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 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.
With a small storming dropping a few inches on us recently and a weather window opening, Dane and I decided to tackle a larger line off the South Teton. Amor a Vida, meaning Love Life in Spanish, is a beautiful couloir off of the South Teton. I had booted up it a few years back, but with warming temperatures that day, did not connect the South Face of the South Teton to the couloir. Dane and I got an early start, leaving Bradley-Taggart around 6:20am and made quick work of the skin into the Meadows.
We worked our way up to the left and into the South Fork of Garnet Canyon, very surprised that the track was in great shape and the wind was calm. As we came up below the Ellingwood and Chouinard Couloirs, we noticed a few guys slowly making progress up the Ellingwood. The snow looked deep, so we were hopeful that pour couloir was holding some similar snow.
We proceeded up canyon, making our way through the mine field of rocks that litter the South Fork. There is enough coverage to skin through this section, which is great, but you have to be careful with each step. We found ourselves below the North Face of the South Teton, with a ramp of snow leading us towards the ridge and the Northwest Couloir.
Just below the ridge, we switched over to bootpack mode and quickly gained the ridge and made our way into the Northwest Couloir. The snow was pretty consolidated, which made for a relatively easy climb up.
Once out of the couloir, we were greeted with sunshine and a calm day in the high alpine. We still had about 100′ of climbing until we were at the summit, but were excited to be in the sun. We made our way through some deep snow and over a few rocks, until we were standing on top of the South Teton. The weather was perfect and we both felt great about the climb and ski ahead.
We geared up and discussed our options for getting to the South Face. Dane had skied the Southeast Couloir last year and thought that we could ski the snowfield directly left of the summit down and then cut hard right to get onto the South Face. We skied two turns down the snowfield to get a look and determined that the coverage was a little low for that entry onto the South Face. We made our way back up to the summit and to the right of a rock bulge separating the snowfield and a scree field that lead to the South Face. After making our way through the snow covered scree, we got a good look at the South Face and the lower entry to the Southeast Couloir.
The South Face looked skiable, but we could tell that the snow was going to be varied; sun crust, wind crust, breakable crust, and powder. Dane skied onto the face and tested out the steep upper pitch with a quick ski cut, then made his way through some rock bands to a safe spot on the right.
From here, we made some fun pow turns down the face and towards the entry to Amor a Vida. Even with the avalanche danger low, the exposure (1000′ cliff) below the South Face makes you focus on your every move.
We got to the entry, but had to double check that it was in fact the Amor a Vida Couloir. After a quick check, we confirmed that we were in the right spot and worked our way down the rock filled entry.
Once into the couloir, we tried to get a look at the tight upper section of the couloir proper (skiers left). It looked like it went, but was barely a ski length wide, so we opted to cross right over a few rock bands and approach the couloir from the snowfields. This exposed us to large hanging snowfields above, but we felt pretty good about the snow and quickly worked our way down through the rock bands.
From here, we worked our way down and to our left into the main path of the couloir. Amor a Vida is one of the most amazing couloirs in the Tetons, with massive overhanging rock walls, a great pitch and some fun skiing. We had a blast getting down the run, taking it in numerous sections to ensure we were taking it all in. The couloir was predominately powder in the main path, with a few pockets of crust, but overall it was amazing skiing!
After making it down the 1600′ couloir safe, we still had about 2500′ of skiing until we hit the Avalanche Canyon traverse. We milked the turns and were just pumped to have skied such a fun run. We made it back to the trailhead in 8hrs and were already looking forward to more adventures in this special place we call home.
Snow Conditions: Powder, some sun crust under 6″-10″ of new light density snow.
The return of snow! The feeling of fresh snow returned to us on Friday with the onslaught of fresh snow falling on the Tetons once again. Tristan and I decided last Thursday night to head into the park to try and get some powder turns and a little storm skiing. Leaving the trailhead at 7am we cruised up into the Meadows area in around 2 hours.
Working our way through the Meadows and into the apron of West and East Hourglass, we made good progress through the spitting snow. There was a persistent crust and some wind packed rollers that became very slick with the new snow. On the way down this made for some interesting / tentative skiing. Switching over to the boot pack, we opted for crampons and soon were knee to waist deep in newly deposited snow in the lower half of the West Hourglass.
The middle and top sections were a bit rocky, but to the skiers left, there was plenty of snow for some good skiing. We were happy to be dropping into a storm filled couloir once again. It was a great climb up, and with the return of snow and wind we felt lucky to be there.
On the lower section, right at the roll over, I managed to kick off a small soft slap that went roughly 400 feet down into the apron. I had plenty of speed to ski off to the right and get out of the way. It was a reminder that with only a few inches and the right wind, things can get serious pretty quickly. But we were good and happy.