I've been back from my annual pilgrimage to Jackson, WY, for a few weeks now. I've had some good days in the Chugach and Anchorage Front Range. More on those later. But I've been meaning to share some images from my two weeks in the Tetons. So, here they are.
I arrived in Jackson at the end of a creepy cycle of deep slab instability. Most of my friends had avoided travelling into the heart of the range for several weeks. Warmer surface temperatures had been working their magic and stabilizing things while recent snowfall had been lacking. I arrived on Saturday afternoon and had immediate plans to get after it with a couple of strong partners the next day. I typically don't recommend coming from sea level and playing at 10,000 feet but conditions dictated otherwise. With only 12 days to play, I needed to make hay while the sun was shining.
First on the agenda was the Nez Perce Trifecta. The full story is here. That little adventure went as planned but it kicked my ass a bit. The next day was spent eating and napping.
Derek had a morning off so we rallied for a quick hit of couloir lovelyness off 25 Short. During my first week in Jackson, little cells of snow drifted in daily leaving two to four inches of fresh each day. The skinning was slippery but the skiing on the North aspects was good.
The ski out down Avalanche Canyon was a little Western, as usual, but it was a nice way to start the week.
I've looked at 4-Hour for years but never skied it. It became a bit notorious after local mountain celebrity Jimmy Chin took a big ride down it while filming for a Jeremy Jones movie segment. From the top of 25 Short it catches your eye. The entrance is slightly cryptic but I was able to find it without too much of a problem. The approach up Shadow Mountain is straight forward and popular. A guide friend of mine that I passed on the skinner up Shadow suggested that 4-Hour might not be that great of an idea but when I asked him if he'd skied it he replied, "...not this year." I've always lived my the adage that you don't know unless you go. I tend to discount opinions delivered in the coffee shop.
As it turned out, the steep entry was smooth, refrozen, supportable crust topped with 4 inches of feathers. It made for fun slough skiing. There was a little frozen debris about halfway but the rest was pure pleasure. And once I was below the shadow line on the apron it was cruiser pow to the floor.
At the bottom, I was at just over 2 hours for the tour so I decided to follow a skinner up the North side of Avalanche that looked fresh. I'd never skied up into the North Fork so it was a new adventure for me. I was still feeling the altitude so I stopped just above the lake and enjoyed amazing untracked snow all the way to the bottom before joining the luge track out to Taggart Lake. The tour also gave me an idea for another day's outing.
Next up was some fun on one of my favorite peaks off Teton Pass, Mt. Taylor. Back in the day, Taylor had a reputation of danger that seemed to keep most skiers away. There was a small crew of us that enjoyed seemingly unlimited stashes of goodness nearly all season long. But with the exploding popularity of backcountry skiing these days, Taylor sees the usual line of powderhounds after most storms. Still, Dina, Derek and I enjoyed some softness and variable snow on a mostly sunny morning. Clouds made for some dramatic viewing and the skiing was good, too.
Mt. Wister Circumnavigation
During our outings together, Derek told me about one of his favorite tours, heading up the South Fork of Avalanche Canyon, under the massive North Face of Buck Mountain, over the Wister-Veiled Peak divide and down the North Fork. This would get me up into more new terrain. The weather was settled enough and the stability improving. I was finally starting to feel acclimatized so I decided to add a lap up 25 Short and down Turkey Chute to start the festivities. I took my wonderful Hagan Cirrus skis with Dynafit PDG boots. This is the perfect set up for long tours with some real skiing along the way.
My 1:35 to the top of 25 Short was encouraging. My advancing years aren't hurting me too much, yet. The ski down to the start of the loop was fun. The ambiance under Buck is always magical. I've had some amazing experiences on those lines. I followed my nose toward to Veiled Peak and spied the low point next to Wister. The face below the saddle was a little creepy but hand pits suggested a uniform thick slab that I booted up without incident. The descent is a three-step affair, first to the edge of Snowdrift Lake, then down to Lake Taminah and, finally, down to the main fork of Avalanche Canyon. Aside from stumbling around some wind scoured rock slabs above Taminah, the descent was a joy with nearly trackless powder the whole way. Just a tick over 5 hours and 5,700' for this one. Super fun.
I took another easy day the next day and skiied a couple of mellow laps on Snow King while watching a friend's son ski race.
I managed to wrangle Derek again for some skimo enchainment fun. He tends to be a more casual ski tourer but he's fit and game to cover ground better than most. I've been wanting to ski these three lines for some time having already plucked them individually a few times over the years. Chute the Moon, Moonwalk and Skywalk Couloirs make up what I've termed the Lunar Link-Up. That latter two had not been skied recently so we had some adventure poking our skis onto them testing stability. Conditions were variable but fun. We ended the day booting back out and hitting the 25 Short slide path for nearly 3,000 feet of perfect boot deep powder.
A couple of easy days followed with friends hitting the familiar Maverick north side. We found lots of fresh turns and I enjoyed taking a couple of friends to my old haunts.
South Side Fun
Real storm snow finally moved in and my attention shifted from the Park to the Pass for some protected powder skiing below tree line. Back when I was a hard-charging skimo racer I spent countless hours farming the bowls, accumulating vertical in 1,000' shots. Ridgeline after ridgeline hide endless opportunities that simply see little traffic. I spent two days out there in the blowing snow, first with Emily and then with Dina, giggling at our good fortune having so much powder for ourselves. It proved to be a fitting end to another great stay in my favorite range.