Category Archives: Trip Report

Mavericks

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Location: GTNP, Death Canyon, Stewarts Draw, Bradley/Taggart
Tags: Backcountry Skiing, Skiing
Elevation: 9,538′, 3,458′ gain/loss
Distance: 6 miles RT
Difficulty: 3 stars
Time: 4-5 hours

Trip Report:

Date: 12/2/2014
Snow Conditions: 10″ of fine powder with a buried crust underneath.  The storm came in from the Southwest, accompanied with strong winds, so there were some large wind whales and dense slabs forming on the ridges.

After another large storm cycle, Dane and I decided to venture into the park for a tour up Mavericks, with the option to go for 10,696 depending on the conditions.  We started from the Death Canyon trailhead, but Mavericks can also be approached from Bradley/Taggart.  I have approached from both directions and feel the time is pretty similar for the up (about 3 hours), but the out is much easier if going to Death Canyon.  We started around 9am and cruised up the snow covered road, veering right when the track goes left to Whimpy’s and Albright at the sign saying “No Unauthorized Vehicles”.  We cruised up the track for a few minutes and then crossed the field, targeting the left ridge of Mavericks on the opposite edge of the field.

Crossing the field
Crossing the field

After making it through the field and starting to work our way West through the tight growth on the lower faces of Mavericks, we began to gain some quick elevation.  We made our way up the southern ridge for around 2 hours, breaking trail the entire time, but making pretty good time considering.  Finally, we found ourselves looking at 10,696′ in the distance, looking pretty wind scoured and thin.

10,696's East face
10,696’s East face

After talking it over, we didn’t think it would be worth it to go up 10,696, considering the potential for wind slabs that built-up over night and the lack of coverage.  So, we transitioned and started to make way down the face, anticipating some fun, untracked turns.  We were not disappointed.  The conditions were ideal, very fun, bouncy and deep.  We worked our way down to the skiers right, making sure not to get caught in the central gully, which would take us out near the skin track towards Bradley/Taggart.

Making early season turns
Making early season turns
December 2nd Powder
December 2nd Powder

We continued down the ridge and found some amazing turns and great coverage all the way to the bottom.  We worked our way right in the trees, eventually finding our skin track, working our way through the heavy snow until we came to the field.  We dropped a few layers, put on some shades and pushed our way along the skin track until we came to the truck.  The total trip took us 4 hours 15 minutes.  It was another great adventure in the park and gave us much inspiration for the winter to come.

Panorama - Prospectors, Albright, Whimpy's, Maverick
Panorama – Prospectors, Albright, Whimpy’s Knob, Mavericks

25 Short

Location: GTNP, Avalanche Canyon, Bradley/Taggart
Tags: Backcounty Skiing, Skiing
Elevation: 9975′, 3350′ gain/loss
Distance: 6 miles RT
Difficulty: 3 stars
Time: 4-5 hours

Trip Report:

Date: 11/25/2014
Snow Conditions: With about 28″ of settled new snow and more coming, the conditions were deep powder, with an upside down layer beginning to form on the surface.  At times, the snow was almost too deep to make turns.  Towards the bottom of the run, the snow pack was starting to feel the effects of the warming day and began to feel very heavy at times.

And so it begins, the winter of 2014/2015.  After a brief trip to San Francisco, I returned to winter in full force here in Jackson, WY.  With over 40 inches of snow in the past 3 days, Dane and I decided to do a little early storm skiing in the park.  We decided on 25 Short, an excellent early season tour, or beginner run in the park.  While moderately low angle, there are numerous terrain traps and a few steep avalanche paths that you need to be aware of.  We started at the Bradley/Taggart trailhead around 9:30am, beginning the skin by working out south by southwest across the field directly west of the parking lot. Usually there is a nice track that takes you to 25 Short, or Mavericks, but today we were greeted by untouched snow and a faint skin track buried under 14″ of snow.  We made our way south, keeping the moraine on our right and ventured towards an obvious “end point” of the field.  Here, the track usually forks, with those venturing to Mavericks going left and 25 Short right.  We were greeted by a family of moose here and had to divert left to stay away from the angry bull moose and eventually worked our way right to find the skin track of 25 Short.

