All posts by Rene

I am an avid adventurer, always looking for different ways to push myself in the mountains. I grew up in a mountain town (North Conway, NH) and now live in a mountain town (Jackson, WY). I am trying to make a living in the outdoor field, but have yet to find my calling.

West Hourglass – Nez Perce

Location: GTNP, Garnett Canyon, Nez Perce
Elevation: 11,280′, 5,120′ gain/loss
Distance: 15 miles RT
Difficulty: 3+ stars
Time: 7-9 hours

Trip Report:

Date: 1/10/2016
Snow Conditions: Wind crust, caulk, powder, faceted snow, boilerplate crust, breakable wind crust

A day after heading up Garnett Canyon to ski The Nugget, I once again was skinning up the canyon for a schuss.  Dane, Zelie, Lexie and I had decided to take a look at West Hourglass off Nez Perce.  I have skied it a couple times, but was hopeful that the conditions would be better than past skis.  It seems to get a lot of wind based on its location in Garnett and is typically wind scoured, but based on the day before, I thought we had a shot for couloir powder.

IMG_1986

IMG_1987

We left Bradley/Taggart at 8:30am and within no time we were in the Meadows where we came upon a group of two skiing down towards us.  They stopped and chatted for a second, saying they bailed on the West Hourglass because of 6″ windslabs and a crust on the lower apron of the run.  We took what they said with a grain of salt and decided to have a look for ourselves.  They beauty of Garnett is that there is always another line you can ski if you decide to bail on your first objective.

IMG_0173

IMG_1990

As we worked our way up to the apron of the Hourglasses, we didn’t see the slabs they were talking about, but did notice a pretty solid wind crust.  We decided to continue up and assess the situation as we progressed.  Here, the skinning wasn’t too bad besides a few buff spots and we were at the base of the Hourglasses fairly quickly.

IMG_1995

IMG_1997
East Hourglass looking skiable!

At the base of the West Hourglass, we took our skins off and stashed them near a rock.  When doing this, I lost control of Dane’s rolled skins and they went careening down the apron and out of sight-Oops!  We later found them, but it was a reminder that you never can be too careful with your gear in the mountains.  With that behind us, we started up the initial first pitch.  I would guess it reaches 45 degrees and has a fairly large rollover at the top.  We knew this would be the most dangerous part of the climb and stayed close to each other near the lookers left wall.

IMG_2001
On the up at the first pitch of the couloir

About 100′ from the top of the pitch, Dane tapped out below a safe spot and I continued on solo over the rollover.  It was hard going, but I made it up and over into a safe zone.  The others continued up to me as the wind began to howl, moving snow down the couloir and into the void.

IMG_2005

After the group reached my spot, we all took a look up the couloir and saw it was not in great shape.  There was numerous wind ripples in the snow and what appeared to be bulletproof snow throughout much of the middle section.  Regardless, we continued on to the top.  The going was fairly easy, with only the upper section holding deepish snow.

IMG_0192
Nearing the top

We stopped about 200′ from the true top of the couloir, because it looked to be unskiable at this point in the year.  We took our time getting ready, snapping a few pictures and eventually were ready for some old fashioned survival skiing!

IMG_0197
Having a look at the Grand

IMG_2007IMG_2012

IMG_2013
Zelie, with the top 200′ looking rough

The skiing down wasn’t as bad as I had thought.  In spots is was a little unpredictable, but the wind ripples were soft and the firm snow wasn’t awful.  We made our way down to rollover with anticipation of powder turns and velvet snow…

IMG_2017

IMG_0235

IMG_0242
Lexie navigating the upper/middle section

IMG_2024

IMG_2033

IMG_2044
Looking down the middle portion to the rollover

We gathered at the rollover and decided I’d ski it halfway down and then the rest of the group take it down to the gear stash.  While we were not too concerned about the snow moving, this would have been the spot to go if it decided to.  It was very stable and pretty deep on the skiers right side of the pitch-which more than made up for the rest of the lines subpar snow.

IMG_0253
Jumping into the rollover

IMG_2048IMG_2056IMG_2058IMG_2059IMG_2060

IMG_2064
Slash…

We gathered our gear and made our way down the apron, making a pit stop to grab Dane’s skins which had stopped about 500′ down the slope.  The skiing here was at times great and others terrifying.  The wind crust was inconsistent and very grabby in places.  We all made it down safe, but there were a few dicy turns that kept us on edge.

