Location: GTNP, Death Canyon, Albright Peak
Tags: Backcountry Skiing, Skiing
Elevation: 10,236′, 4,065′ gain/loss
Distance: 7 miles RT
Difficulty: 3 stars
Time: 4-5 hours
Snow Conditions: 8″ of bouncy powder with a playful sun/wind crust underneath (barely noticeable). North facing pockets of deep powder.
After recovering from the holiday season, Zelie and I decided to venture into the park for a mellow skin up Albright Peak to see what the conditions were like in the park. We made it to Death Canyon parking area at around 10:30am and were moving shortly after. We made our way up the road until the fork for Death Canyon/Mavericks and made our way left to our destination.
We continued past the summer trailhead and made our way onto the Valley Trail until the skin track forked right and into the open field below Wimpy’s Knob that signals the start of the climb. For some reason, this is one of my least favorite skin tracks in GTNP. It seems to always be set in the most asinine manner; usually steep with numerous switchbacks – but most importantly, it gets a good amount of sun and is always a bit slick. So, with this in the back of my mind, we worked our way through the field and began our climb. It was not as bad as usual, but it was not ideal. We worked our way up for around 1.5hrs and eventually came to the final slope that leads to the top of Wimpy’s Knob. Here, we began left about 300′ from the summit of Wimpy’s. We crossed through some trees and above some rock outcroppings, eventually coming to the ridge that connects Wimpy’s to Albright. We continued along the ridge until the East face of Albright was above us to our right and we needed to cross the slope to get to the south ridge and the normal boot pack up the 300′ top portion of the face. Here, the wind had created a thick crust, which made the skinning tough, but we made it across to the south ridge and had a decision to make. The face looked like it had slid during the past storm cycle and was riddled with wind whales. It looked like the skiing from the top would be mediocre at best, so we opted to just ski from the ridge, about 300′ below the summit. We geared up and ripped the gut of Albright Peak, working our way down and to the right below some large rocks.
We worked our way down and to the right below a rock band, finding some amazing snow on north facing aspects, until we had to ski hard right to avoid the choke towards the bottom of the face. Here, we found ourselves with an untouched canvas of powder on the lower faces of Albright.
We milked the powder all the way to the bottom, linking some fun turns together on the mellow lower face. At the bottom, we worked our way left – eventually finding the Valley Trail and our ticket home. The track was pretty quick on the way out (one of the bonuses of skiing in this zone), making our way to the truck in around 15minutes. In total, the whole ski took 4hrs 30min, at a very leisurely pace. It was another great day in the park (we have been spoiled this winter) and left us looking forward to the next ski.