Saturday, March 28, 2015

V Notch, Apocalypse, and the Son of Apocalypse Couloirs

After our late start on Wednesday, we knew we needed to get up early and get high to beat the heat and find good snow.  We are lucky to know Zahan Billimoria, who made a couple suggestions, gave us the beta on route finding, and even fed us dinner and welcomed us into his home for a short night's sleep.  Z is one of the nicest guys on the planet and is always psyched, always supportive, and is one of the most inspiring people I've met.  He has a family with two kids a little older than mine and I hope that I can emulate him in more ways than just his ski mountaineering.  

We sat by his computer and bounced around ideas for the day.  Eventually, we settled on the following.  The plan was to get up early, cross Phelps Lake in the dark, and ascend to the top of the Apocalypse Couloir.  From there, we would get a look at the V Notch Couloir, perhaps link them both, and then if conditions allowed, add on the Son of Apocalypse.  Sometimes, everything goes exactly according to one's whimsical plans. 

We broke trail the entire day, didn't see a single soul, and skied steep but stable powder until Jason declared, "Well, I think we've gotten our Teton fix for a bit."  That usually means about a day but at least we were content.  

We were reasonably high by the time the light turned sharp

Near the top of the V Notch, there was a bouldery ice step that prompted the use of ropes and sharp objects.  

photo by Jason Dorais

We topped out the line and found nothing but white.  It's just as well since the summit of Prospector is apparently closed to human traffic to protect the big horn sheep.  Photo by Jason Dorais

We skied back to the small rock band and placed an anchor. 

A look down at the minimal but engaging crux

Time to ski.

This chute is reasonably steep but the soft snow made it carefree.

Photo by Jason Dorais

Photo by Jason Dorais

Out onto the apron.

The aptly named V Notch decorated with our tracks. 

We skinned back up to the top of the Apocalypse and after some rooting around, found the slings at the base of a large tree.  We knew there would be three rappels but it still seems odd that this line doesn't fill in to the top.  I suppose the prevailing winds prevent it, but DAMN would that be nice.  

For the first rap, the rope was handy.  For the second two, it was only useful to lower over a couple small rock steps that interrupted the steep snow.  This was nice as our rope was just a little short for the second rap (we were using one 60).  

Once in the cave, we donned skis and I belayed Jason as he ski cut the hell out of the upper Apocalypse.  I then skied to his position and gave it my best shot while he belayed.  Satisfied, we laughed our way down this insanely classic Teton chute.  

From the top.  Photo by Jason Dorais

The second rappel with the small rock step below me.  Photo by Jason Dorais

Jason rappelling the upper Apocalypse

The third and final rap with the last rock bulge below Jason.

Free of the rope! Photo by Jason Dorais

Around the corner and entering the main couloir.  Photo by Jason Dorais

Jason approaches the icy choke

Jason trying to decide if it "goes"

It goes!  But required some ugly turns and hip checking into the rock wall on the left.  Photo by Jason Dorais

Through the ice crux, happy to have kept skis on. 

Photo by Jason Dorais

Pleased with the day but not ready to be done, we skied to the apron of the Son of Apocalypse to get a look.  Our main concern was the sun and the danger involved in climbing a chute with some big terrain above us.  Fortunately, the wind picked up and the skies were becoming more overcast so we decided to start up with the pact to turn around at the first sign of instability.  

The only instability we found was in ourselves.  The benefit of being alone in the mountains is paid for by trail breaking and this seemed to be taking a toll.  With heavy packs and deep snow, I resigned myself to just be uncomfortable.  We thought it would take an hour to boot the chute but the truth was closer to two.  

As we topped out I got a text from Z that read, "How are we doing boyz?"  

About to drop into the Son of Apocalypse after two great lines already, the answer was most definitely, "Psyched!"

Jason booting up the Son of Apocalypse

Skiing the upper bowl before it funnels into the chute. Photo by Jason Dorais

Photo by Jason Dorais

Photo by Jason Dorais

The long walk home across Phelps Lake


  1. Super dope. Gunning for most of this tomorrow! Am I crazy? We will definitely have some pins and a light rack! Thanks for the inspiration - great link up.