Thursday, April 24, 2008

Project Timeline

2016 - Home of Mountaineering Canturbury Community Trust loan paid off.
2015 - Replace De la Beche Hut
2014 - Replace Murchison Hut
2013 - Rebuild Beetham Hut
2012 - Construction of huts begins.
2011 - Major fundraising year for the project.
2010 - Confirmation of funding from DoC and other major supporters required.
2009 - Development of design and construction details.
2008 - Decision made by the Accommodation Committee that Murchison Hut should be replaced in the medium future rather than have major repairs undertaken.
Idea of building three huts for Beetham, De la Beche and Murchison hut sites proposed.
2007 - Proposal for a Erica Hut withdrawn due to concerns over the access route to the new hut site. Concept of a 'Standard Alpine Hut' developed.
2006 - November Club Committee meeting passes motion: "THAT the replacement of Beetham Hut be put on hold until the development of Unwin Lodge and identified urgent maintenance on the existing huts network is progressed to the satisfaction of the Accommodation Committee. The New Huts Reserve Fund shall be amalgamated into the Club Huts Reserve Fund and a recommendation shall be made to the Finance committee that this money be held in a separate account clearly identified for the purpose of the Huts Reserve. Rob Moffat / Ross Cullen", therefore money originally earmarked for new projects is swallowed up into the existing huts capital fund.
2005 - January visit by myself, Don Boggie, Hancox and Chas Tanner to the Beetham Valley to investigate possible hut sites and finalise geological and avalanche reports for the area.
May Club Committee meeting passes motion "THAT the Club Committee support in principle a replacement Beetham Hut being a future goal of the Club, but that all major works on Homer, Unwin and the Home of Mountaineering be completed first. Ross Corbett / Trevor Ingham".
2004 - Beetham Hut site confirmed as such in the approved Aoraki Mt Cook National Park Management Plan. Homer Hut renovations and new Home of Mountaineering project take all the time and energy of the NZAC national office.
2003 - Motion to fully investigate Beetham Hut sites passed at November Club Committee meeting: "THAT CCM approve the Accommodation Committee obtaining geotechnical and avalanche risk assessments of possible hut sites and report to CCM on the feasibility of the potential sites. Ross Corbett / Ross Cullen"
2002 - Work proceeds on investigating a range of funding options, and making submissions on the revision of the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park Management Plan to include Beetham as a hut site.
2001 - Replacement project by NZAC first formally proposed in a motion at the November Club Committee meeting: "THAT NZAC look at involvement in the rebuilding of Beetham Hut and Plateau Hut to increase our accommodation base. Geoff Gabites / Andrew Smith"
1995 - First Beetham Hut destroyed by avalanche.
1986 - New Beetham Hut constructed in the valley.
1979 - Malte Burn Hut removed from site due to geological instability.
1969 - Malte Burn Hut constructed on a moraine terrace on the side of the Tasman Glacier.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Avo, Geo and DoC Reports

When talking about a new project like this clearly there are steps to be taken first to ensure that such a proposal is in fact feasible in terms of current policy and planning documents for the National Park, and that avalanche and geological risks are acceptable. This work has been completed for the proposed Beetham Hut site.

Department of Conservation Management Plan for Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

This plan under went review and was approved by the Conservation Authority in 2004. It specificity includes Beetham Hut and treats it as an existing 'hut site' under policy 4.2.7(a) & (c) on page 90 of the plan..

Aoraki Mt Cook Management Plan Park Policies (1.7M pdf)

Geological Baseline Inspection Report

An inspection of the site in 2005 came to the following conclusions:

  1. The foundation rock at the proposed new site for Beetham Hut is strong and stable, and shows no obvious deterioration or foundation collapse.
  2. The proposed new site is located on an old glacial bedrock bench, which is almost flat and well clear of steep slopes above or below it. It is essentially free of active geological hazards such as rock falls and foundation collapse, and there is also little risk from snow avalanches.
  3. The greatest geological hazard that could possibly affect the site is a large rock fall from the rock bluffs upslope to the east during an earthquake on the Alpine Fault, but such a rock fall is considered to be an extreme, low-probability event. Overall, the Geological Hazard (rock fall, debris flow, foundation erosion and collapse) at the new Beetham Hut site is rated as Low, with a Danger Rating also of Low.
  4. Accordingly, it is concluded that the site is suitable for overnight accommodation in the new Beetham Hut, offering sound and stable foundation conditions and few geological hazards that adversely affect the site, as well as good access and views, and close proximity to local rock climbing and ski touring areas.
Geological Report (pdf)

Avalanche Report

A report commissioned by NZAC in 2005 investigated four possible site (with D being the site proposed in this project) and came to the following conclusion:

"Of the four sites looked at, site D is the preferred site for a hut. It will not need protective
earthworks or extra strong construction like sites A and C. Its access is acceptable in terms of
avalanche risk for people accessing the site from the Beetham valley."

Avalanche Report (pdf)

Finanical Plan

Money is the basis of all new project proposals and so I want to put some thoughts on paper as to how a trio of huts could be built together to provide for the needs of De la Beche, Murchison and Beetham hut sites.

