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Miette Hill and the Mount Fitzwilliam Basin

Difficulty: 
Moderate Ski Touring
Elevation [m]: 
2377
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
31.0
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1200
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
1400
YDS Difficulty: 
2
Ascent Time: 
6:30 to High Camp, +1:00 to Summit
Bushwhackyness: 
Fairly Dense Off Trail
Tripdate: 
Friday, February 19, 2016

With reading week drawing to a close and no trips yet taken something had to be done.  I ended up putting together a plan to head into the Tonquin for a few days over the weekend and with a couple extra days to spare decided to head to the fearsome Miette Hill, lowest of the peaks in the Fitzwilliam Basin.  Despite its height I had reckoned that it would make for a good viewpoint and a good choice for a winter solo trip.  Weather forecasts seemed kind of mixed with Thursday calling for generally unfriendly flurries and then nice and clear on Friday.  I decided to go for an overnight plan and bivy somewhere near the summit (but still in BC) to be well positioned for sunrise and star pictures.

 
Setting off from the unplowed Mount Fitzwilliam Trail parking lot it was good to see that some ski tracks were already in place for the lower part of the trail.  Following the tracks was pretty quick and seemed more tiring than the distance/elevation numbers might suggest.  After two hours, seemingly out of nowhere, signs were in front of me; the campground had been reached!
 

The parking lot is actually on the other side of the road.

 

After about 1 km along the trail there is the sign up board.

 

The trail to the Rockingham Creek campground was somehwat packed down.

 

Beyond the bridge the going got a little slower.

 

After crossing the bridge no tracks were to be found and there was much post holing on unconsolidated snow to be had.  Progress was slow, especially the last 2 km before reaching the lower lake.  From the lake, I scryed a decent copse of trees near the Miette/Kataka col that seemed to be a decent bivy site (and thankfully the north face of Kataka wasn't holding that much snow for overhead hazards) and made my way upwards.
 

Standard terrain on the second part of the trail.

 

Out near the first lake looking up at Miette Hill and Kataka Mountain.

 

Zoomed in towards Miette Hill.

 

A wider view of the Fitzwilliam Basin.

 

Kataka would be a decent objective for another trip.

 

Zoomed in towards the summit of Kataka.

 

Holloday Rock looks quite impressive.

 

Looking back from near treeline to the rest of the Fitzwilliam group.

 

Quite a nice viewpoint indeed.

 

After reaching the treed patch it proved to be a good viewpoint indeed, now if only the weather would cooperate.  I reckoned the day seemed pretty much a lost cause for views so set up camp and gobbled a tasty feast.  Having a bit of energy left I wandered up towards the summit around sunset (a sunset with much blowing snow) and confirmed that it was just an easy walk to the top to do in clearer skies in the morning.
 

If only the weather would clear up...

 

After reaching the treed patch it proved to be a good viewpoint indeed, now if only the weather would cooperate.  I reckoned the day seemed pretty much a lost cause for views so set up camp and gobbled a tasty feast.  Having a bit of energy left I wandered up towards the summit around sunset (a sunset with much blowing snow) and confirmed that it was just an easy walk to the top to do in clearer skies in the morning.  The next morning, the weather did not clear up as I was expecting but I made the trek up to the summit anyhows.  Given the mellowness of the terrain I kept my hut booties on all the way to the summit (I guess MEC calls them techincally 'expedition booties' for a reason!).  From the summit there were some pretty neat views of the Victoria Cross Range, Roche Noire, and an interesting vantage towards other peaks near Jasper.  On a clear day the summit views would be very worthwhile!
 

The upper slopes to Miette Hill are very gentle indeed.

 

Quite the breeze blowing!

 

Interesting lighting towards Roche Noire and Basillica Mountain.

 

The last bit of elevation up to the summit.

 

Quite the interesting lighting from the summit of Miette HIll at sunrise.

 

Looking towards the Tonquin Valley from the summit.

 

One last summit shot.

 

The Victoria Cross Range looks very cool with these clouds.

 

Descending back down to camp the wind was getting mighty frosty and views started to clear up a little bit (but still quite cloudy to the north).  I leisurely packed up camp while cooking a late breakfast and started the ski back down to the road.  The first thing immedietly to notice was that the snowpack was pretty fierce, with many patches of unsupportive snow spread across slopes both open and treed.  Suffice to say there were several close calls skiing down through the trees.  Further down warmer temperatures started to moisten the snowpack making for slow travel, thankfully the tracks from the previous day had hardened up making for a highway amidst the slush.  A few hours later I was back and the road and sure enough the sky started to clear up.  Oh well, still a decent overnight trip and a great chance to explore the Fitzwilliam Basin in winter.

 

Looking north across the valley towards Miette Pass.

 

Back down at the lake.

 

Back at the road.

 

Can't wait to come back for more peaks in the area!

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