Tag Archives: Avalanche Canyon

4 Hour Couloir

Location: GTNP, Shadow Peak, Avalanche Canyon
Elevation, Gain/Loss: 9877’, 3,673’ gain/loss
Distance: 6 miles RT
Difficulty: 3 stars
Time:  4-5 hours

Trip Report:

Date: 12/31/2014 Snow Condition: Powder, Sun Affected Soft Snow

We had experienced an amazing holiday week in Jackson, with a huge storm cycle bringing upwards to 4 feet of snow to the area in around 10 days.  The turns around JHMR were pretty unbelievable during that time, but the lines were also a little unbelievable, so getting out into the park for a New Years Eve ski seemed like the right thing to do.  With some nasty north/northeast winds trailing the system, most aspects were fairly wind affected, so we thought a south facing shot might have the best chance at skiing well.  Hank, B.Close and I decided on the 4 Hour Couloir, off Shadow Peak.  None of us had skied it before, but we all were excited for the relatively easy approach for a 2100′ couloir.  The approach is very simple.  You follow the normal route up Shadow Peak, but just as it benches out and you are about to go up the northeast facing “bowl” that is the skiers summit, look left. There is an obvious “col” which is the entry point to the 4 Hour Couloir. We made pretty good time up to beginning of the ski, leaving the truck around 9:45am and reaching the couloir in 2hrs 30min.  We enjoyed the views and warmth of the inverted sun on our skin for a bit before we decided to drop in.  While sitting here, we did notice a massive crown on the East face of the Grand.  It looked to have a depth of 6-8ft and ran the length of the entire face, directly above the Otter Body.

The Grand, with a massive crown across it's East face. (Unfortunately, the crown is not visible)
The Grand, with a massive crown across it’s East face. (Unfortunately, the crown is not visible)

While we were getting ready, a group of three came upon us from above.  They had a similar idea for the day and after a quick chat, they took off down the couloir and we slowly got ready, wanting to give them plenty of time to ski the line.  After about 15 minutes, we decided they must be out of harms way and got moving.  The first few turns were a little heavy, with the sun and inverted temperatures doing a bit of damage on the snow, but quickly we found some dry powder snow.

Close making his way down the upper portion of the couloir.
Close making his way down the upper portion of the couloir.

Once into the couloir, the snow was surprisingly good, with dense powder in most places.  We skied it in 4 sections, but could have easily done it in two if we were concerned about the snow stability.  Mostly, we were just having fun skiing a beautiful couloir in the relative warmth of an inverted day and didn’t feel the need to rush the experience.

Hank skiing from the halfway point of the 4 Hour Couloir.
Hank skiing from the halfway point of the 4 Hour Couloir.
Turkey Chute off 25 Short across Avalanche Canyon.
Turkey Chute off 25 Short across Avalanche Canyon.

We continued down, making some great turns and really opening it up as the couloir starts to widen near the bottom.  The snow towards the bottom was some of the best, dense and chalky – which was a nice finish to the great day.

B.Close mid turn (or straight-lining?) towards the bottom
B.Close mid turn (or straight-lining?) towards the bottom
Looking up into the 4 Hour Couloir from Avalanche Canyon.
Looking up into the 4 Hour Couloir from Avalanche Canyon.  The couloir goes up to the right.

After finishing the run, we were greeted with a debris pile from an avalanche that had probably occurred sometime during the last storm cycle.  After making it through all the land mines, we slowly worked our way out of Avalanche Canyon.  I say slowly because the inversion had created snow temperates so low that we were basically walking out, not skiing.  Along the “walk” out, we ran into the group of three who had skied the couloir before us.  They emphatically informed us that they had come across an adolescent black bear 400′ into the couloir.  They said it was hanging out above them in a treed area before it truly tightened into a couloir.  We were shocked, simultaneously glad and a little jealous that they had gone first.  Add bears encounters to the long list of dangers that backcountry skiers face! We continued out at a “blistering” pace, finally crossing Taggart Lake and making it back to the truck in 4hrs 30min.  We enjoyed some laughs and quickly made our way to Dornan’s for a few beverages to start the New Years festivities.

Northeast “Couloir” off Mount Wister

2014-12-17 12.36.06

Location: GTNP, Mount Wister
Elevation, Gain/Loss: 10,854’, 4,652’ gain/loss
Distance: 8 miles RT
Difficulty: 3+ stars
Time:  5-7 hours

Trip Report:

Date: 12/17/2014
Snow Condition: Powder, Packed Powder, Light Breakable Crust 12″ under consolidated Powder

A wave of anxiety rushed over me as I stared down the large “couloir” Dane and I had just bootpacked up.  The wind had been whipping over the ridge from the south during most of the climb and we began to wonder if the avalanche conditions were as safe as we thought.  The run rolled over to a 40 degrees slope from the col, into a mild pinch, then mellowing to a 30 degree run out 800′ to the bottom.  After a few quick ski cuts, our nerves were replaced with elation as we skied deep powder 1200′ to the bottom of the cirque.

Dane making his way through the pinch.
Dane making his way through the pinch.

We started the day around 8am, leaving Bradley/Taggart and heading towards Avalanche Canyon.  After spending the previous day skiing Turkey Chute, we knew there was coverage in the canyon and had spotted a skin track heading below The Nugget and up to Lake Taminah.  The morning was very pleasant and the skin track proved to be quite enjoyable through the densely treed canyon.

Morning Sun.
Morning Sun.

