Minarets

19-21 Jul 2002 - by Dee Booth

...a strange sense of apathy seems to have gripped the crew. This paraphrase from Bram Stokers Dracula could also describe a recent trip to the Minarets. With great intentions we left the Agnew Meadow trailhead at 8:20 am. Our plan was to hike to camp below Ritter Pass in enough time to climb one of the Minarets before dark. The next day our objective was a fourth class chute on the west side of Michael Minaret.

Some gentle prodding was necessary to ward off lethargy and keep the group on pace. At 1:15 pm we arrived at a large, lovely meadow below Waller, Leonard, Turner and Jensen Minarets. It made a fine camp for the next two nights.

After setting up the tents and having something to eat four of us set out at 2:30 pm to climb Leonard Minaret. Leonard is southeast of The Gap, a pass that offers a way to get to the other side of the ridge. The approach was up steep snow fields punctuated by smooth slabs. The snow was soft but not so soft that we plunged too deeply. We reached The Gap at 4:10 pm and started up the crest of the ridge. It is supposed to be fourth class but we quickly got to what seemed more like fifth class. To avoid it we traversed around to the south sometimes getting into a gully. We were not on any particular route but skillful route finding by Bob and Kelly got us to the summit by 5:30 pm without too much fifth class climbing. Our descent to The Gap went even better.

From The Gap, Bob and I headed for the slopes below Ritter Pass for an easier route to the meadow. Kelly and Arun went the opposite way side hilling along steep snow to get to the ridge running northerly from The Gap and down to camp. We were all back in camp by about 8:30 pm.

On Saturday morning we started walking at 6:00 am heading up to Ritter Pass to get to the other side of the ridge. The west side of Ritter Pass is rated class 2 but it is very loose. Farther down the slope the loose sand and rock become slightly larger rocks that are no more stable than the ground above. As soon as the hill leveled off, we stopped for a break. Again, lethargy seemed to take hold and we ended up sitting there for about an hour telling stories, laughing and not doing anything to further our progress up Michael Minaret. Finally we got moving and made it to the base of Michael where we could see the three ascent routes. We sat again to ponder which we would take on. There was a party of two or three in the Eichorn chute and there was enough rockfall from these people that we decided not to take that route. Again in the grip of lethargy, some of us began looking for a good spot for a nap. An hour and a half later after discussing many things and naming a large, pointed boulder the Mahajan Minaret after the venerable PCS treasurer, we decided to climb Adams Minaret. It was noon.

To reach Adams we climbed up another loose, rock strewn slope. Helmets were a must here since it seemed impossible not to kick rocks down. From the notch at the top of this slope it is a pleasant but short third class climb. At 2:05 we sat on the summit of Adams. We spent a short while on the summit and descended the east side of the slope wed come up. This put us in a glaciated gully with an icy tarn at the bottom. Skirting a second gully we arrived at the South Notch that put us back on the east side of the ridge. This side of the South Notch is a nasty, slippery slope but fortunately there was more snow than sand. Our reward was the beautiful meadow that Cecile Lake sits in. We descended to the meadow and picked up a use trail that runs along the east side of Cecile Lake following it to Iceberg Lake. At the outlet from Iceberg we crossed and returned to camp. We arrived at 7:40 pm after having made an entire circuit.

It was a most unusual trip but the camaraderie made it worthwhile. Michael will just have to wait.

Participants: Bob Suzuki, Dee Booth, Arun Mahajan, Kelly Maas, Dot Reilly, Jim Curl.


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