IMG_0287

IMG_2069IMG_2072IMG_2075

After regrouping in the Meadows, we cruised out of the canyon and made our way back to Bradley Lake.  The snow was decent on the last pitch above the lake, but still a little thin and slightly grabby.  We cruised across the lake and eventually to the truck in 7hrs.  While the snow wasn’t the best, it was still great to get into the park on a double date–who needs dinner and a movie!?  Keep on Adventuring.

IMG_2079

The Nugget

Location: GTNP, Avalanche Canyon, Nez Perce/Cloudveil Dome
Elevation: 11,493′, 5,656′ gain/loss
Distance: 16 miles RT
Difficulty: 4 stars
Time: 7-9 hours

Trip Report:

Date: 1/9/2016
Snow Conditions: Powder, caulk, loose sluff, sun/wind crust 12″ below snow

With some light snow falling over the past couple days and a little more forecasted for Saturday: Dane, Tristan and I set out for a line we have been talking about for a couple years.  The Nugget Couloir, or just simply the Nugget is a technical ski line on the southern wall of Avalanche Canyon.  It terminates at a huge “chokestone” that can only be surpassed via rappel, or a 60′ air (which I don’t believe has happened).

nugget.jpg

With the objective set and snow flurrying, we set out from Bradley/Taggart at 6:40am.  It was fairly warm to start out and we were quickly shedding some layers on the way to Bradley Lake.  We crossed the lake (which has an ice depth of 5″) as twilight began to take affect on the morning.

IMG_9996

We made quick work of the first few thousand feet up Garnett, only having a few issues with the track on some steep sections.  As we approached the Caves in Garnett Canyon, we were greeted with an arctic chill.  The wind was whipping around the canyon with a ferocity that I can’t recall in the past.  We put our layers on, but we were a little sweaty from the warm walk up so it didn’t do much good.  Regardless, we trudged on through the Meadows and into the South Fork of Garnett.

IMG_1894

IMG_1896

We made our way past the apron of the Hourglass’, which was looking a little thin, and continued up above the steep section of the South Fork that is a mini waterfall in the summer.  Here we noticed some cracking in the newly deposited snow, but there was no movement, so we continued on.

IMG_1898
Approaching the “waterfall”
IMG_9997
Trist, trying not to get slid

From here, we worked our way up the canyon in the direction you would to climb the South or Middle Teton in the summer.  After gaining the bench at about 10,500′, we started working our way left towards the col between Nez Perce and Cloudveil Dome.  That is the start of the line, but we had a ways to go until we were skiing….

Col Photo

We worked our way up and into the couloir that ended at the col we were headed for.  The snow was soft and deep here and we were a little concerned about skinning to the top, so we switched over to bootpack mode for the remainder of the climb.  It did get fairly steep towards the top and while we were on the lookout for snow activity, we didn’t see any.  We topped out at 5hrs, into intermittent sun and a lashing wind.

IMG_0008 2IMG_0012 2

We quickly got geared up in harnesses and all our warm clothing in the howling wind and had a look at the line.  It looked a little thin up top, but lower down it looked to be holding some goods, so we had a quick talk about how to ski the top section and had a rip.

IMG_1903
Looking into Nugget from the top

IMG_1905IMG_1906

IMG_0037
First few turn on the Nugget
IMG_1913
Looking down the second half of the upper portion

IMG_1916IMG_1917

IMG_1908
Skiing the bottom half of the upper portion-we cut left towards the narrow section at the rock 500′ down on the left. (Visible in photo)

While we were on high alert for movement, we only saw some small wind slabs and loose sluff here.  We made our way down the first pitch, dodging a few rocks here and there, eventually traversing left to the tight middle section.  Here, we were a little concerned because there was a large hanging snow field above the tight section.  We decided on a few safe ski cuts, but we could not mitigate the skiers left side of the bowl.  We assumed that the snow would move, but mainly low energy slabs.  I skied down into the bowl and stopped below some rocks, only kicking off one small wind slab.  Dane and Trist stomped around near some rocks and finally were able to get something to move that ran down into the narrow section.  This made us feel a little better and decided that dane and Trist should ski down the path of the small “slabalanche”.

IMG_0049
Tristan above the snowfield that lead to the narrow section.

IMG_0059IMG_0060IMG_1918IMG_1919IMG_1927

While we were a little tentative, these turns were top notch! We made our way down into the narrow section and decided on how to proceed.  It looked like there was some constriction/bulge halfway down, so we decided to ski down to that and have a look.

IMG_2404

IMG_1930IMG_1932

IMG_1935
Two turds in a pod!

