Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Forcing Teewinot

Early morning light catching us while ascending Glacier Gulch
Sitting in a room at Motel 6, listening to thunder, I'm reflecting on the year and our still very long "to do" list.  Jason and I have this whole week off and planned on working on some "larger" projects in the Tetons.  Unfortunately, JD must not have been living right because the forecast today was for 80 percent chance of showers and highs in the 60s at 10,000 feet.  Sadly, this appeared to be the best day of the week so we geared up for every possible scenario and started biking to Lupine Meadows just after 3AM (road opens May 1st).

The GT in early morning light

Both of us have used this TH multiple times and thought we knew how to get around in the mountains.  The plan was to follow the summer trail to the Amphitheater Lake turnout and then head up into Glacier Gulch.  Somehow in the moonless night, we lost the trail and spent a full hour walking in a circle.  Happening upon our up track, we thought we'd found the way.  Then, seeing the freshness of the tracks through the isothermic snow, we realized we had been completely turned around.  Sheepishly backtracking until discovering our initial wrong turn, we set the course straight.

Finding more isothermic snow that was hidden by a weak rain crust after Delta Lake, we were not hopeful that we'd get anything done.  Laboring onward under the weight of heavy packs, we decided to poke around Teewinot and started up the SW Couloir.

Skinning up the shoulder of Teewinot
Scrambling over to Teewinot's summit ridge (photo by Jason Dorais)

Looking down Teewinot's East Face (photo by Jason Dorais)
The snow conditions continued abysmal but the scenery was striking.  We traded trail breaking duties and soon found ourselves working our way above the East Face and toward the summit ridge.  A bit of scrambling deposited first Jason and then me on Teewinot's wildly beautiful summit.

Jason on Teewinot's small and wild summit

Looking down into Cascade Canyon from Teewinot's wild summit
Looking toward Mount Owen from Teewinot's wild summit.  NE Snowfields visible.

Lounging on the summit ridge

Skiing the upper SW aspect of Teewinot (photo by Jason Dorais)
Entering the SW Couloir on Teewinot.  GT, Middle, and South Tetons in background (photo by Jason Dorais)

JD negotiating tough conditions in the SW Couloir

Rain crust or isothermic?

As we crossed the upper East Face on both the ascent and descent we understood our day was done.  The storm was yet to materialize but the bluebird skies and strong sun were wreaking havoc to the already poorly structured snowpack.  With the clock ticking, we reversed our course and enjoyed perhaps the worst turns of the year back to the summer trail.  There, we played the skis on/skis off game a dozen times before committing to walking through and around the slush back to the trailhead.   Unaccustomed to the bike, it was surprising to find how sore our butts were on the ride back to the car  and the end to our woeful adventure.

Sore butts and heavy loads

Still psyched about the day
With continued unsettled weather in the Tetons, a poorly structure snowpack, and a rapidly receding snow line in the Wasatch, I wonder if the year is over?  Teewinot was a good consolation prize but I'm still eager to explore a bit more.  We have a few days to mull it over, but for now, we're turning tail and heading back to SLC.  Every year I shake my head at all those impatient souls who hang up the skis and start mountain biking in the mud.  While I don't bike, it might be time embrace that idea and start hitting the trails (on foot).  

But then again, next week the weather looks cooler in the Tetons...


  1. The Dorais boys on bikes? From where did you scrounge them up?

  2. another awesome adventure!
    I really need to quit this running crap and join you guys
    it looks considerably more fun