First Tracks Wanaka Alpine Heli Camp: Ski touring Wanaka, New Zealand

They organise Himalayan base camps and expeditions, so surely it wouldn't be too difficult for Everest veteran Guy Cotter, his partner Suze Kelly (she also has climbed that peak) and their team at Adventure Consultants to make camp in the alps above Wanaka, in New Zealand's South Island.

Turns out it wasn't straightforward, but after a couple of years negotiating with the Department of Conservation and applying some astonishing Kiwi ingenuity to complete the structures, the First Tracks Wanaka Alpine Heli Camp is a reality. Built for ski tourers in the winter and bushwalkers in the summer, the camp is in the McKerrow Range, well above the snowline at about 1600 metres.

The main shelter is a metal-framed dome with double PVC layers to keep the weather out and cope with condensation. Despite its relatively sheltered location, the dome has been built and anchored to handle winds of up to 250 km/h.

The high ceiling gives a sense of space to the Tardis-type interior that contains a dining table, gas-range kitchen, four bunks, solar-powered lights and charging (blissfully, no phone reception though) and even bean bags to scatter around a wood stove.

Nearby is a bush toilet with its frame refashioned from a trampoline and a weather-proof cover. A second, eight-bunk dome will be moved to the site this spring.

The ski touring out the door is superb, with slopes of varying pitch and views to lakes Wanaka and Hawea and peaks such as Aspiring in the distance. Ski touring this year should go well into October.

Trips starts at $NZ980 a person (four-share) including helicopter transfers, camp accommodation, meals and guided ski touring.

Jim Darby was a guest of Adventure Consultants and Lake Wanaka Tourism. See www.adventureconsultants.com and www.lakewanaka.co.nz

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