Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mount Moran and the Skillet Glacier

Bad weather and lack of snow forced us out of Colorado and into the always stunning Tetons. We pulled into the park around 2 pm and stopped by the Jenny Lake ranger station to get some permits to camp by one of the lakes. We asked about skiing the Skillet and were told, "That is DEFINITELY not recommended right now." We were told the conditions were like midwinter with unconsolidated snow and high avy danger. They even tried to scare us off reporting an avalanche and partial burial at the lower saddle headwall that had occurred TWO weeks earlier. Sheesh. Not that we're gnarly experts or anything, but it was obviously not as they reported. We kindly asked for our permits anyway and went to check it out.

Dressed to the nines and carrying skis along the Leigh Lake trail we got some odd looksRightfully so, as we were in 3/4 tights with matching neon green shirts. But most of the quizzical looks were accompanied by questions about where the heck we were going to ski. Guess no one bothered to look up at the snow draped mountains.

Once the lakes thaw, most sources seem to recommend taking a boat across Jackson Lake or String then Leigh Lakes to approach the Skillet Glacier. We didn't feel the hassle was worth it and opted for the super mellow FLAT 4 miles along the shoreline of String, Leigh, Bearpaw, and Trapper lakes to where the trail ended. At the end of Trapper Lake, we found a campsite complete with a fire ring, chopped wood, benches, and perfectly flat ground. We couldn't resist, but decided we'd finish the approach and drop our skis at the base of the Glacier. Since the last mile would be bushwhacking through unknown terrain, we wanted to figure it out in the light. On the way out, we were attacked by shrubs, branches, thorns, and rocks. The way back by comparison, was a joy, as we followed deer trails, angling from the lateral moraine southeast through the trees. So for those who may use this approach, the easier way is to head north from Trapper Lake while always bearing slightly left (uphill into the pine trees) until you find yourselves boulder hopping directly below the Glacier.

We got an early start and had little trouble finding our way back to our skis. Pretty soon, we were skinning in the morning alpenglow.

5000 feet and a couple hours later

From the notch at the top of the upper handle, it's only a couple hundred feet south to the true summit. JD on the summit of Mount Moran, 12,605

The heart of the Tetons, now without JD ruining the picture.

The Hidden Couloir on Thor Peak beckons for another day

Perfect weather with adequate snow straight from the summit

From the notch, elated

Here's a series from the upper part of the Skillet. Photos by JD

Pretty blissful stuff. Even the hike down the broken deer trails back to the tents was peaceful. But then...
A marmot was messing with my tent as we got close to camp so in an idiotic moment I tossed a rock and it and well...put that hole in my tent. Genius.

On a little side note, the whole day was fueled by half a pop tart. No, not half a package. Half of a single pop tart. About 3/4 of the way up we realized we hadn't had anything to eat since leaving the tents. We didn't want to stop, and nothing really sounded good. Too much Gu and bars over the last few weeks I guess. Anyway, we have been on a kick lately to eat nothing on the descent and hike out so as to make our first meal that much better (we always have food if needed but try to save our appetites to really binge once off the mountain). This time, the fast was on from the beginning, and you better believe the McDonald's was mind blowingly DELICIOUS!

And, on another side note, this is a line I would highly recommend. A runnel is forming and some wet debris is present but both are easily avoidable. Better get on it soon.

As Modest Mouse says, "Blame it on the Tetons." The love affair continues.

Back in SLC...


  1. I've had my eye on that run for a while. Nice work in getting that done. How far down were you able to ski?

  2. okay all I got out of that whole post was that your neon green shirts are sweeeeeet!!!

  3. Hey Layne, we were able to ski down to about 7500 feet and then had to walk down the talus to our "trail" in the woods. I think the lakes sit at around 6700, so it really wasn't too bad. And Laura, green shirts are AWESOME as are 3/4 length tights for just about any activity!

  4. I just discovered your blog...I am now jealous enough to kill myself....but I won't...I want to go adventuring sometime. I now have tons of time.