From here, Tristan skied down to the bulge and found a way through on the right.  He made his way down for a little bit after and pulled off and waited for us to make our way through the constriction.

IMG_0079

IMG_1936

IMG_1938
Dane skiing below the bulge

After this, we knew it was powder skiing all the way to the rappel.  It stayed a little tight for 500′, then opened up to the huge snowfield above the chockstone.  We skied it in several sections, milking the turns and enjoying the exposure that was below us.

IMG_1940IMG_1953IMG_1959IMG_1957IMG_1963IMG_0118IMG_2460

Near the end of the run and the 60′ drop, we grouped up and talked about how we wanted to approach the rappel.  We had heard that the anchor was on the skiers right of the rock, but couldn’t be sure.  Since I had the rope, I gingerly skied down to the rock and looked right.  After a little while, I saw a cord that I assumed was the anchor.  I quickly cut across an open slope and came upon the anchor about 30′ from the chockstone.

IMG_0133
Skiing down to the anchor, with Tristan watching over
IMG_1966
Top portion of the anchor

I clipped into the anchor and dug around a bit for the end while the others skied down.  I went down 3′ and only found what looked to be the carabiners to rappel off, but there was another cord running from that into the snow.  While we couldn’t be sure, we figured it was anchored to the wall as a backup.  We felt good about it and threw out our 70m rope and rappelled off down into the unknown.  We assumed that the rope would reach, but you never know. Thankfully there was about 20′ of rope to spare (I’d bring a 70m if possible, but a 60m would probably work) and we all made it down without issue.

IMG_1967IMG_1984IMG_0148

We were pumped!  This had been a line on our minds for years and we finally skied it, in POW no less.  We ate some much needed food and then skied down to the traverse out of Avalanche Canyon-still finding some solid powder down low.

IMG_1974IMG_1976IMG_0093

We pulled into the trailhead at 8hrs 15min, tired and happy.  It was a great day and one I won’t forget for a while…!

Turkey Chute – 25 Short

Location: GTNP, 25 Short, Bradley/Taggart Trailhead, Avalanche Canyon

Elevation, gain/loss: 9960, 3625’ gain/loss
Distance: 10.5 miles RT
Difficulty: 2+ stars
Time:  4-6hrs

Trip Report:

Date: 12/28/2015
Snow Conditions: Powder, Packed Powder, Consolidated Powder

After a successful trip up the Sliver Couloir the day before, Tristan and I decided to head into the park Monday to take a look at Turkey Chute off 25 Short.  We had seen two tracks in the line the day before and a track out of Avalanche Canyon-across Taggart Lake.  With this in mind, we knew there was a good chance we could tackle this objective with relative ease.  We left the Bradley/Taggart Trailhead at 8:45am and made quick time up to the skiers summit of 25 Short (for full details on the route up, look at a previous post).

IMG_1829IMG_1830

We looked around at all the ski lines in Avalanche Canyon for a bit, making mental notes on all the routes that looked good to go.  There are at least 4 lines in this zone that I have been looking at for a couple years and hopefully this will be the year for a few of them.

We then worked our way over to the entrance of Turkey Chute, making sure to not pass it (directly South of the true 25 Short summit).  We took a little time transitioning over to ski mode and scrambled down into the chute.

IMG_1838
Looking at the entrance of Turkey Chute from the South.
IMG_1839
Looking down the line from the entrance.

Once in the line, we dug a few hand pits and didn’t see anything of concern.  We decided to ski the upper portion of the line in one stretch and then have some fun in the lower section.  The snow was very good: deep, supportive, stable and fluffy.  We milked the turns all the way down, letting the skis run towards the bottom, keeping an eye out for hidden rocks.

IMG_1841
Trist giving the thumbs up after digging his pit.

IMG_1842IMG_1843IMG_1844IMG_1848IMG_1849IMG_1856IMG_1857

After making it down safely, we made some fun turns to the canyon floor and began the traverse out of Avalanche Canyon.  It wasn’t that bad, considering how awful it can be and only took us 30minutes to Taggart Lake.  We decided to skin from here and made our way across the lake.  It was in great shape, completely frozen and quick to cross.

IMG_1861IMG_1862

We made it back to the truck in 4hr 26min, already thinking about the next objective.  All in all, Turkey Chute is a great early adventure or introduction to GTNP backcountry skiing.  We were pleased with the day and great conditions!

Turkey Chute
GPS

For some more info checkout my Movescount page.

