So a few weeks back, Dane, Tristan and I started talking about heading up north for an overnight in GTNP. We wanted to ski some remote lines and thought the best way to do that was an overnight trip. After a week of planning (gathering gear from friends, talking over different objectives, etc.), we settled on Tuesday/Wednesday for the trip, despite the fact it was supposed to be in the negatives Wednesday morning. Ideally, we would have had a few nights to camp and ski, but the scheduling didn’t work out and we only had one night to make it happen. On Tuesday morning at 5am, Tristan grabbed Dane and I from town and we started our way up to Moran Junction. It took about 1 hour, because the snow was falling at a good clip and the visibility was quite poor. At the “gate”, we were surprised to see Ranger Jay checking park passes. We got ours out and started chatting with him about the option to leave from Signal Mountain Lodge instead of Colter Bay. He said that it was ok to leave our car there and that he would call the visitor center to let them know the change to our camping permit. Just a few things on all that….
The first is that you do need a permit to camp in the park during the winter. It is free, but someone does have to go to the visitor center, give your information, trip itinerary and grab a bear canister. While this is a pain in the ass, it is free and a necessary evil that can actually help out out if something were to happen
The second note on that is that Signal Mountain Lodge is FURTHER from Moran Bay than Colter Bay. I am not sure why we thought it was closer, possibly a comment from a post on TetonAT about the distance to Leigh Canyon from Colter, but it is in fact about 1.5 miles further to Moran Bay from Signal Mountain Lodge. I suppose the thought at that moment was that is was pretty much whiteout conditions and we would have more land masses to follow going from Signal.
So, we got to Signal in a “blizzard” of wind and snow around 6:30am. We chatted about just going back to town for some breakfast, but all agreed that we might as well continue forward with our plan. We were on the ice at 6:45am and found Jackson Lake in great shape and the travel to be pretty decent.
While the visibility was poor, we were able to make out Donoho Point, Marie Island, then Elk Island in succession and made a fairly straight line considering the conditions. As we worked our way past Elk Island, the wind began to subside and the clouds started to part, opening up the beautiful Northern GTNP to us.
We had been moving for around 2 hours at this point and knew we still had a ways to go. We ate a little grub and made the push to Moran Bay and our camping area. The last little bit was a slog, with the weight of our packs and the monotony of the skin starting to wear on us. Luckily, we had some tunes to motivate us for the last push.
As we entered the bay, we worked towards the delta of Moran Creek, in hopes of finding a decent spot to camp and running water. We made landfall 3.5 hours from when we left the car, tired and happy to have made it across. We quickly setup one tent to store our excess gear in and started up towards our first objective, the Southeast Couloir off Bivouac Peak.