Mt Clarke is a beautiful peak in the Forbes Mtns just north of Mt Earnslaw and can be skied as an overnight mission from the Rees Valley. If one has a good 4WD and river crossing experience then it is possible to drive to where the valley narrows – about 45mins walk from the bottom of Clarke slip which gives good access to the long leading southern ridge of Mt Clarke. You can have a relatively leisurely start and just plan to drive up the valley, ascend Clarks slip (start up the northern side of the slip and at the top exit out on the northern edge as well) and sleep in the basins at the top of Clarke Slip. Day 2 is then an ascent of Mt Clarke and return to the vehicle.
And for the even keener souls…
Years ago Marc Scaife and friend Erik Bilou pioneered a high traverse from Mt Clarke to Wright Col. Note this is a demanding trip, carrying camp/bivvy gear and ascending and descending some steep country. You would not want to do the trip if there was instability in the snowpack. I have always wanted to do the trip and Marc and Chris asked myself and Alan along on it late September this year (2012). We only decided on the Friday morning so we camped at the vehicle on the first night making for a long (11 hr) day on the first day, and the second was only marginally shorter.
From Mt Clarke (we dumped packs to ascend and ski once we had traversed to the western side of the glacier) we traversed to the crux on day 1 which is a 400m steep climb under the Osonzac peaks to Ellie peak, before another traverse and a ski down the Grant glacier -which can have nice skiing on it’s sheltered slopes (not this time tho’). At 1690m we traversed east to skiable slopes that took us to our lovely camp near spot height 1203 in the Hunter Creek (slightly overhanging bivvy rock (2 pax)and water).
Next day we skied the more western branch of the Hunter up to the col below Cerberus and then up the cruisy groove feature to take us to below the rocky pyramid of Sir William Peak. We skied the Frances glacier down to the Bedford Valley (pretty well following a line south towards Point 1688). After a brew we headed up the unlikely looking gut that leads to Wright Col. We had to boot pack a couple of steeper sections and the lowere debris filled gully was somewhere we didn’t want to linger. From Wright Col it is a straightforward ski to Kea Basin and then a hike down the track and back to the vehicle.
This is an amazing trip but definetely a serious undertaking. We carried light ice axes and crampons and 3 of us had a whippet and a normal ski pole.