Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Mt Ritter and the Minarets

On Wednesday we got off to an alpine start and were greeted by a pretty special sunrise, but with obvious continuing high winds. Our aim was to climb and ski Mt Ritter (1st photo, peak on right), the highest mountain in the Ritter Range at 4006m.

After an appropriate amount of coffee and fuel loading we were skinning by 0700, with morning tea a few hours later after several boot packs where switchbacks were a little too steep. There had been a recent very large avalanche off the entire northern face of the cirque which we were mindful of, but worse, as we climbed above 3500m the wind started to howl to near gale force , and the snow got icier and more challenging to climb. 

At 3800m we decided to bail. Visibility from the summit would have been limited, and whilst climbable and skiable, summiting wouldn't have been worth the effort when the best snow was obviously between camp and 3500m.

Whilst the top was scratchy, the snow got much better once we were out of the wind and ice, with some fantastic pitches of softer snow on what was apparently a stable pack. 

We had lunch in the sun, and then started skinning up south towards the Minarets, which are a spectacular ridge of spires at the start of the Ritter Range. We topped out at around 3600m with amazing views over Iceberg Lake, and then had a lovely gentle run through some pretty decent wind deposited powder.

JP had had enough and found a snow pyramid to meditate on as Howie and I climbed back up for a final run down a very sweet chute from just below the feet of the Minarets. The snow was epic.

Then we had a long gentle run back to the tent for a few hours relaxing in the setting sun. JP set up a Chinese laundry as Howie cooked up some of the best spag bol in the history of alpine cuisine.

We were pretty much all asleep before sunset. 

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