Saturday, March 14, 2015

The South Teton: Amora Vida Couloir

We got home from our Trifecta outing around 8PM on Wednesday evening.  That night, after being awake for some 40 hours (minus the little naps on the mountain), I had the darkest, deepest sleep in recent memory.  No child's cry was going to wake me.  

Refreshed, I awoke day dreaming about going back to the Tetons.  I watched the weather all day and realized that the forecast storm never really materialized.  One pleasant inch was all that fell and I began to hatch a plan to go back...that very night.  My in-laws are in town and I had a commitment on Saturday so to return, it would have to be done alpine style as a day trip.  Fortunately, my brother isn't very smart and he agreed to go along.  

Around 10 PM we finalized our plan.  We would leave SLC at 3:30 in the morning, rally to the park, climb the South Teton (which we knew would be relatively fast having just done it a couple days before), and then ski the Amora Vida Couloir.  We hoped to time the descent to find soft conditions with the predicted warm noon day sun.  We also hoped to be at the car at 2 PM and home for dinner by 6:30.  

I've been eyeing this line for some time now and got a good glimpse of it while skiing Mount Wister this January.  With gear still stinky and wet from the previous trip, I packed up and tried to sleep for a few hours.  

The drive went smoothly as we listened to a few podcasts of "This American Life" and we pulled into the Taggert lot at 8:30.  Gear vomited forth from Jason's truck and I had the damnedest time trying to adjust my crampons without any tools.  I always plan to pack at home but sometimes I can't tell which is more chaotic.  

At 9AM we were off, a bit late but not worried as the snowpack was frozen solid.  However, by the time we crossed the lake we were dripping sweat and the higher angle slopes were already softening. This increased the tempo and we made good time to the Meadows.   Unfortunately, we were both developing some hot spots that turned angry in a hurry.  I normally don't get blisters and chalked it up to being in boots too much over the past few days.  I guess that's a good problem to have.  

Our pace slowed dramatically as a fast cadence was more painful to the feet.  We bumbled along with growing blisters and managed to summit just under 3:30 which was as planned.  On top, it was another perfect day.  Warm, still, and crystal clear, we could have lounged around forever.   But, a slight tension was present as the south side of the South Teton seems to fall away into space and we had a little navigating to do and felt pressured by the sun.  

Jason led out from the summit and immediately was cliffed out.  He had gone too far east.  I skied due south and just past the ultra aesthetic and ultra gnarly Southeast Couloir, found a sneaky ramp to connect to the large hanging snow field above the entrance to the Amora Vida.   Tension gone, we enjoyed an inch of hot powder over the extremely firm surface underneath.  Our timing seemed perfect and we took turns laughing our way down this incredible line.  

The exit out Avalanche Canyon was still frozen in the shade and we rocketed out and across the lake. At the car just after 2PM, all that remained was the very familiar drive home.  

The Amora Vida is now one of my all time favorite descents and to have pulled it off as a day trip, sneaking away from our families and returning to be with them as if we had just been at work for the day feels like we just stole the world.  

Jason climbs out of the shadows and into the South Fork of Garnet Canyon with the Middle Teton looming above.
Jason topping out the South Teton with Wister and Buck beyond.

The summit of the South Teton with the Middle and Grand Tetons beyond.  (photo by JD)

Dropping off the summit block in search of the Amora Vida Couloir.  (photo by JD)

Left or right?  Jason contemplates his options. 

Skier's left was a short steep ramp to the upper Southeast face

The actually steep section was rather short but it still requires attention.  (photo by JD)

The entrance to the Amora Vida is at the first "notch" to the skier's right.  (photo by JD)

Jason has found the goods.  

Jason sneaks into the Amora Vida from the upper funnel like entrance. 

The entrance is from the notch above my left shoulder.  (photo by JD)
Jason relaxing into the lower half of the chute where the angle lessens. 

One of the best lines in the park? (photo by JD)

It's a five star line from a big peak.  (photo by JD)

Nearing the exit.  (photo by JD)

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