpine environment. The design has proved to be strong – light enough for easy movement by helicopter and rugged enough to withstand the alpine environment.
Turks are very cosy. There’s something appealing about the round shape with warm plywood and felt interior. There is even an armchair for a bit of reading and an afternoon snooze.
Ferg, our Swiss alpine guide
Blair, our team snowboarder
JP, the first-time tourer with the heavy pack
Ant, the card shark
Andrew, the chef
Andy, the camera man
FMC thanks Andy Carruthers for his permission to reproduce this article, first published on his ‘Great Walk Adventures’ blog (August 2023).