Looking north from Advance Peak with Mt Saint Just slightly left of centre and the upper Arrow River to the right. By Beni Martial (https://www.benimartial.com/archive). To be installed in the Vanguard Peak Turk.

Three more Turks installed (but not yet commissioned)

On Tuesday the 28th a small and focused team helicoptered from Coronet Peak’s lower car park as soon as there was enough light. The team had been promised an easy day of adventure that might involve dusting the snow off the foundation frames and positioning the Turks.

On arrival at the Vanguard Peak site it became apparent that the day probably wasn’t going to be relaxing. We spend the first 20 minutes walking around with avalanche probes looking for the deck and frame the Turks sit on under 1.5 metres of snow. After a few false starts we got the right spot. After an hour of digging we sent the helicopter away to fetch the first Turk. Fortunately it returned with the correctly coloured one as required by the resource consent.

The pre-positioned gravel (flown to site in May) was frozen into boulders so we lifted in about 2 tons leaving it to thaw in the centre of the tank with the plan of fitting the floor on a return trip. The whole process took about 2.5 hours.

Me looking very happy. One down, 2 more to go.

Next we flew to the Mount Saint Just site and fortunately managed to locate the frame and deck in 5 minutes. The snow was only a metre deep so the digging was comparatively quick but at this site we had the problem of the deck being installed 30mm too high so it had be detached and the foundation frame lifted and gravel re-packed underneath. This might sound easy but it’s not when the gravel is frozen like a lump of iron! Anger management on the end of a sledge hammer was the call of the day to loosen it up so it wwas usable. By 1pm the helicopter was returning with another Turk – we loaded in a couple of tons of frozen gravel and carried on to the Mt Hyde site which I thought was going to be the easiest…little did I know.

Mount Saint Just in position – 2 down one more to go!

On the previous two sites we could see the toilet lying on its side buried in the snow which gave us some clues. At this site there was nothing showing so it was back to the avalanche probes. We found the deck, dug it out then realised it wasn’t attached to the foundation frame so we dug a trench heading up hill knowing we would find it sooner or later.

With weather progressively getting worse and confronted with a massive amount of snow to move there were murmurs of heading home to the pub but we stuck to the plan and made jokes about life in a Russian gulag. Just as our arms and back were getting weak we had the site cleared and the helicopter arrived with the final Turk of the day. We did hit a snag in that we could only find 200kg of the 3 tons of gravel previously flown into the site. With the Turk half buried in snow it is secure for the time being but not safe for nightly use.

After a quick celebratory beer we clambered back into the helicopter and headed home. A big and amazing day – in 8 hours we positioned 3 Turks and in the process moved about 16 tons of snow and gravel. No wonder we felt tired!

The digging team of Russ, Ash and Richard waiting for the Turk to arrive. Brent digging in the snow looking for buried gravel bags.

There is a lot more to this story than mentioned here. There were many great team efforts such as finishing the Turks to an installable state over the weekend then the process of preparing them for helicopter lifting and finally moving them to Coronet Peak car park.

The flat light weather conditions made for challenging flying conditions but the team at Heli Glenorchy did an amazing job lowering the Turks with absolute precision. Also a big thank you to NZSki for letting us use their car park to base operations from for the day.

The other exciting part to the story is that we have been joined lately by Mark Johansson from Storyworks (https://storyworks.co.nz/) who is collecting footage for a full length documentary about the Turks. He joined us for these latest installs and while he was mainly behind the camera capturing exciting footage he also picked up a shovel when he got too cold!

It is important to emphasise the these three Turks (Vanguard, Saint Just and Hyde) are not suitable for use yet. The floors are not yet fitted (because the frozen gravel was in boulders) and the Mt Hyde Turk has nowhere near enough gravel to make it safe.

I’m busy working through the next stage of the install plan and hope to have all 6 Turks fully commissioned by the 22/23 of August.

Erik Bradshaw
29 July 2020

The Mount Hyde Turk in place.