Memorial Day Teton Trip Report: Day Three – Middle Teton

This is the third part of a three part trip report, for day one and two see “Memorial Day Teton Trip Report: Day One” and “Memorial Day Teton Trip Report: Day Two”. For the Middle Teton read on…

Day three started slowly, are you seeing a trend here yet? We had a much less technical day on tap and the overcast gloom kept us in our tent until 8 am. Turns out, this would have been the perfect day to attempt the Ford/Stettner. The heat and wind from the previous day had sent down the majority of the loose snow and ice. That, coupled with a cooler day and an overcast morning kept things locked up long enough for people to get up and back down safely. Four other parties had come to the same conclusion and later in the day from our vantage on the Middle Teton we could see them descend one by one. Nevertheless we were still very stoked about getting on the Middle Teton.

As we got our gear in order we decided to take a much more direct line up from the meadows towards the moraine than we had the previous day. In the dark the morning before we had more or less followed the summer route, because that is what I was familiar with. But, with snow covering the entire headwall, we could shave a half mile off the approach by taking a direct line.

Booting up the Glacier on the Middle Teton Booting up the East Face Gaining the Saddle on the Middle Teton

We booked it up to the base of the Glacier Route on the middle just as the sun started to peek through the clouds. Booting up runnels in the glacier gave us great footing for the first thousand vertical feet before the route takes a hard right turn and you gain the East Face of the Middle Teton. From a pure skiing standpoint this line is one of the true gems of Garnet Canyon, a much better ski than the Ford/Stettner in all but the very best conditions. From this corner the pitch steepened into the upper 50 and lower 60 degree range, pretty steep by any standard. One thing that amazes me about the Tetons as compared to the mountains in Colorado is how well the snow sticks to everything. Lines that would never be possible in the Colorado snowpack are commonplace in the Tetons, and this was one of them.

Looking up and around the corner to the East Face Looking back down the East Face at Ben East Face on the Middle Teton

An hour or so later we gained the saddle and decided that given the exposure and time of day this would be our destination. Once in the saddle we had our best view yet of the Ford Stettner, and a head on shot of the four parties descending the line we had bailed off the day before. Watching them was a bittersweet experience. We were stoked that those guys were getting on that classic of a line, and we were very stoked about the line we were about to ski, but initially the Grand had been the goal, and while the Middle may be the better ski, something about getting turned back on the Grand twice in the past year left me wondering “what if” we had approached this weekend in the opposite order. We hung out and snapped some pictures of the people on the descent from this spectacular vantage, knowing the recipients would be really stoked to have a few shots from an angle that shows the true scale of the line they were on.

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But the clouds were returning, and it was time to ski. Ben dropped first and what seemed like a few jump turns later he was rounding the corner onto the glacier.

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I dropped next, the conditions were rapidly re-hardening as the clouds took over the sky, but that didn’t stop me from getting my fair share of soft spring turns, and blasting myself in the face with refreezing crust hard enough to make my eyes water.

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Joining Ben on the glacier, we both agreed that was one of the coolest lines we’d ever gotten on. From there we worked our way skiers right to avoid the runnels on the main face of the glacier and bombed another 1000 feet down to the moraine.

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Mission very much accomplished.

We cruised over to our new found friends’ tent a few hundred feet below to show them the shots of them we’d gotten on their descent of the Grand. Turns out, from several reports, the skiing had actually been very mixed on the Ford/Stettner and Ford had never really softened up enough to get out of survival skiing mode and really enjoy it. But, we’ll be back next season, with some lessons learned, perspective gained, and hopefully luck and conditions more on our side.

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