|Photo courtesy of ZB|
We have a theory that three people for big objectives is overall faster than two given matched abilities. I think overall psych stays higher and trail breaking/load carrying can be divided enough to offset the natural delays built into a three person team. We went about looking for a capable partner and eventually selected Tom. For a little back story, Tom is a professional triathlete who tore up the ski mountaineering scene this year. He made the US team, raced well at World's, and beat me in every race. He's a great skier and has unlimited enthusiasm although it's sometimes muted behind a quiet demeanor. It may be best to describe his enthusiasm through story. On Wednesday morning, I called Tom to offer the invite at 11 AM. "Give me 10 minutes and I'll call you back." Three hours later he was packed and standing in my drive way after canceling whatever other obligations he may have had. The caveat(s) were that he had never been to the Tetons. He had never been ice climbing. He had never been tied into a rope in the mountains or even rappelled. Ha! He was about to get an introduction to all of that with eyes wide open.
With so little time (we had an evening and a day) we wanted to do as much as possible. I know there are probably a thousand cool things to ski in the Park but it's hard to ignore the Grand. Our plan was to start there and if all went well, keep skiing until we ran out of psych, time, energy, or as conditions dictated. Luckily, while driving up, we got a hold of Zahan who gave us the beta on the GT after guiding the Ford/Stettner that day. "Blower pow from the summit!" he said. With a full moon and lingering snow from the trailhead, we were amply psyched so as to not get any sleep before the alarms starting going off.
We made good time skinning from the trailhead to the Meadows on refrozen smooth snow. I barely noticed the heavy pack, energized by the moon light, a fair amount of caffeine, and dancing thoughts of the coming day. We slowed as we ascended the headwall and then the Teepee as conditions began to worsen. Breakable crust was hinting at the damage done by the previous day's warm sun and portended struggle.
|Below the Teepee Pillar with a full moon (photo by JD)|
|Self portrait in the Chevy|
|Jason surmounting the last ice bulge in the Chevy|
|Finishing up the Chevy (photo by JD)|
Out of the Chevy and into the Ford it was like we stepped onto another planet. The heinous winds ceased, the sun was up, and the summit no longer felt in question. We plodded along, trading leads up the Ford until we pulled out onto the Southeast Face of the Grand where it surprisingly just made more sense to skin.
|Climbing out of the Chevy and into the Ford Couloir (photo by JD)|
|Jason and Tom nearing the top of the Ford Couloir|
|SKINNING TO THE SUMMIT! And putting Aliens on the Moon! (Photo by JD)|
|Mostly psyched but I think Tom looks like he's going to cry for some reason...maybe just so overjoyed! (JD)|
We made somewhat enjoyable turns down the sub ridge dividing the Ford and the East Face on increasingly stout breakable crust. We convened below a small rocky outcrop and it was time to commit. I traversed out onto the East Face until I could see straight down the STEEP narrow choke to the Otter Body and the abyss beyond. I wanted to take the fall line and avoid the steep roll over to the skier's right but previous slough and the overnight freeze made me reconsider. My freshly tuned skis skittered on the icy surface and I turned back. I was nervous but my desire to get off the face overwhelmed any notion of waiting around to let things soften. We would just deal with it and ski slowly.
|Pretty gnarly exposure|
|Sliding into our pseudo island of safety to join Jason|
|Tom joins us as I take a concerned look at the choke down to the OB snowfield (photo by JD)|
Now on the "sharp end" so to speak, I made one turn at a time above the choke that leads to the Otter Body itself. I kept stopping and straining my eyes, hoping to see the anchor. Just the day before I had asked Z if we could just side slip the choke as if it would be no big deal. Now, it was real. It felt serious and legitimately terrifying with the whole East Face above me and the very airy Otter Body below. I quit making turns and started slipping my way to the first rock outcrop where I suspected the anchor to be. Then I took my skies off and down booted the last few feet only to find that I'd been duped and the anchor was ten feet further. I didn't care anymore about skiing the whole thing though. The position was tremendous and although I was able to appreciate our surroundings, I wanted off before it got too hot.
|Making increasingly steep and icy turns down to the choke (photo by JD)|
|Tom's turn as I ready the rappel (photo by JD)|
Tom came down as I readied the rappel. One sixty meter rope just did the trick. I waited to the skier's left as Tom came down onto the Otter Body as well. With Jason now on rappel, Tom went off in search of the first anchor and made crisp turns toward the Tail. Z had told us that the OB had a sort of lip on the outer edge and that it would "cradle" us back toward the rock. That was utter BS and it felt like it wanted to puke us off the big cliff down to the Teepee. Still, the main portion of the snowfield was more mellow than what we had previously encountered and I enjoyed the firm turns toward the tail.
|Tom rapping on the Otter Body snowfield (photo by JD)|
|Tom coming off rappel...the first of his life!|
|The author enjoying turns on the Otter's body (photo by JD)|
|Jason approaching the tail and the end of the line for skiing|
|It goes for some but not us... at least not in those conditions on that day.|
Our beta was that three double rope raps from fixed anchors is becoming the standard but as we down climbed we hadn't found any. Since adventure skiing was the name of the game we had brought a handful of pins and nuts and I started looking for a place to build a suitable anchor. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw some tat sticking through the snow. Sure enough, it proved to be adequate and off I went in search of the next one. Having completed one rap in his life now, Tom was quickly becoming an expert and came down next. With Jason down too, I rigged the last rap after adding a pin until it rang high and true.
|Tom starting the first rap down to the Teepee|
|Tom about to set down on the Teepee with the big cliff overhead|
|The author PSYCHED to be on the Teepee (photo by JD)|
|Yeah, Tom was psyched too!|
Thanks to Z for the beta and the hospitality and to Jason and Tom for another great day in the mountains. It was one of the best!
SCARPA Alien 1.0 with gaiter
Ski Trab Maestro skis
Plum Race 145
Black Diamond Whippets
Ski Trab Race Helmet
Ski Trab Dragon speed suit and wind pant, and gloves
Outdoor Research Centrifuge Jacket, Transcendent Hoody, Helium II Shell, and Luminary Gloves
Grivel Quantum Tech Tools and other assorted heavy climbing stuff...