Location: GTNP, Shadow Peak, Bradley/Taggart Trailhead
Elevation, gain/loss: 11198, 5690’ gain/loss
Distance: 14.5 miles RT
Difficulty: 3+ stars
Snow Conditions: Powder, Consolidated Powder, Mild Wind Crust @ 10500′ and some sun affect snow around 10700′
The storm that rolled through Jackson over Christmas was once again a present from Mr. Santa. Around 100″ fell over a 15 day period and in an instant the winter began. Over the past couple of weeks, I was able to have some great days in and around JHMR and Teton Pass, but I was yearning to get into the park to poke around a bit.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center has been calling for Considerable to High avalanche danger over much of the past two weeks and yesterday was no different. With this in mind: Dane, Tristan, Stu and myself set out for Shadow Peak at 8am from Bradley/Taggart trailhead. Our ideal objective was skiing the Sliver Couloir off Nez Perce, then heading down the 4 Hour Couloir to Avalanche Canyon, but we were not sure what we would find.
We made good time up to the 4 Hour Couloir entrance (see former post for details) and continued on to the top of the “skiers summit” of Shadow Peak. Here we had our first good look at the Sliver and we liked what we saw.
For starters, the couloir looked as if it had flushed a few times during the storm cycle. Also, we could make out a couple minor crowns on the two larger “snow fields” on the left of the Sliver. These two signs, along with our observations over the past few weeks lead us to believe it could be skied safely, but we would only know once we got into the line. We made our way down to the col between the skier summit and true summit of Shadow and got ready to ski the west facing slope that drops down in the cirque of Nez Perce. Here we dug a few hand pits and found a few areas of concern around 24″ down, but after a couple ski cuts–we decided to rip it.
The snow in this zone was deep, stable and very supportive. We made our way across the cirque and then transitioned to skin mode to make our way to the entrance of the couloir. We worked our way up to the rock bulge below the Sliver and dropped our skins and some unneeded layers and began our way into the couloir. We noticed the temperature was rising a bit at this elevation, but the snow didn’t seem to be affect too much at this point. We worked our way up the couloir for about 500 feet, stopping on occasion to dip a few hand pits and discuss the situation.
At around 10700 feet, we noticed the snow warming–with the first 2″ noticeably sun affected. This was a little concerning, but we thought that it was not a major concern, just something to be conscious of on the way down. The last third of the couloir was waist deep powder with some faceted/surgery snow towards the bottom. This made the bootpacking difficult, but with four of us, we were able to take turns slogging through the snow until finally we were at the top! We geared up and talked a little about how we wanted to tackle the line. We thought that the best move was to be extra cautious and make numerous stops along the way down. With everyone in agreement, we had ourselves some fun all the way down to the bottom….
After making it down, we gathered our stashed gear and skied the apron down to the west facing slope we had skied down from earlier. From here, our plan was to skin up to Shadow and then have a look at the 4 Hour Couloir and possibly ski that.
We made quick work of the up and had a break in the sun at the “skiers summit” of Shadow to eat some much needed food and transition to ski mode. After about 15 minutes, we skied down the fun upper face of Shadow and made our way into the 4 Hour Couloir. We were a little concerned with the south facing aspect, considering all the warming we had witnessed in the Sliver. We dug around for a bit, finding numerous areas of concern within the snowpack and after some discussion, decided to bail and ski the north facing trees of Shadow down to the bench. There were too many concerns for us to feel like we could safely ski the line and figured, the season is just beginning….
The snow was great throughout this zone and we milked the turns for as long as possible until traversing right (South) to the skin track up Shadow. We cruised back after gaining the skin track and pulled into the parking lot at 7hr 36min. For all our poking around, we felt good about the day and great about our ability to ski a fun couloir safely. More to come very soon!