Location: GTNP, Death Canyon, Prospector Mountain, Mayan Apocalypse
Elevation, Gain/Loss: 10,491’, 5,351’ gain/loss
Distance: 12 miles RT
Difficulty: 4 stars
Time: 7-9 hours
Snow Conditions: Packed powder, powder, sun crust, wind crust. A strong northerly wind over the past few days created variable conditions on this north facing slope.
After a great day skiing off the South Teton Monday, Dane and I decided to head back to the park Tuesday and tackle a couloir we had heard a lot about this year. The “Mayan Apocalypse” is a north facing shot up Death Canyon a little past the patrol cabin. With northerly aspects skiing great the day before, we decided it was a worthy objective for the day. We left the Death Canyon trailhead around 8:30am and worked our way along the track at a brisk pace. After skiing down from Phelps Lake Overlook, we were quickly back skinning below the apron of the Apocalypse Couloir and into Death Canyon. We got to the patrol cabin in around 2hrs and took a little break to take in the views. Death Canyon offers enough ski runs for an entire season and we were pretty excited about the potential the zone offered. After the break, we worked our way up canyon (to the left) and found ourselves staring at the access to Rimrock Lake. There, directly to the left is the “Mayan Apocalypse”. It is hidden by a steep treed slope and a rocky chute that is in effect the couloirs drainage. We worked our way up around the impassable bulge of rock and eventually were looking at a tight gully above the rocky chute. We transferred over to boot pack mode and made our way into a large opening directly below the couloir proper. We worked our way up the steep couloir, noticing some soft avalanche debris in spots and firm crust where the slide had washed the snow out of the couloir. We came to the middle of the couloir, initially thinking this was the end, only to find that a much steeper portion of the couloir was still waiting for us. We worked our way up and to the right, finding some very firm, steep sections of climbing along the way. We eventually came to the end of the climbing on a very steep (50 degree) slope, just below a few cornices. We gently kicked out a step for our skis and got geared up. The top portion was very fun on the left side, where the wind had deposited a good amount of snow. Once into the upper middle section, the snow became firm and each turn was pretty spicy, but we made it through some rocks and into the lower section without issue. Here, the slide had washed out half the couloir, but the half with soft snow remaining was very fun. We also found the debris piles to be very soft and fun to surf on for a turn or two. We made it out of the couloir proper and found some fun turns on the upper apron before the couloir pinched into the gully leading to the rocky chute. We made a few turns in the gully, then exited to our left and found some soft powder turns to the traverse out of Death Canyon. We quickly worked our way back to the truck in just over 7hrs 30min and were pleased with the adventure and the gnarly couloir we had just skied.