A back country ski traverse of Mt Barth and Mt Heim

By , January 2, 2012 9:31 am

Mt Barth back country ski tour

This was a lovely 3 day ski telemark trip in the Ahuriri Valley. Mt Barth makes for a good adventure ski tour with long fall line skiing and varied terrain. It really stands out from the rest of the range as a large massif that holds a its heavy coating of snow well.  We skied this in late October as a mini ski expedition of 3 days..

Access is straight forward. From the car park to our camp site took 5 hours at a comfortable pace with heavy packs. There is a good trail for much of the journey in. We walked in using trainers, though a tramping boot would also be good and make for drier feet. There is a stream crossing of Little canyon creek which would be difficult in heavy rain, though I wouldn’t want to be anywhere in the area with heavy rain, heavy skis and a heavy pack!

Anyhow we bivvied out in the basin right up under the south face of Mt Barth at the head of Canyon Creek. There is a large bivvy rock right at the head of the valley, further up than one might think, however if there is enough snow for skiing then the bivy rock is probably in the snow and sodden.

There are several possible routes to ascend/descend. Ours took the Eastern slopes of the Mt Barth Valley. Moderate skiing with a few steeper pitches leads to the glacier opp pt 2126. Skins off for a gliding traverse across to the centre of the glacier, which forms a bench. Ascent was up the centre gully of Barth (see photo). Slopes were to about 45 degrees in the couloir. There not much crevassing, though the rope was used to cross the bergshrund under the final couloir, for ascent only. Ice axe and crampons were used for climbing the final headwall.

 

For a little more adventure travel a traverse over to Mt Heim can be made, skinning over point 2216, then descending a hundred metres, then skin up to the summit of Mt Heim and spectacular views into the Hunter Valley. Note it would be difficult to descend directly from Mt Heim into Canyon Creek  as there are many bluffs. A route could be scouted but would need to be made previously. It is also possible to telemark ski into Canyon Creek below pt 2232 using the prominent gully, however we noted that it may be a terrain trap in the wrong conditions, as well as receiving a lot of solar heating. (I enjoyed watching a spooked Thar kick off a class 2 avalanche here.). The case may be that it is safer to retrace the route in across the main face of Mt Barth to the eastern slopes of Canyon Creek.

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