Having made plans with Tyler to ski a quick lap in Grand Teton National Park on Monday a few days before, I slowly got out of bed and began to get ready. I was tired from the past two days (The Nugget, West Hourglass), but figured what’s one more schuss! Based on the conditions in the West Hourglass Sunday, I was hopeful the Four Hour Couloir would ski well. The wind had been coming from the West/Northwest for about two days and the temperature has stayed low, so a South-facing line seemed to make sense. With these thoughts in mind, we took off from the trailhead at 8:20am. We made easy work of the up and were at base of the couloir in 2hrs 30min.
(For a more detailed description of the route, etc take a look at an older post – 4 Hour Couloir.)
We geared up, took a look at the couloir and decided it was good to go. There was a noticeable sun crust about 5″ below soft powder, but the couloir looked to have flushed a few times recently. Down lower, the snow was soft and fluffy. We milked the last 800′ of powder all the way to the track out of Avalanche Canyon on the south side (which is in and crossed the creek). We cruised back to the truck at 3hrs 59min, happy with the quick lap and decent snow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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…!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Snow Conditions: Sun affected powder, mild sun/wind crust, “corn” snow down low.
Ever since Bill Briggs became the first person to ski The Grand Teton over 40 years ago, it has been an achievement for any aspiring ski mountaineer. My brother Dane and I have climbed it a handful of times, a couple in winter conditions, but never felt comfortable with the ice climbing needed to tackle the ski. With the weather around Jackson continuing to be seasonally warm and the snowpack well bonded after last weeks small storm, we were motivated by Tristan to get out and tackle the “standard” route off the Grand, the Ford/Stettner Couloir. Tristan reasoned that despite our limited ice skills, all you had to do was, “climb up and ski down”. This proved to be the push needed and we settled on Tuesday for the attempt.
The weather for the day called for temps around 30 degrees in the mountains, with sunshine and mild wind, so we decided an alpine start was needed. We were skinning from Bradley/Taggart under moonlight at 1:20am in mild temperatures. The conditions were firm on the up into Garnet Canyon and once again I was swearing that I have yet to buy ski crampons. After 2 hours, we were in the Meadows and staring into an eerie canyon dimly lit by the moon. We decided to boot pack to the left of Spaulding Falls instead of following the “summer trail”, because I think it is faster (but could be wrong). After climbing above the steep face, we put our skis back on and skinned up, into Teepee Glacier.
Here, we saw another party about 500′ above us working their way towards Teepee Col. I knew the guys in the group, having chatted with them about our plan the day before and so far everything was going as discussed. They had planned on skiing the Grand before we settled on it and we were going to let them make first turns down if we all made it to the top. So we worked our way up the steep Teepee Glacier, eventually topping out on Teepee Col as the sun started to rise.
The other group had decided to wait at Glencoe Col for some warming rays and were shouting for us to join them. We worked our way across the Death Couloir/Couloir to Nowhere that links up Teepee and Glencoe Col and met up with the other party. The wind was howling here and we immediately regretted not gearing up at Teepee Col as we had planned. Tristan, Dane and I started to get ready as the sun began to rise, hoping it could warm us a little.
The other group had left for the Stettner by now. We hydrated a little and tried to give the group a head start. Eventually, it got too cold to wait any longer and started down from Glencoe Col to the start of the Stettner Couloir. We worked our way up the couloir and over a mild pinch/ice bulge 100 yards up the Stettner.
After that, we waited at the start of the Chevy (darts up to the left around 200 yards up the Stettner) for the other group to climb through the two bugles. We waited here for a bit, getting very cold, but ready to begin climbing the moment we could. Eventually the group cleared out and we worked our way to the belay station to tackle the ice bulges. We were all interested in taking the lead, but in the end Dane decided to take the sharp-end. He made quick work of the climbing, placing one nut between the two ice bulges on the right and one 16cm screw in the upper ice bulge.
Feeling comfortable with the ice and wanting to make up some time, Tristen and I simul-climbed the pitch as Dane belayed us from above. We made it up to the anchor and quickly decided to simul-climb out of the Chevy and into the Ford.
We found a nice spot to delayer/drop some gear near an anchor at the bottom of the Ford Couloir and got ready for the last 1000′ of boot packing. We were a little behind schedule, so set a turnaround time of 1pm and pushed towards the top. Right after beginning the bootpack, we saw the group ahead of us down climbing the Ford. We worked our way up to them and asked what was up. They said they didn’t feel 100% comfortable with the conditions and were going to bail. We were disappointed for them, but didn’t have much time to waste. The sun was warming the snow a bit and we knew the window was closing on our day if we didn’t hurry. We cruised up the Ford in no time and quickly found ourselves on the East Face of the Grand, working our way through warm, soft snow. We finally reached the summit block at 12:35pm, just over 11hrs from leaving the truck.
Not having a bunch of time at the top of the Grand is something I’m used to, but I barely had time to snap a few pictures before we were starting down towards the East Face. We didn’t want to risk the snow warming anymore than it already had. Unlike other objectives, once done skiing, you are still in harms way until you exit the Stettner after numerous rappels. With this in mind, we skied down from the summit and worked our way onto the East Face. We felt good about the snow, but you never really know until you get onto the face. Dane made a few tentative turns up high and then took it all the way down to the lower entry into the Ford. The snow was surprisingly good on the East Face, with the sun warming the surface just enough to create some early season “corn”. We all had a blast skiing the East Face, which is a feeling not many will ever have.
The Ford proved to be as much fun as the East Face, if possible, even a little more spicy. The 50 degree couloir ends in a 1000′ cliff, so each turn was made with care. We found good snow on the skiers right side of the couloir, some smooth firm snow on the left and made it down safely to the spot we stored our gear earlier.
We discussed rappelling into the Chevy from the anchors on the skiers right, at the bottom of the Ford, but decided to ski down a little lower to the first anchors in the Chevy. This slope was steep and very exposed, so we skied it gingerly and eventually got to the anchors, quickly getting ready for the rappels through the Chevy and Stettner. We rappelled twice in the Chevy and dug our an anchor on the lookers right of the Stettner below the entrance of the Chevy for our final rappel (definitely could have down climbed this portion). We were happy to have brought two 60m ropes for the day, allowing us to get out of harms way as soon as possible.
After making it down, we quickly made our way out of the Stettner and over to Glencoe Col. We gathered our skins, etc and got ready for the 5000′ ski down to the truck. We worked our way over to Teepee Col and made some fun turns down Teepee Glacier, eventually making our way down Garnet Canyon.
At this point we were exhausted, dehydrated and only wanted to make it down safe. The snow was decent all the way down, but that was just icing on the cake for us. We made quick work of the out from Bradley Lake and pulled into the Trailhead at 4:25pm, 15 hours after we had started in the moonlight. We were tired, but all felt great about what we had just accomplished. We rested our tired feet and had a few sodas, staring up at the Grand and the run we had just skied. It wasn’t long after that we started hatching plans for the next adventure in the park.