Olive Oil

Location: GTNP, Olive Oil, Open Canyon, Granite Canyon Trailhead
Elevation, Gain/Loss: 9,852’, 4,117’ gain/loss
Distance: 7 miles RT
Difficulty: 2+ stars
Time:  4-5 hours

Trip Report:

Date: 1/21/2015
Snow Condition: Mixed surfaces; mainly consisting of light breakable crust.  Some pockets of faceted snow, but warming at mid elevations created isothermal snow and created “grabby”, dense snow.

After an extended period of no snow and some inverted temperatures, Dane, Tristan and I decided for a mellow day on Olive Oil.  It is a sub peak of Mt. Hunt directly north of the village and accessible from Granite Canyon Trailhead.  We started late, around 10:30am and worked our way out along the Moose-Wilson Rd. until we came to the skin track that takes you up the north shoulder of the peak.  While there are many ways to get to the peak, I have found that this way is the fastest and most straight forward.  It is noticeable from the other skin tracks in by its location.  It is about 7/10th of a mile out on Moose-Wilson Rd. from the trailhead and veers left right before an opening and obvious bridge (stream crossing).

On Moose-Wilson Rd. right before the left turn onto the skin track.
On Moose-Wilson Rd. right before the left turn onto the skin track.
The skin track to the north ridge of Olive Oil.
The skin track to the north ridge of Olive Oil.

We worked our way up to the ridge and started climbing to the summit.  At some point, the snow started to become isothermal and we grew massive globs of snow on our skins.  We scrapped this off with our poles/scraper and worked our way up to the summit “block”.

Dane, working his way up to the summit "block".
Dane, working his way up to the summit “block”.

We finally made it to the summit in around 2hrs 40min and stopped to enjoy the beautiful inverted day.  It was pretty neat to take a close look at Granite Canyon and its many runs from a different vantage point.  Some looked big, while others looked smaller than they feel while skiing them.  We took some time at the summit to enjoy the day and then geared up for the “amazing” skiing down (breakable crust, isothermal snow, faceted snow).

Granite Canyon from the north.  Look at all those runs.
Granite Canyon from the north. Look at all those runs.
Looking up Granite Canyon.
Looking up Granite Canyon with Pandora’s in the center.
Good vantage of the Banana Couloir.
Good vantage of the Banana Couloir.

Turns out, the crust was very skiable and the snow on north facing aspects was soft.  We only encountered subpar skiing towards the middle of the run where the temperature inversion was at its greatest.  All in in, we were very surprised by the snow conditions and the skiing in general.  We took the upper face down to the cliff band and skied through some soft, breakable crust.  Then, worked left and skied an open field to some trees which took us down to the gully of the northern ridge.

Skiing the upper face.
Skiing the upper face.
Magical soft breakable crust.
Magical soft breakable crust.
Shot through the cliff band below the upper face.
Shot through the cliff band below the upper face.

At one point, Tristan took a nice tomahawk because of a windlip he couldn’t see due to some flat light, but he was just fine.  We made our way down the gully, finding our skin track and the way to the truck. We made it back to the trailhead in just over 4hrs and in plenty of time for some hot tubbing.

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