Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Teewinot East Face

Dawn breaking as we backtrack to get back on route
 On April 30th, we left the Taggert TH on bikes eager to go explore the heart of the Tetons, which to me is Glacier Gulch.  Figuring that going over Teewinot is as good a way as any, the plan was to climb the East Face and then ski out the SW Couloir into GG where we could spend the day playing around. 

We started on dirt but soon enough were skinning over firm snow as we more or less ascended along the standard hiking route.  We followed a set of boot tracks and thought they must have belonged to a couple eager mountaineers.  In the dark, we followed these tracks until it became apparent that we had crossed the East Face and were ascending a small ridge to the climber's right.  Clinging to a good thing, we stayed in the booter until it was too late.  The tracks abruptly ended at the base of a large rocky headwall.  This made the second time in 6 days that we've gotten lost on Teewinot (and I've climbed the East Face twice).  Frustrated, I pushed higher through a steep icy choke.  Stemming and making use of the whippets, I came to what initially appeared to be an easy low angle chimney.  On closer inspection, it was guarded by an overhanging boulder move that seemed just to rad to pull at 5 in the morning.  We did have a small rack and ropes and debated potentially wasting more time.  In the end, we reversed our tracks and got back on route.  

Dead end for us

As we climbed, we noticed more new snow than expected and concern was voiced over the depth of many drifts.  Some quick hand pits were reassuring and there were no overt signs of instability.  Still, the terrain felt consequential and given Jason's recent involvement in a friend's rescue, some extra prudence seemed reasonable.  

Through the narrows, the snow was firm as the new fluff had been transported elsewhere by the wind. Jason and I took turns putting in the booter and  soon, we again found ourselves scrambling to the top of Teewinot's crazy summit, Adam's first in the Tetons.  We snapped the obligatory photos, down climbed the ridge back to our skis, and then debated our next move.  Deciding that the safest option was to ski what we had climbed, we ripped skins and began this classic Teton descent.  

Looking back to the East Face where we should have gone in the first place

Back on track and through the Narrows

Adam nears the summit ridge

Looking at some spectacular ski potential to the north

The HM looking wild

Adam Fabrikant, psyched to tag his first Teton Summit

The upper East Face from just off the summit ridge was a mix of textured hard pack and breakable but the position was fantastic.  Adam set off first and eased his way through the upper choke.  Jason and I followed and were all able to keep skis on (167 in length). We skied one by one through patches of decent powder but could never get comfortable because hard runnels, frozen debris, and variable snow were lurking with any given turn.  However, once below the Idol and the Worshiper, the snow surface became more smooth and we enjoyed fine late April powder.  This transitioned eventually to supportable hard pack before transitioning to dirt where we found our shoes waiting.  

Skiing high on Teewinot's East Face (photo by Jason Dorais)

Adam on the expansive East Face.  Idol and Worshiper visible.

Jason making the best of the variable conditions

Adam finally finding some spring powder

East Face of Teewinot with the summit in the clouds as we got back to the bikes
In the end, it was another fine Teton adventure and a new ski decent for all of us.  Looking around while driving out of the park, there's a life time of skiing up there but so few days to fit it all in.  Now that the road is open, the logistics are much easier so maybe I'll have to make another trip next week to see if I can get lost on Teewinot for a third time.  Anyone interested? 


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