Location: GTNP, Death Canyon, Stewarts Draw, Bradley/Taggart
Tags: Backcountry Skiing, Skiing
Elevation: 9,538′, 3,458′ gain/loss
Distance: 6 miles RT
Difficulty: 3 stars
Time: 4-5 hours
Snow Conditions: 10″ of fine powder with a buried crust underneath. The storm came in from the Southwest, accompanied with strong winds, so there were some large wind whales and dense slabs forming on the ridges.
After another large storm cycle, Dane and I decided to venture into the park for a tour up Mavericks, with the option to go for 10,696 depending on the conditions. We started from the Death Canyon trailhead, but Mavericks can also be approached from Bradley/Taggart. I have approached from both directions and feel the time is pretty similar for the up (about 3 hours), but the out is much easier if going to Death Canyon. We started around 9am and cruised up the snow covered road, veering right when the track goes left to Whimpy’s and Albright at the sign saying “No Unauthorized Vehicles”. We cruised up the track for a few minutes and then crossed the field, targeting the left ridge of Mavericks on the opposite edge of the field.
After making it through the field and starting to work our way West through the tight growth on the lower faces of Mavericks, we began to gain some quick elevation. We made our way up the southern ridge for around 2 hours, breaking trail the entire time, but making pretty good time considering. Finally, we found ourselves looking at 10,696′ in the distance, looking pretty wind scoured and thin.
After talking it over, we didn’t think it would be worth it to go up 10,696, considering the potential for wind slabs that built-up over night and the lack of coverage. So, we transitioned and started to make way down the face, anticipating some fun, untracked turns. We were not disappointed. The conditions were ideal, very fun, bouncy and deep. We worked our way down to the skiers right, making sure not to get caught in the central gully, which would take us out near the skin track towards Bradley/Taggart.
We continued down the ridge and found some amazing turns and great coverage all the way to the bottom. We worked our way right in the trees, eventually finding our skin track, working our way through the heavy snow until we came to the field. We dropped a few layers, put on some shades and pushed our way along the skin track until we came to the truck. The total trip took us 4 hours 15 minutes. It was another great adventure in the park and gave us much inspiration for the winter to come.