Once upon a Time. in the Tetons

Been thinking about visiting the Tetons this week…
So recalling my last trip down there, figured I might share a short story.
One where I was fortunate enough to ski off the Grand Teton, in Mint conditions.  Alone, and almost accidentally…

note the black speck on the upper snowfield.  photo by Jason Smith

The Grand Teton is probably the most iconic mountain in the United States.
It also has a handful of very attractive ski mountaineering routes.   However, I wasn’t interested in skiing it.   Figured I could count on all the moderates to be a  Zoo, any time conditions were good.  So my initial plan was to explore Leigh Canyon (Thor Peak and Mt. Moran), following a day of ski touring around Sylvan Pass.  I had two days off from work.

Driving over Sylvan Pass that mid June morning, things were frozen solid, with a thick rainy fog.  Guess it would be on to the Tetons, sooner than later.  Thinking perhaps a casual morning, and a Dusk Patrol may be in order.  The weather forecast called for gradually clearing skies, followed by a brief window of bluebird.

Near noon, I set off from the String Lake trailhead, bushwacking around Leigh Lake.  Hoping to have a go at the stunning SW couloir of Mt. Moran.  However, about an hour and a half in to the approach, I felt a vehement inclination to pull the plug.  Tomorrow would be the day.  Though linking Moran and the GFT back to back would be bliss, I felt it wise to put all of my eggs in one basket.  (one in the hand beats two in the bush)  Like it or not, the Grand had sent me an invitation.  One I had to accept.  For conditions were In.

So south to Jackson I drove.  I hadn’t brought any ice screws.  Figured the least I could do was bring one for Abalakov anchors.  Full retail or not, there was to be a party.

Caught a few hours of shut-eye at the Lupine Meadows trailhead, drank a big brew of mate’, and soon set off under the radiant moonlight.  Awesome how you can often know well ahead of time when the day will be a good one.
Sure enough it was.

Good morning Middle Teton.

On up the Stettner Couloir.. Typical morning enthusiasm took me right past the Chevy (my planned route).  And rather than downclimb back to the entrance, I traversed some moderate mixed terrain over to the Ford Couloir.  Stubborn.  And fun.

Easing on up into the Ford, I found lots of fresh snow!  Stable, boot-top powder over a smooth, supportable base.  Time to drop the hammer.

The upper east snowfield was brilliant.  Perfect snow texture, great light and Lots of air.

Party on!

So yeah, it went.  In powder.  Spindrift sure picked up on the descent though!  (the Chevy is a wind funnel.  hence the ice beard)  Wished I had brought some googgles!  Kept the rope in my ruck the whole day.  Fairly sporting downclimbing, with the blowing snow as it was.    But all in all, a fantastic experience.  Not one I’d necessarily recommend, unless of course, conditions are In!