Saturday morning, after breakfast we set out at about 8:00 am under cloudy skies, through snow flurries, and at times very limited visibility. The route is up canyon to the Parker Lakes and then to the hanging valley on the north side of the main canyon. From the valley we climbed to the saddle west of Mount Mary Austin. There was new snow covering the rocky slopes. The ridge east to the summit was Class 2 covered by one foot of fresh snow, exposed to more winds and still the low visibility. At noon six of us gathered on the summit. After an unsuccessful search for a register we signed in on a sheet of paper and left it in a plastic bag under a newly constructed cairn on the 13,048' summit in hopes (expectations) that the next party would put it into the register. Our descent was the way we came. Along the ridge we got glimpses through the clouds of the slopes of Acrodectes and Baxter Peaks to the north. The strong skiers had a blast skiing down the bench to the Parker Lakes. From the Parker Lakes we made a short tour to the end of the Little Onion Valley to the impressive south face of Black Mountain (13,291'). The waning storm gave us some tantalizing looks at blue sky and even, briefly, our own shadows. The return to our camp was an easy run from the end of the canyon.
Saturday night we again got snow, but little wind this time. Sunday morning we were treated to clear skies and sunshine. Early in the morning (before breakfast!) Brad, Angel, and Stefan had signed out to ski some of the chutes tempting them up in the canyon. We remaining four enjoyed breakfast in camp then packed up and skied out. We were treated to gentle bowls and new, very nice snow. Our skiing was burdened only by our heavy packs. We descended a different chute than our ascent and found it to be the preferred route. It is to climber's right of the obvious chute, behind a rib at the bottom of the bench. The willows along the stream below 2600m (8530') were budding what a difference from our wintry camp. Our way out kept to the south side of the canyon which gave somewhat better travel conditions no escaping the willowy stream crossing, however. At Little Onion we took a break and adjusted clothing for the higher temperatures of the hike out on the mine road. Soon we arrived at the cars, changed clothes, reset our watches/clocks, and departed for our homes.
This was a challenging, but enjoyable outing. Thanks to all participants and to Reiner for his help.
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