Friday, October 06, 2006

Erica Hut Design Criteria

- environmentally friendly
- zero waste
- 20 to 24 bunks
- wardens quarters included
- helicopter landing site down on the Tasman Glacier
- ownership by the New Zealand Alpine Club
- management by DoC via the Aoraki Mt Cook Huts Agreement

Moving a Dream to Reality

Alpine huts are expensive as there construction must stand up to the rigors of the mountain environment. Also climbers are not the most gentle of occupants, and they are of course located in areas where construction material must be air lifted into place. The cost of a new hut depends on many vaiables including size, design, voluntary labour input, donations of materials, etc.

Currently the financial cost of building a new Erica Hut may fall between $300,000 and $400,000. No one source of funding is able to cover this considerable outlay and so more creative thinking is required. Splitting the cost four ways would spread the cost and possibly enable the dream to move to reality.

The Erica Beuzenberg Trust has an amount of money available for the project and is keen to move forward with further fundraising and planning.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) who owned and managed the old huts in the area has always expressed support for a new hut and this view was confirmed in the recently updated Aoraki Mt Cook National Park Management Plan. It is hoped that they are able to contribute financially to the project.

The New Zealand Alpine Club has a future club project fund which could be devoted to this important climbing location. As a leading provider of alpine accommodation around the country, the Club is well placed to provide, along with DoC, the administration and support required for running such an alpine hut.

A further sum of money would still be required and could perhaps be gained from funding sources such of lottery and community boards. Commercial sponsors and other supporters could also be approached to make up the shortfall. Two architects, one a CMC member from Christchurch and one an NZAC member from Auckland have both volunteered their services.

A Memorial for Erica

The loss of Erica Beuzenburg was a terrible shock for the climbing community. Erica was a passionate climber and held a great love for the Aoraki Mt Cook region.

Gottleib Braun Elwert and Erica's family felt that a memorial to her in the form of a mountain hut would be a very fitting tribute. After informal meetings with several interested groups including the New Zealand Alpine Club, the concept of a replacement hut in the Beetham Valley area came to the fore as a very appropriate project.

The vision of Erica Hut was formed.

The Loss of Erica Beuzenberg

10.03.05 by Monique Devereux, New Zealand Herald

Erica Beuzenberg, one of three climbers who fell to their deaths on Aoraki Mt Cook yesterday, had a string of firsts: first woman to climb Mt Cook in winter; first woman to winter climb the Balfour face of Mt Tasman; first woman to the summit of South America's Cerro Fitz Roy in winter - one of the most difficult mountains on Earth. By comparison it was a tame alpine slope that yesterday claimed the life of New Zealand's greatest female climber.

She was guiding two male clients across Ball Pass below Mt Cook and roped to them when one man slipped, dragging his companions hundreds of metres and over an icy shelf. The two tourists who died with Ms Beuzenberg were John Lowndes, aged 59, a salesman, from Stoke on Trent, England and Kazuhiro Kotani, aged 29, of Hyogo, Japan.The trio were part of an eight-member climbing party which included one other guide. The surviving guide summoned help but the three were dead when search and rescue teams arrived.

Last night Ms Beuzenberg's mentor Gottleib Braun-Elwert said "Erica had countless weeks of summer and winter guiding to her credit both overseas and in New Zealand." She had served an "apprenticeship" by climbing New Zealand's 30 highest peaks in a single winter. Sixteen years ago she approached Mr Braun-Elwert's guiding company Alpine Recreation looking for work but he thought her alpine experience was "a bit light". To get her up to speed he accompanied her on the exhausting and recording-breaking mission where they climbed every mountain higher than 3000m.

"It is an unspeakable tragedy that such an experienced guide died on the job on what is perceived to be easy terrain," said Mr Braun-Elwert. The accident came on the last day of a three-day adventure that offers views of many of New Zealand's highest peaks, including Aoraki Mt Cook, Mt Sefton and Mt Tasman. The trek is described as a "demanding" climb, crossing the Mt Cook Range from the Tasman to the Hooker Valley. It is not a marked track, just a route which follows the Ball Ridge. Alpine Recreation's website says the climb is "suitable for experienced hikers capable of sustained walking, at times over steep, rugged, untracked and very exposed terrain." No mountaineering experience is required.

Ms Beuzenberg, 41, worked for Alpine Recreation as a ski guide over the winter months as well as during the traditional alpine climbing season in summer. In 1993, with Mrs Braun-Elwert, she wrote a book for Year 9 students called Mountain Challenge, about the challenge of climbing Aoraki Mt Cook. She lived in Fairlie and was married, although it is understood she was separated from her husband. He was last night ringing friends and family around the world to inform them of her death. Ms Beuzenberg's parents were Dutch.

Prime Minister Helen Clark rang the Braun-Elwerts to offer her condolences yesterday. She has climbed with the company numerous times and met Ms Beuzenberg in 1997.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

2001 Beginnings and Project Background

I first visited the Beetham Valley in 1992 on my first visit to the big mountains. It was a huge learning curve with various attempts on Malte Brun from various angles, all ending with lots of fun but no summit.

I never knew the first Malte Brun Hut situated high on the moraine walls looking out over the Tasman Glacier. It's replacement, the new Beetham Hut, was fantastic. It sat happily in the valley with a warm sunny deck and airy two story interior.

This hut came to its end when hit by an avalanche in 1996. A sorry end to a great climbing base below a truly classic mountain. I expected that it would be replaced in due course, but the years ticked by and no solid replacement proposal was ever put forward.

When I took up my employment as executive officer of the New Zealand Alpine Club in 2001 I hoped that I would be able to move forward on this exciting project, but alas, the Club's network of existing huts needed a large amount of work and the Club on its own clearly did not have the financial resources to fund such a scheme on its own.
A few small steps were put in place by Chas Tanner during his time as President of the Club and that was first, for the Club Committee to confirm the Beetham Valley replacement hut as a future project of the Club, and second for an investigation trip into the site for avalanche and geotechnical investigation.

On a beautiful weekend a cairn of stones was placed on a site on the true left of the Beetham Valley, below what is commonly known as the Beetham Crag, with an outstanding view across the Tasman Glacier and the main divide. Safe from avalanches, and with excellent geological stabitily, the first problem of a safe building site was answered.