Saturday, October 29, 2011

Late October Teton Psych!

Well, here goes the usual story...

I had a day off of work and was fiending for some excitement.  Luckily, I know a few other addicts who happened to be available for a rowdy ski trip into Garnet Canyon in GTNP.  I say rowdy because there really isn't a lot of snow up there, but we were going to find some skiing anyway, regardless of the conditions.

Jared and I left SLC Wed evening and made it to Jackson without getting pulled over. We tumbled into the Professor's house, where he had set up the hide-a-bed.  Jared was against sharing and inadvertent cuddling so he took the floor (this would change later).  First the Dutchman, and then the irrepressible Kim Young, showed up on Brian's door in the morning.  We were to be a crew of five searching for elusive October powder.

We started just after 8:00 down the Lupine Trail, half jogging to warm up.  In the parking lot, the temperature was in the 30s and we were all chilled, wearing our standard lycra.  An hour and a half later, we strolled through the Meadows and sat down to exchange running shoes for ski boots.  The lower angle fall light and the crisp autumn temperatures aided our gleeful mood as we sat in the snow dusted talus debating our next move.  All eyes were drawn upward by a swath of white coming out of the West Hourglass Couloir that looked skiable.    

The boys finding reasonable conditions in the West Hourglass Couloir, Nez Perce
Kim Young finding unreasonable conditions in the West Hourglass Couloir, Nez Perce
What we found was boiler plate through the lower section, which inspired us to don our crampons, then a brilliant slope of creamy powder, before the upper stretch of rock strewn, wind scoured, alpine ice/névé.  Curious, we pushed to the top since Jared and I had never been there before.  Looking over the South Fork of Garnet Canyon, the mountains felt large.

Waiting to regroup, we put on all available scraps of clothing in a futile attempt to stay warm.  With the wind chill hovering around zero, I was wearing two puffy coats over two smaller jackets.  Jared was a little worse off and now was more than willing to cuddle to stay warm.  Kim nearly threw up from the pain in her hands as she topped out the couloir.  I think Nate and Brian were unfazed as they looked at us with pity for being so weak. 

Motivated to get moving, the group down climb ensued until we were back on reasonable terrain to start skiing.
Alpine ice, dirt, rock, and a little snow kept the skis on our backs

The Professor's first turns of 2011/12
Once we finally put our skis on, we found what we were looking for...

...better than expected skiing with a bit of dry powder to sluff around.  Then we hit the lower slopes which, being less protected, were bullet. No matter.  Everyone was smiling and commenting about how enjoyable the skiing was. Carefree, and unfettered by thoughts of the world below, everyone was easy as we moved towards the Middle Teton.
The Middle Teton Glacier
Nate sneaks above the bergschrund
Jared sped away, skinning the glacier while the rest of us pursued "Teton Style", trudging upwards with skis on our backs.  It seems backcountry skiers in the Wasatch prefer to keep their skis on their feet and skin as much as possible.  I do.  Jared does.  We both feel it's more efficient and quite possibly faster.  Wasatch style or Teton style? Which do you prefer?  

Initially, we thought we might be satisfied with skiing the lower glacer, but the allure of steep powder plastered to the upper couloir proved too much.  The slope angle came in at 51 degrees, and no one could believe the mid winter conditions.  We were about to make turns in stable powder on a steep classic line in the Tetons, in October.  It was perfect.  As we topped out the couloir, we found ourselves standing at the notch between the Dike Pinnacle and the main summit of the Middle.  The air was calm and the autumnal sun was enhancing all the colors around us.  Even Jared seemed content to absorb the view as he shelved the idea of going to the summit.  

High on the Middle Teton having a perfect day


Kim Young hanging with the boys

The flying Dutchman

October powder?

End of the road...
Unfortunately, the facade of winter ended while still well above the Meadows as we eked out the last few meters of turns.  With the pyramidal shadows stretching past the Snake River, no one seemed bothered by the inconvenience of hiking as the mood remained elevated throughout the 4+ miles back to the trailhead.  For nearly 8000 feet of climbing, everyone looked pretty spry back at the cars. 

Back in town, we exchanged quick good byes with our Jackson buddies and  then made the well familiar drive back to SLC, only getting pulled over twice.  

When's my next day off...?

Brilliant home movie pending...


  1. Yah 'Merican friends!!!! Way to earn it. It's been clagged and grey in the Purcells everyday for the last few weeks, wicked you guys are having good weather & snow down there.

  2. Thanks Ian! Not much snow but just enough... You guys coming down this year for any races?