Fairy Meadows – Day 5 – Echo Glacier – Granite Glacier – Pioneer Pass approach

Today was the only day that the weather broke a bit for glacier and high-alpine travelling. Only about 3 to 5 cms fell overnight and it was cold and clear in the morning. We could also see winds whip the snow into submission up high. Initial plans to travel towards Friendship Col were dashed by these high winds – it was feared (and probably rightly so) that wind-transport and the recent heavy snowfalls would make travelling on the steeper slopes towards Friendship Col unsafe.

The rest of my group wanted to retreat to trees and didn’t seem too interested in touring to the Granite Glacier. As much as I like skiing powder, I didn’t come all the way here to ski trees and really wanted to get into the alpine even if it was a stormy – why else do we have all this technical wear anyway? I wasn’t interested in dragging along unwilling participants so decided to make my way solo to the Granite Glacier.

View from the hut in the morning glory

Looking south from moraine towards Quadrant Ridge and the Echo Glacier

I didn’t know the precise route to the Granite Glacier but it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to read a map. It wasn’t difficult to contour gently sloping terrain around Sentinelle and on to the Granite Glacier, avoiding obvious crevasses along the way. On the way I ski cut a convexity off the top of a ridge and had a bite to eat in the wind-shelter of the bed-surface. As a ski-tourer with most of my experience on the Coast it was a fine opportunity for me to put some avalanche theory into practise in a snow-pack other then the boring homogenous coastal snowpack.

Checking out a size 1.5 on windslab at the toe of the Shoestring Glacier and satisfying my inner avalanche geek

View of the Granite Glacier

It was really windy on the Granite Glacier. I could see fast-moving cloud peel off Austerity and whip towards me. Exercising the better part of valour I scrapped my plans to go high on the west Granite towards Unicol and headed off in the general direction of Pioneer Pass figuring that if conditions got worse or if weather whited – out, I could always either follow my old skin track or shoot a bearing back to the safety of the hut.

This turned out to be a fine solo tour, a good chance to scout this awesome terrain and a great way to whet my appetite for the big peaks. The approach to Pioneer Pass is mellow and low-angle and I had a chance to check out the glacier and to figure out a path through the slots to Pioneer Pass and down the Granite Glacier. I yo-yo’éd some higher angle slopes under icefall until the storm systems looked like they would break off from the Adamants and head my way. It took less then an hour to get back to the hut

Looking towards Pioneer Pass and the Adamant Group from the Granite Glacier

Looking back to Sentinelle from Pioneer Pass

Tracks down the Granite Glacier from Pioneer Pass

Day 5 map

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