A family of moose at the intersection of Mavericks and 25 Short
A family of moose at the intersection of Mavericks and 25 Short

We continued breaking trail up the drainage, but eventually missed the normal left turn that would have brought us to the standard approach, instead we trudged along the “runout” path to the north until we noticed our mistake. After this, we just kept going up until we reached the obvious avalanche path on the north side of 25 Short. Here we broke trail left and worked our way up an agonizing 2500′, working our way slightly left. We eventually found ourselves on the bench near the top of 25 Short, but decided not to continue the 200′ up the summit ridge to the true summit, because the wind was whipping and we weren’t planning on skiing the east gut of 25 Short given the avalanche conditions. We made a quick transition and decided on a relatively safe route down the mountain.  The snow was DEEP, making it difficult to make smooth turns, but we were able to link a few pitches together to make for an enjoyable run down the 3000′ run.

Making some fun turns
Making some fun turns
It was pretty deep for November
It was pretty deep for November

Once down the run, we were encountered with some downed trees, stream crossings and heavy snow to work through.  Eventually we worked our way left to the moraine that separates Taggart Lake and Avalanche Canyon from 25 Short.  Once we found our skin track, it took us about 30 minutes to get to the truck, but on a normal day, it can be as fast as 15 minutes.  We made it to the truck in just over 5 hours, not bad considering we set the skin track.  As far as first days out go, I would say this has to range very high on the list, hopefully it is a sign of a great winter to come.

Not a bad way to start the season.
Not a bad way to start the season

Spoon Couloir

Location: GTNP, Disappointment Peak
Tags: Backcountry Skiing, Ski Mountaineering
Elevation, Gain/Loss: 11,617’, 4,992’ gain/loss
Distance: 6.5 miles
Difficulty: 4 stars
Time: 5 hours

Trip Report:

Date: 1/21/2014
Snow Condition: Hardpacked, Breakable Crust, Wind pockets of soft snow

My brother, Dane, and I were long overdue for an adventure in the park and decided on a relatively easy and safe adventure considering the conditions.  After an aggressive 2012-2013 winter that saw us ski numerous couloirs and peaks, we had a very slow start to the season and were both eager to get into the park.  We started at around 7:30am and made quick work of the tour to Bradley Lake  We crossed that swiftly and continued on to our right, working our way up the moraine that separates Garnett Canyon from Disappointment Peak.  We continued up and to the right for a while after the moraine, eventually finding a skin track that followed the summer hiking trail.  We continued on that for a bit, and eventually found ourselves crossing through a massive whitebark pine stand toward the culmination of the skin.  We benched out around Surprise Lake and continued up another 300ft to Amphitheater Lake at around 9:15am.  Once there, we were encountered with our first sight of the aptly named Spoon Couloir at the western end of the lake.  It rises about 1100′ from the lake, but 400′ of that is the runout from the couloir.

Spoon couloir from Amphitheater Lake
Spoon couloir from Amphitheater Lake

We made our way across the lake and eventually found ourselves looking up the couloir, unable to skin any longer.  We took a quick break in a safe spot to the left of the couloir entrance and switched over from skin mode to bootpack mode.  We stayed close the whole way up the couloir, switching out the leader on several occasions, thus keeping us fresh the entire bootpack up the couloir.  The snow was variable, with areas of hardpack, mixed in with wind pockets of soft snow.  Considering the temperature of the day, roughly 10 degrees F, and avy conditions, we felt pretty safe in the exposed couloir.  Once reaching the top of the couloir, we kept right and continued up the steep entry pitch (50 degrees) and made our way toward the summit of Disappointment Peak.  500′ from the summit, we decided the snow was getting to thin for a summit bid, so we stopped for a quick break and transitioned into ski mode.

Dane skiing down the massive East face of Disappointment Peak
Dane skiing down the massive East face of Disappointment Peak

We skied down to the entrance of the couloir and decided on skiing it in three sections, with two stops at relatively protected points along the skiers right of the couloir.  I dropped in first, making some “powder” turns on the wind pockets, while they broke apart and funneled down the couloir.  I stopped and waited for Dane to make some fun turns down the 50 degree entrance to the couloir.

Dane entering the Spoon Couloir
Dane entering the Spoon Couloir

We continued down the couloir, switching up the lead until we reached the bottom of the true run.  It was decent snow all the way down, but considering the northeasterly aspect, I was hoping for better conditions.  We did get some fun turns down to Amphitheater Lake and then were greeted with some amazing powder fields on our way down to the moraine of Garnett Canyon and Disappointment.  As with many trips into the park, the run out to the valley floor can sometimes be the most fun, and todays snow didn’t disappoint down low.  For me, the trip was a real treat, considering that Dane and I had not spent much time in the park and I hope that it was only the start of a great season.