We made our way past 4 Hour Couloir and through the small trees that are scattered around the fork of Avalanche Canyon.  The skin track worked its way right into the North Fork, eventually up a steep slot in the prominent rock band before reaching Lake Taminah.  As we got out onto the lake, the wind came rushing through the canyon and we immediately needed to layer up for the rest of the trip.  Working our way across the lake, we saw the “couloir” that we wanted to ski in the distance on our left.  We were slightly disappointed that the East Face of Wister was in the clouds, which meant we would not get an opportunity to see if it was skiable.  We worked our way up into the cirque, through some deep snow that we were getting excited to ski on our way down.  It took us 3hours and 15minutes to get into the cirque.  Here, we took a little break and geared up for the climb.  We skinned up the first third of the run to some rocks that were still exposed and then had to switch over to bootpack mode.

Bootpack mode.
Beast mode.

From here, the booting was relatively easy, considering it was powder the whole way up.  It consolidated well with each step, rarely giving out and sending us back down to our starting point.  This was a nice surprise and we made quick work of the climb to the col of Mount Wister.  It took us around 4 1/2 hours to get to this point, gaining 4,652′ to an elevation of 10,854′, so we felt pretty good about our pace.  We got ready to ski and after a brief discussion and a few ski cuts, we were set to rip.

Skiing is fun.
Skiing is fun.

The snow was pretty fantastic up high, deep and playful, with the light sluff giving you the sense that you were gliding down the run.  We skied through the pinch and pulled off to our right under some rocks to decide with way to proceed down.  Here, we got a glimpse of the East Face of Mount Wister (11,490′) and decided it would need some more snow to make it a worthy ski.  We skied down to the right, trying to miss the exposed rocks in the middle of the run, making pow turns one after the other.  After making it through the rocks, we cruised down to the bottom of the cirque, each beaming with joy.

The Northeast " Couloir off Wister.
The Northeast ” Couloir off Wister.

With the more challenging part of the ski done, we made our way down and across the lake, linking some fun turns together in the surprise powder field.

Powder Fields Forever.
Powder Fields Forever.
Crossing Lake Taminah.
Crossing Lake Taminah.

After the lake, we made our way down to the fork of Avalanche Canyon, finding more powder and more smiles all the way to the traverse out.  We made it back to the truck and our waiting beverage in just over 6 hours, each overjoyed about the day.  Once again, GTNP did not disappoint.

Turkey Chute

 

2014-12-16 12.22.58-3

Location: GTNP, 25 Short
Elevation, Gain/Loss: 9975’, 3,573’ gain/loss
Distance: 6 miles RT
Difficulty: 3 stars
Time:  4-5 hours

Trip Report:

Date: 12/16/2014
Snow Condition: Chalky, Powder, “Bouncy Snow”

Skiing at JHMR can be a blast, with lift accessed powder fields in every direction, but after a week of high pressure and 6 inches of light snow on a crusty layer, I was yearning to get back into the park.  We were not sure what the conditions would be like, but after a few runs in Granite during the past couple of days, we decided on something north facing.  Dane, Trist, Casper and I chatted over coffee on the ride up to GTNP and settled on Turkey Chute off 25 Short.  It has a relatively easy approach, with a fun 2200′ shot down to the canyon floor.  I was also excited to get into Avalanche Canyon to see what the out was like and how the snow was holding up in the canyon.

25 Short from the valley floor.
25 Short from the valley floor.

The skin up 25 Short is still a little jumbled, with ski tracks crossing the skin track and numerous options up the mellow face.  We made it onto the skin track (lookers right ridge of the main gully) we were attempting to find after a few moments of uncertainty due to all the options, but once on the track, we made great time. At times, the skin track was a little slick, but most of the time the new dusting gave us great grip and we were on the summit in just over 2 hours.

25 Short Summit.
25 Short Summit.

Once there, we skinned south along the ridge towards 10,696, under an outcropping of rock to our right (Casper’s Cliff?).  Turkey Chute is just south of this on the right, detectable by a large boulder at the entrance of the couloir.  We passed the large boulder at first, because the thin coverage caused us to cross the ridge much lower than usual.  We quickly realized this and made our way back to the rock outcropping and Turkey Chute.

View from the large boulder at the entrance to Turkey Shoot.
View from the large boulder at the entrance to Turkey Chute.

Once at the entrance, we got into ski mode and began the downclimb into the couloir. Looking down into the run, we noticed it was a little wind effected, but were confidant that the lower half was holding some fluffy snow.  We progressed down to a snowy area where we could put on our skis and got ready to rip the chute.

2014-12-16 12.16.20
Dane and Tristan downclimbing the entrance to Turkey Chute.
Turkey Shoot.
Turkey Chute.

We skied down the steeper (35+ degree) section in groups of two.  Once down to the mellower apron, we gave each other some room and enjoyed some great “hippie” turns.  We were impressed with the snow, all wishing for deep turns the whole way down, but satisfied with chalky powder up top and deeper snow down low.

2014-12-16 12.22.19
Dane finishing the upper section of the run.

At the bottom of the apron, we worked our way right to a small, fun shot down to the traverse out to Taggart Lake.  The snow was a little thin in here, but we made the most of it and had our share of powder turns in this north facing, protected pocket of Avalanche Canyon.

Last turns down to the traverse out.
Last turns down to the traverse out.

The traverse was not as bad as we expected.  It defiantly had some blind corners, small drops and fast sections, but there was good coverage all the way to the lake. Once at the lake, we delayered and made quick work of the push across Taggart and to the trailhead.

XC Skiing across Taggart
XC Skiing across Taggart

The total trip took us just under 4 hours, which was much faster than other trips to Turkey Chute.  It was a fun day in the park and got us all thinking about another line we want to attempt in the coming weeks, the Nugget Line.

The Nugget.
The Nugget.