Showing posts with label Tetons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tetons. Show all posts

Friday, May 19, 2017

Splitboarding Corn in the Tetons

When it comes to split board (or ski) mountaineering, there is nowhere else I’d rather be when April and May roll around then the Tetons. Sure, there are many quintessential places to sharpen your teeth, but I’m totally enamored by the nooks and crannies my backyard offers every spring. While the valley below is thawing out, the Tetons rise between 10-13,000 feet and hold snow well into June during a heavy winter season. It's the perfect time to harvest corn and explore the deeper reaches of the range while many have tired of skiing.

Sunrise. Mt Saint John front and center with Rockchuck Peak and Mt Moran to the right.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Teton Skiing 2012

I have finally succumbed to summer. My skis are bedded away after an incredible May in the Tetons.

Despite a relatively meager snowpack in the West this last winter, Spring skiing conditions in the Tetons were perfect in May. Corn skiing in the Tetons is not as easy to find as, say, in the Sierra where cold, clear nights and warm days are commonplace in the Spring. Spring skiing in the Tetons is often obstructed by unstable weather and late season dumps. And the rocky, cliff-riddled nature of the skiing requires a deep snowpack up high.

Luckily, despite a relatively low snow year in the Tetons this winter, warm Spring storms deposited plenty of late season snow above 10,000' and May was blessed with cold clear nights and sunny days. As a result we had plenty of snow in the alpine and pool table smooth conditions up until a 2' dump on Memorial Day weekend which subsequently gutted the range with runnels and debris.

This May I guided several parties down the Grand Teton via the East Face-Ford Coulior route. The clients had trained on a lot of steep, exposed terrain in the Alps and at Valdez Heli-Ski Guides, providing them with the needed level of comfort in the No-Fall Zone.

Skiing the Grand requires that skiers negotiate 50+ degree terrain while skiing above a precipitous ice-choked coulior. While rappelling is necesary to descend the iciest of sections, the goal of such an outing is still to ski all that is skiable. While guiding, ski-belays are necessary but hopefully minimized if the client is extensively trained in steep and exposed terrain. The most successful clients have trained in both the Alps and in Valdez, Alaska where the No-Fall Zone is easilly accessed, respectively,  via a 20 minute tram or a 2 minute flight.

Ascending Shea's Chute on the Middle Teton, an excellent warm-up run which requires skiing sustained 50+ terrain.

Shane Toohey ascending the Stettner Coulior on the Grand Teton. The East Face of the Middle Teton is seen in the background.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Best Of Both Worlds, by Chris Thomas

I was truly torn on what to do for the weekend.  On the one hand I had just been to a stellar limestone crag in NE Utah for the first time and was desperate to go back and finish up a couple of routes I had tried.  One the other hand it was mid-august, 100 degrees in Salt Lake, and the idea of going ice climbing at 12,000 feet in the Tetons seemed super worthy as well.

I think that’s one of the reasons climbing has captivated me for some many years now.  Ice climbing in the mountains and sport climbing at the crag are worlds apart in terms of the experience they offer and the skills required.  I would most certainly be better at one or the other if I could just focus and commit myself to one discipline.  But the variety and unique but related challenges of doing both are just too much fun.

  After talking with my friend JT, it was decided.  We’d drive to the Hoop and hopefully send our sport projects.  After that we’d pack up, drive to the Tetons, catch a few hours of rest and then start hiking.  I was set on soloing the Black Ice Couloir, JT had his sights on Middle Teton’s NW Ice couloir.

Conditions at the Hoop were perfect!  At over 9,000 feet and shady, it’s streaked and pocketed limestone walls offer a perfect summer retreat while the rest of Utah is blazing hot.


The rock at the Hoop is razor sharp – you only get a couple of tries before you’re bleeding from your fingertips.  By mid-afternoon we had finished up and hiked back to the car.

Next up was the 5 hour drive to the Tetons.  We got some dinner in Moose and waited till dark so we could grab a couple hours of sleep.  The trick is to time your start so you arrive at the base of the climb at first light.  I left at midnight, JT decided to sleep in until about 3AM.

The approach to the lower saddle went quickly.  As I navigated the Valhalla Traverse via headlamp I started getting really excited – the Black Ice Couloir has been on my to do list since the year I started climbing.

I guess I got up a little too early – it was still pitch black when I got to the base of the route.  I waited in the dark for about an hour.  At first twilight I started up the rock pitch, and by the time I got to the ice in the couloir I could put my headlamp away.

The climbing was easy and low angle, but the ice was bullet hard!  Front pointing up a few thousand feet of gully ice is a hell of a calf work out!

After topping out on the lower saddle I jogged back to the car.  Running down the steep trail is hard on the knees, but I was ready for tacos and beer.  JT met me in the parking lot – despite his later start he had crushed his objective and was already relaxing and taking in the views.

All in all a great weekend.  Variety is the spice of life!

Chris Thomas