Sliver Couloir – Nez Perce

Location: GTNP, Shadow Peak, Bradley/Taggart Trailhead
Elevation, gain/loss: 11198, 5690’ gain/loss
Distance: 14.5 miles RT
Difficulty: 3+ stars
Time:  6-8hrs

Trip Report:

Date: 12/27/2015
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.

IMG_1772
Skiing the POW around JHMR

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.

IMG_9456

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.

IMG_1781

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.

IMG_1783
West Facing slope, leading to the Nez Perce cirque

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.

IMG_9496
Nearing the top.

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….

IMG_1792IMG_1793IMG_1794

IMG_1796IMG_1800IMG_1803IMG_1804IMG_9528IMG_9515IMG_1815

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.

IMG_1819
Skiing the Apron.
IMG_9547
Skinning up to Shadow col.

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….

IMG_1822

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!

Google Earth Sliver - Nez Perce
GPS

 

 

 

Lower Faces – Disappointment Peak

Location: GTNP, Garnet Canyon, Bradley/Taggart
Elevation, gain/loss: 9883, 4018’ gain/loss
Distance: 9 miles RT
Difficulty: 2 stars
Time:  4hrs – 6hrs

Trip Report:

Date: 12/13/2015
Snow Conditions: Powder, mild sun/wind crust 12″ down

Well, here we are……another winter in Jackson, WY.  While it has been slow to take off, it appears the storm system that is hitting us now will be enough to open up much of the area for exploring.  As for myself, I have been skiing Teton Pass a bunch and had one trip up Mavericks a couple weeks back that didn’t seem worthy of a post (great first 1000′), but then very thin.

IMG_1654

IMG_1651
Thin down low…

So with a storm approaching and around 8″ of new now over the past couple days, Dane and I set out into GTNP to see what was going on.  We didn’t have an “objective”, just figured we would ski something that looked promising and ideally stay away from exposed sage brush.  We decided to try and get into Garnett Canyon and ski the Cave Couloir – thinking that it would be a good opportunity to see what the conditions were like.  We skinned out from Bradley/Taggart along the road and took the track to the left before the bridge.  Following this trail through a large field until eventually it dips left into an obvious drainage.  The track wasn’t bad and we made good time up to the lower face of Disappointment Peak.  We eventually found the summer trail to Garnett and followed that for a while.  We were a little cautious out on the face, but didn’t see any signs of concern.  After making it up the face, we cut left and into Garnett Canyon from a little above where the summer trail goes.  After skin-skiing down a few hundred feet and one faceplant into a tree well, we were greeted with a grim sight.  Garnett Canyon still had massive rocks showing below the Caves and it didn’t look promising.

IMG_1717

IMG_1718
Not what we were hoping for.

We discussed a few options, but in the end thought that the ski out of the Canyon would be dangerous and not any fun.  So, we decided to go up to Surprise Lake and ski the Lower Face of Disappointment down to the valley floor.  The snow had looked great on the way up, so we weren’t too sad about the change of plans.  We made quick work getting out of Garnett Canyon and then made our way up for about 1500′ to a little pinnacle to the left of Surprise Lake.

IMG_9225
Making my way up to the pinnacle. (photo: Dane)

From here we had some views of the Spoon Couloir, Shadow Peak and Garnett Canyon.  The Spoon looked to be skiable, although it was thin below the couloir and we couldn’t tell what Amphitheater Lake looked like.

IMG_1719

IMG_9232
Shadow Peak (North Chutes looking thin)
IMG_9235
Nez Perce
IMG_9234
Bradley/Taggart from above.  They appear uncrossable…

So we geared up and had ourselves a rip.  The snow was fun and supportive the entire way down.  We took turns cruising down, on the lookout for any instabilities, but didn’t find any besides some minor sluff here and there.

IMG_1725

IMG_1727IMG_1729IMG_1734

IMG_1736
Showoff.

IMG_9253

IMG_1740
Quality turns even at 7200′.
IMG_1742
Dane making some light turns.

Overall, it was definitely better than I thought it was going to be and proved to be a fun day in the park.  We hit our skin track at the bottom and followed that out of the drainage and then pushed past the cabins and into the big field.  We eventually made it to the truck in around 5hrs, happy to have skied some fun snow and get a feel for the snow conditions in the park.  With the new snow today (Monday) and a little projected through the week – I imagine the lower faces will be skiing nice, but some of the bigger lines are still a little difficult to access.  Until next time…….Keep on Adventuring!