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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After a week long hiatus from the park, I finally made time to go out for a ski. Dane, Noah and I decided on the Sliver Couloir, off Nez Perce Peak. It is a good early season warmup, with a relatively easy approach and straightforward decent. We started from Bradley/Taggart around 7:45am and were greeted with a mild inversion that made the first 20 minutes pretty uncomfortable. Once we warmed up, and gained some elevation, the day became very pleasant.
We had decided on approaching the Sliver from Shadow Peak, instead of Garnett Canyon because: Bradley Lake was still not crossable and it seems to be the fastest approach to the Sliver. Some people like booting up the access couloir above the “Platforms” in Garnett, but after doing that a few years ago, I swore off that approach once and for all. So, we made our way out and to the right, finding the moraine between Bradley and Taggart Lakes quickly. We continued on the moraine for a bit, making sure not to dump right on the skin track down to Bradley Lake and Garnett Canyon. We were at the base of Shadow Peak in around an hour and after a painless skin up (sometimes Shadow’s track can be awful), we were on top of Shadow Peak starring at the Sliver Couloir.
From Shadow, we downclimbed a mild rocky stretch to our left and made our way to the west facing couloir that takes you into the basin of Nez Perce and the entry to the Sliver. The snow was chalky and fun all the way down the 500′ pitch, keeping speed toward the end to cross the basin, towards the Sliver. Once in the basin, we were greeted by a frozen bootpack that looked to go to the top of the Sliver. This was a nice surprise, even though it felt a little like cheating. Nevertheless, we got into bootpack mode and started the 1800′ climb to the top of the couloir. It was relatively easy on the up, only finding trouble where the sun had warmed the snow enough to create failures in the bootpack. It took us an hour to climb up the couloir, and around 4 hours total from the trailhead. With the climbing done, we delicately kicked out a platform in the 45 degree slope to click into our skis and ready ourselves for the ski. We skied it in two sections from the top. The snow was not great in the upper half, consisting of breakable crust, wind affected hardback and sun affected slush. We all made some cautious jump turns down the steep, tight upper section to our meeting point in the middle of the couloir.
The bottom half of the couloir had been warming in the sun for a bit, so it was a lot more predictable and fun. We skied down from our meeting point one at a time, making some decent turns and finding much softer snow to work with than at the top. The bottom part of the run is ascetically appealing, giving it an elevator feeling. The walls are tight, but the slope is moderate (about 35 degrees), so you can really get into a flow and let loose. We each had a great run down to the bottom of the couloir, pulling out to the right above some cliffs to soak in the sun and take a little break.
We rested for a bit and contemplated booting up the west facing couloir we had skied down earlier to get back on top of Shadow, but decided against it. We skied down to our left, picking our way through boulders until we found some chutes that took us into the northern basin of Shadow. We traversed southeast and eventually found ourselves on the east side of Shadow Peak. Here, we found some great snow in the trees and corn-like skiing in the sun. We worked our way all the way down until we were back at the skin track on the moraine. We gingerly made our way down the moraine, being careful not to get tangled in the many downed trees.
Once out in the open and off the moraine, we quickly made our way back to the Bradley/Taggart trailhead and the celebratory beverage Noah had brought for each of us. All in all, it was a very fun day and had only taken us 6 hours roundtrip. Looks like there is some snow in the forecast for the weekend, so hopefully we can make it out for another adventure soon.