Tag Archives: Backcountry Skiing

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).


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.


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.



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.

Approaching the “waterfall”
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.

Looking into Nugget from the top


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


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”.

Tristan above the snowfield that lead to the narrow section.


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.



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.



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.


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.

Skiing down to the anchor, with Tristan watching over
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.


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.


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…!

Southwest – Teewinot Mountain

Location: GTNP, Teewinot Mountain, Glacier Gulch
Elevation, Gain/Loss: 11,500’, 5,300’ gain/loss
Distance: 14 miles RT
Difficulty: 4 stars
Time: 7-10 hours

Trip Report:

Date: 1/03/2016
Snow Condition: Hard-packed wind crust, packed powder, breakable sun and wind crust, soft powder to sugar below 7,500 feet.

Stu, Tristan and I decided to head out on Sunday for a tour into the high country of Grand Teton National Park. We had a few things in mind that we felt would be fun skiing and within reason, but we didn’t really finalize the objective until we reached the parking lot at around 7 am Sunday morning. Having just skied the Red Sentinel the day before with Lexie, I felt that the south-facing aspects would hold some of the better snow. There was a decent wind event that came through the area early in the weekend that ended up creating some tough wind packed snow conditions on most aspects, especially the northern ones. Upon dropping into Glacier Gulch on Saturday, I noticed that there were two tracks down the South Couloir off of Teewinot. They looked pretty good and this is a line that I have been eyeing for a long time. With this in mind-and a pretty good photo of the line, our objective was set and we were off.

The south aspect of Teewinot from the bottom of the Red Sentinel
The south aspect of Teewinot from the bottom of the Red Sentinel

We made okay time getting up to Delta Lake, which has one of the more beautiful views in the park. Climbing up the moraine, we continued to gain elevation. There was a light cloud cover and a consistent breeze, which helped with the warming.

Up the moraine with the Grand looming overhead
Up the moraine with the Grand looming overhead
On the up
On the up

After switching over to booting shortly after the photo above, we had a decision to make. The bootpack set by the two who skied the South Couloir the day before went up and to the left.  We knew we had to go right in order to make it across the lower snowfield below the South Couloir. After following the boot pack a bit we realized that setting our own would cost us too much time and we felt that these guys would eventually go right up around the next rock band. Turned out the bootpack we were following didn’t go right and we were too high to make it onto the snowfield/into the South Couloir. So we continued up, setting our own booter up the SW Couloir, onto the shoulder of Teewinot.

Booting up the SW
Booting up the SW
Looking down the SW towards the valley floor
Looking down the SW towards the valley floor
Topping out on the shoulder
Topping out on the shoulder

It was getting late when we topped out of the SW Couloir and felt we didn’t have enough daylight to chase down the upper entrance to the South Couloir.  We decided to ski what we climbed–the SW Couloir to the snowfield below the South Couloir and then ski the two exit couloirs back down to Delta Lake. So that’s what we did. And it was great! Decent snow, somewhat technical steep hardpack snow, to some breakable crust, down to some soft powdery snow below 7,500 feet. Great skiing all around and another fun day out in the mountains.

Skiing off the shoulder
Skiing off the shoulder
Upper portion of the SW
Stu in the upper portion of the SW
Tristan right before to traversed left
Tristan right before we traversed left
Middle snowfields
Middle snowfields
Middle section
Middle section
Stu making it look good
Stu making it look good
The bottom exit coulior
The bottom exit coulior
Making it across Delta Lake
Making it across Delta Lake

Apocalypse Couloir

Location: GTNP, Death Canyon, Prospector Mountain
Elevation: 10,104′, 5,049′ gain/loss
Distance: 13 miles RT
Difficulty: 4 stars
Time: 6-8 hours

Trip Report:

Date: 12/31/2015
Snow Conditions: Packed powder, caulk, breakable crust, loose sluff

After being told I could either have New Years Eve off or I could come in and shovel snow off a metal roof in sub degree temperatures I decided for the former and a ski tour. Zach Simon was quick to get back to my text with some ‘solid beta’ on Apocalypse and after thinking about it for a while I was in. Apocalypse is a very committing ski line and it is not something to take lightly. With the current state of these persistent weak layers lingering throughout our snow pack, I am cautiously deciding on the next ski line. But with the information that Zach had received and the knowledge of the area I felt the snow was safe in there and we would be able to manage the terrain. Zach had already had Tanner on board and with the call from me that afternoon the plan was set.

We got to Death Canyon parking lot an hour before sunrise and the temperature read -21 degrees. Cold! After leaving at 7 am, we were soon warm enough and cruising up towards the Phelps Lake overlook. Took the skins off and after a quick ski we were down at the base of the canyon and back into the arctic cold. By the time we put our skins back on, Zach and mine had lost their stick and we were struggling with them the rest of the skin up! A recommendation: put your skins in your jacket to keep them warm when transitioning!

First light on the Four Horsemen and Death Canyon
Ski strap under the boot worked out alright!

It took us four hours from the truck to reach the top of the couloir. The air was crisp and the sun was warm. It was nice to have a skin track already set which made all the extra weight a little more bearable. With a slow transition into rappel mode we geared up and were soon dropping into the cold and ominous Apocalypse Couloir. We brought up two ropes, one 60m, one 70m, both 8mm Dry Coat. It really helped expedite the rappels and made for two double raps up high and one on the exit through the ice bulge area.

Zach dropping in!
Zach dropping in!
Tanner making his way down
Tanner making his way down
V-Notch looking pretty nice!
V-Notch looking pretty nice!
Tanner on the second rap
Tanner on the second rap
Zach starting us off
Zach starting us off

The snow was pretty good in there. There was a variety of snow: some hard packed caulk, mostly old bed surfaces where it had flushed out on, there was some soft newly deposited cold smoke and there was some wind packed breakable crust that made things interesting. All in all it was skiable, but somewhat slowly caution skiing was in store. With the early season snow, everything felt tight, compacted and the skiing was steep!

Top portion
Top portion
Into the rabbit hole we go
Into the rabbit hole we go
Zach making his way down the elevator shaft
Tanner at the end of the elevator
Rappelling through the ice
Rappelling through the ice

We opted for a double 60m rap on the exit to speed things up a bit. It worked out great and we’re back skiing in no time. There was a v-thread about 30m down if you opted for a two rap out. The skiing on the exit was great and the apron opened up with some solid powder turns all the way down to the steam.

All in all, it took us 8 hours from car to car. I think we could have done it faster without the frozen skins, but it was a solid day out skiing one to the more enjoyable and exciting lines the park has to offer.

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).


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.

Looking at the entrance of Turkey Chute from the South.
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.

Trist giving the thumbs up after digging his pit.


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.


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

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.

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.


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.

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.

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….



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.

Skiing the Apron.
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….


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