Location: GTNP, Avalanche Canyon, Bradley/Taggart
Tags: Backcounty Skiing, Skiing
Elevation: 9975′, 3350′ gain/loss
Distance: 6 miles RT
Difficulty: 3 stars
Time: 4-5 hours
Snow Conditions: With about 28″ of settled new snow and more coming, the conditions were deep powder, with an upside down layer beginning to form on the surface. At times, the snow was almost too deep to make turns. Towards the bottom of the run, the snow pack was starting to feel the effects of the warming day and began to feel very heavy at times.
And so it begins, the winter of 2014/2015. After a brief trip to San Francisco, I returned to winter in full force here in Jackson, WY. With over 40 inches of snow in the past 3 days, Dane and I decided to do a little early storm skiing in the park. We decided on 25 Short, an excellent early season tour, or beginner run in the park. While moderately low angle, there are numerous terrain traps and a few steep avalanche paths that you need to be aware of. We started at the Bradley/Taggart trailhead around 9:30am, beginning the skin by working out south by southwest across the field directly west of the parking lot. Usually there is a nice track that takes you to 25 Short, or Mavericks, but today we were greeted by untouched snow and a faint skin track buried under 14″ of snow. We made our way south, keeping the moraine on our right and ventured towards an obvious “end point” of the field. Here, the track usually forks, with those venturing to Mavericks going left and 25 Short right. We were greeted by a family of moose here and had to divert left to stay away from the angry bull moose and eventually worked our way right to find the skin track of 25 Short.
We continued breaking trail up the drainage, but eventually missed the normal left turn that would have brought us to the standard approach, instead we trudged along the “runout” path to the north until we noticed our mistake. After this, we just kept going up until we reached the obvious avalanche path on the north side of 25 Short. Here we broke trail left and worked our way up an agonizing 2500′, working our way slightly left. We eventually found ourselves on the bench near the top of 25 Short, but decided not to continue the 200′ up the summit ridge to the true summit, because the wind was whipping and we weren’t planning on skiing the east gut of 25 Short given the avalanche conditions. We made a quick transition and decided on a relatively safe route down the mountain. The snow was DEEP, making it difficult to make smooth turns, but we were able to link a few pitches together to make for an enjoyable run down the 3000′ run.
Once down the run, we were encountered with some downed trees, stream crossings and heavy snow to work through. Eventually we worked our way left to the moraine that separates Taggart Lake and Avalanche Canyon from 25 Short. Once we found our skin track, it took us about 30 minutes to get to the truck, but on a normal day, it can be as fast as 15 minutes. We made it to the truck in just over 5 hours, not bad considering we set the skin track. As far as first days out go, I would say this has to range very high on the list, hopefully it is a sign of a great winter to come.