Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A View From The Top

We awoke to a clear sky.  It looked like it was a perfect day to tackle Avalanche Peak.  However, we decided to stop in at the Park Ranger's Office to check on the wind speeds at the summit.  We didn't want to find ourselves on the exposed rim in the 100 km winds that were reported on the previous day.  We were informed that things were looking good, and that if we planned to bag the peak--today was the day to do it.  We took the Ranger's advice and skipped the Avalanche Peak Track, which included a steep rock scramble across avalanche debris, and began tramping up Scotts track.  Our choice may have granted us a well formed path to follow, but we were still faced with an extreme ascent.  The trail was limited in zig-zags and instead we were faced with a steep climb that would take us 1,100 meters from our starting point.
In many areas the trail had been eroded and in places the water had washed away much of the dirt.  This left large tree roots exposed, as well as many small cliffs.  Both obstructions on the trail had to be scaled.  The roots provided foot holds and handles to help in the climb, but the muddy cliffs were a slippery mess.  Despite the rough and rugged terrain we were able to clear the tree line in just under 2 hours.  At this point  we were gifted with a magnificent view of Mt. Kaimatau and its Crow Glacier.
The contrast of the dark grey apex of the mountain against the clear blue sky was breathtaking.  The two saddles that lead to the peak in front of us were still snow covered, and it looked as though the mountain was wearing a white wrap.  At first glance it seemed as though the glittery white snow was reflecting the blue of the sky, but instead it was the translucent blue of the icy crystals of the glacier.
Here the track turned to a poled route up the rocky ridges.  We were less than an hour from the summit.  Just as we arrived at our goal, a Kea appeared on a large boulder in front of us.  I assumed the inquisitive bird would stay with us during our rest on the summit, but to my surprise it let out a "keeeaaa" and flew away.
Our picnic lunch was cut short as the clouds began to roll in from the west.  We wanted to make sure we weren't caught in a storm while on the exposed part of the mountain.
As we gradually worked our way down the hills, I knew the views would stay with me for a life time, but I also had a feeling my legs would be reminding me of the experience for the next several days.

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