Expected Cost:

Hut Building in Christchurch:
$5,000 - General Costs
$20,000 - Hut Construction Materials
$5,000 - Toilet Construction Materials
$10,000 - Building Costs
$10,000 - Contingency 20%

Hut Flying and Construction On Site:
$5,000 - General Costs
$25,000 - Helicopter Time
$10,000 - Foundation Alterations
$10,000 - Contingency 20%

$100,000 Subtotal per hut

$300, 0000 TOTAL for three huts

Funding Proposal:

$100,000 Department of Conservation
$100,000 Commitment from NZAC spread over 10 years as a loan
$50,000 Donations from commercial operators
$50,000 Grants, sponsorship and fundraising

$300, 0000 TOTAL for three huts

There are a couple of ideas that could be used to leverage money from grants or sponsorship including using one year of the Banf film festival as a platform for fundraising, and looking to Meridian Energy for a sponsorship and publicity deal.

Future of the Tasman Glacier

The future of the Tasman Glacier and its surroundings is very important to this project as the Beetham Valley sits on the eastern side of the glacier, about half way down its length. I first visited the Beetham Valley in 1992 and, having seen the change in the glacier condition and lake since then, predicted in 2001 that one day getting to Beetham would be by boat. It seems that won't quite be the case but certainly pretty darn close in another 10 to 20 years time!

There is a link to a BBC news clip and the full Herald article is quoted below.

Scientists: Alps largest glacier gone within 20 years

7:30PM Wednesday April 23, 2008

Climate change will see most of the Tasman Glacier in the Southern Alps melt away over the next 20 years, scientists say.

"In the past 10 years the glacier has receded a hell of a lot," said glaciologist Dr Martin Brook.

"It's just too warm for a glacier to be sustained at such a low altitude - 730 metres above sea level - so it melts rapidly and it is going to disappear altogether".

The Tasman Glacier is the largest in the Southern Alps and at 29km was noted as one of the longest in the world's temperate zones.

In 1973 there was no lake in front of the Tasman Glacier, while new measurements taken last week indicate the lake at its foot is now 7km long, 2km wide and 245m deep.

The lake has attracted regular excursions by boatloads of tourists, but Dr Brook today warned they may be at risk from massive chunks of ice unexpectedly breaking loose underwater and surfacing as far as 60m from the glacier face.

"There's actually a sub-surface apron of ice that slopes away under the water for at least 50m or 60m from the front of the glacier," Dr Brook said. As this ice-apron melts, blocks of ice break off and float to the surface.

"This happens pretty quickly and is potentially a hazard for the tour boats that cruise up to the cliff: the blocks just pop out on the surface and some are between 5m and 10m in size."

The lake has been formed as the ice which makes up the glacier melts, and is a key factor in its destruction: the deeper the lake, the faster the retreat of the glacier.

According to another glaciologist, Trevor Chinn, the development of the lake was a "tipping point": no amount of snow at the head of the glacier, the neve, can compensate melting triggered by the lake.

Dr Brook, a lecturer in physical geography at Massey University, said the lake could only grow to a length of about 16km - allowing room for another 9km glacier retreat.

"We could expect further retreat of between 477m and 822m each year," he said. "At these rates it would take between 10 and 19 years for the lake to expand to its maximum."

His work has vindicated predictions made in 1990 by Dr Martin Kirkbride.

The last major survey of the glacier was in the 1990s and since then the glacier has retreated an average of 180m a year, exposing a basin carved out of rock more than 20,000 years ago when the glacier was a lot larger and more powerful.

Dr Brook and his research students are using a sonar and echo sounding equipment to measure the depth of the lake and analyse and analyse sediments under the lake.

Over the past couple of decades, a notch would develop at the waterline in the cliff of ice which is the face of the glacier, then melt back into the glacier to undercut the ice above, causing it to collapse into the lake.

At one time large blocks of blue ice, some about the size of the Dunedin Railway Station, were deposited in the lake.

But because a much larger part of the glacier is submerged, the 2degC water is causing a faster retreat of the ice face, leaving a "foot" of ice extending out into the lake.

"The result is large pieces of ice fracturing off the ice foot and floating on the surface," Dr Brook said.

Dr Brook said the team was also investigating a the way the glacier's melt differs to the "clean-ice" glaciers on the West Coast. These smaller, steeper glaciers, such as the Fox and Franz Josef, retreat and advance more erratically.

Tasman is covered in rock and debris, and has a different relationship with the climate, and different patterns of retreat.


Standard Alpine Hut Concept

In order to move this project forward it has become clear to me that a clever low cost solution will be required. It also occurred to me that a 'new' project such as this will always complete with the maintenance and operation requirements of all the existing alpine huts in the mountain regions of New Zealand. Some of these existing huts are becoming old and run down and questions are being asked about their continued existence into the future.

Combining these two thoughts, along with the way DoC have reduced costs by standardising designs for tramping huts, gave me the concept of a standard small low cost alpine hut. This type of design could be used to replace existing huts and be used for a new hut in the Beetham Valley. For more information on this idea please visit my blog on the subject here:

New Zealand Alpine Huts (