Mountain Turks

Not a hut, not a tank, but a Turk working bee……this line from the Mountain Turk Club website intrigued me as I was hobbling around Wellington in a moon boot last February. I quickly agreed to fly south to Queenstown to assist the Mountain Turk Club building a Turk for a weekend, light relief as my foot healed.

A Turk (tank hut) is a lightweight, helicopter-flyable mountain hut based on a large plastic water tank. Turks are a fantastic way to open the back country for trampers, climbers and ski tourers by providing new accommodation to complement huts built by tramping clubs and DOC in alpine environments.  A Turk can accommodate four persons on bunks and two on the floor.

View of a Turk on Crown Range
Overlooking Queenstown area
Inside a Turk
Inside a Turk

My moon boot allowed me to walk on flat ground and I was able to mark and cut cloth for mattresses for five Turks before four were to be flown into the Harris Mountains between Arrowtown and Queenstown on Mahu Whenua Covenants land. The fifth was for the Crown Range to replace the Crown Range Turk on Glencoe Open Space Covenant land.

In late September I flew south to enjoy my first night in a Turk, high on the Crown Range above Arrowtown. A perfect overnight trip, this trip would make a wonderful Wellington weekend trip. Fly south on a cheap air ticket on Saturday morning. Head nearby to Macpac in Frankton to buy gas for your stove, then pay $2 for a Go bus ticket to the start of Tobin’s Track in Arrowtown, a 45 minute journey. Stroll beside the Arrow River, under willow trees, before ascending the 3km Tobin Track. A lovely bench seat at the top for admiring the views is passed, before walking one km of gravel along Glencoe Road to the start of the Bracken Saddle Track. Forty five minutes later this track joins the Crown Peak Track. It’s then a two hour walk up the overgrown 4WD road to Crown Peak 1735m. (A serious cross country descent on a mountain bike could be fun, but would involve a long uphill push first.)

A Turk on the Crown Range
Not a bad view

The Crown Basin Turk is nestled below the ridgeline at about 1500m between Crown peak 1735m and Mt Sale 1708m. This replacement Turk was installed on 19th July 2020 by helicopter and is beautifully warm. Pre booking is essential. Check out the  website: A gas stove is fixed to the bench (just bring your own gas canister), comfortable mattress, an armchair, an excellent small library and stunning views from the toilet.

Returning to the Bracken Saddle Track can be achieved by reversing yesterday’s route or by making a beeline down the spur south west from Mt Sale ie north west from the Turk door. It’s easy terrain to descend until the gold miners’ tailings are found and the ground becomes lumpy.

Return to the Arrowtown bus stop via the Tobin’s Track, and the half-hourly bus service can take you back to Queenstown Airport, to catch an early Sunday evening flight home……..well, that’s my plan next time.

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