Saturday, May 7, 2011

Grand Teton Recon

Nate slipping on race skins

I've been itching for a bit of a change in scenery so for my day off this week I made a quick trip up to the Tetons to see if I could add fuel to my already intense desire to ski some of that stuff.  I joined local NB and our plan was to climb the North Ridge of the Middle Teton and then ski off the SW Couloir in an effort to smooth out part of a future traverse.  We figured that would be the most fun way up and the safest way down since there seems to be some lingering instability in the snow pack, although the consensus appears to be that up to around 11,500 feet conditions are decently safe.  

The day dawned clear but the predicted overnight freeze failed to occur at the lower elevations making the approach to Garnet through the isothermic mess a real time sink.

Once at the Meadows, conditions hardened and we were able to move quickly.  By all signs, it looked like we'd have a fabulous day.

Nez Perce and the Middle Teton

Spooky Face
As we traveled through the Meadows, a solemn feel took the air as we passed by the site of the huge recent SAR recovery effort.  It's sobering to realize that such a mistake could be so tragic.

The Spooky Face high on Nez Perce did not help the mood.

After booting up though a punchy lower headwall, we were greeted by incoming clouds, high winds, and snow flurries.  It didn't take long to agree to bail on the idea of spending the morning high on the Middle, trying not to get blown off.  Instead, we headed for the Teepee Glacier so I could get a better look at some future projects.  

Nate in the talus heading for the Teepee with the Middle Teton in the background

The evocative Grand Teton hiding in the clouds

We traveled up onto the Teepee where still finding seemingly stable snow, I began to become intoxicated by the allure of the Grand.  I wanted to "just keep going until things got sketchy" and turn around there.  It took multiple attempts for Nate to talk me back to reality. 

In the Wasatch, we often push through bad weather, climbing or skiing in storms, and are familiar with the snowpack.  The Tetons seem to merit more respect.

As a consolation, we decided to ski the Dike Couloir into Glacier Gulch to make a scenic tour out of the day.
Nate dropping into the Dike Couloir

Nate hiking back out of the Dike Couloir

We made about 5 turns and pulled over above a steep rollover.  The aspect was slightly NW and the snow felt a little more slabby than everything else we had encountered thus far.  We reasoned that Glacier Gulch would look about the same as Garnet Canyon so we played it safe and booted back out. It's that damn Rando Steve's fault for putting the fear of the avalanche in us. 

The ski out transitioned from hardpack to corn (briefly) to isothermic slop.  Conditions are approaching a transitioning point and with a bit of high pressure could lead to some big goals finally being realized.  

NB skiing out Garnet Cayon

For all of you out there still praying for snow..STOP IT!  It's ruining my spring.  

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