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.

DSC04590 DSC04585 DSC04586

IMG_3142 DSC04604

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.

DSC04609 DSC04610 DSC04615

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.

IMG_3156 IMG_3161 IMG_3164 IMG_3168

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.

DSC04625 IMG_3185 DSC04623

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.

Posted in Trip Reports | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Memorial Day Teton Trip Report: Day Two – Grand Teton


This is the second part of a three part trip report, for day one see “Memorial Day Teton Trip Report: Day One”. For tales of woe and some really fun skiing read on…

Who knows if it was a “good idea” or “bad idea” to camp where we did. It certainly made the camping much more pleasant, but we paid for it the next morning (and the morning after). We started booting up the headwall towards the moraine by about 4:00 AM (after snoozing our alarm for a couple hours). The snow was nice and firm and we made pretty decent time heading up directly towards the bottom of the Teepee Glacier. As we worked our way the 3000 feet up the Teepee from the meadows and headed towards the Glencoe Col the colors sharpened from the subtle peaceful hues of early morning in paradise to the bright shades of blue and white that characterize the alpine in my mind.

Below the Teepee Glacier Teton Sunrise Middle Teton

Booting up the Teepee Glacier Ben on the Teepee Glacier Booting up the Teepee Glacier

In hindsight, the two hours of alarm clock snoozing, and extra hour and a half of extra hiking up from the meadows had already done us in. But at this point, we didn’t know that. We crested Glencoe Col around 7:30, traversed over towards the bottom of the Stettner Couloir, and threw on our crampons and harnesses. By 8:30 we were headed up the beginning of the technical stretch of the route. According to the plan we would head a few hundred vertical feet up the Stettner Couloir. Then we’d cut left into the Chevy Couloir where the real ice climbing would begin. We’d climb a few pitches of mixed ice before the Chevy spat us out into the Ford Couloir where a 1000 foot snow climb would bring us the rest of the way to the summit.

The red line indicates the standard route up the Ford Stettner on the Grand Teton

In reality we would climb two pitches up the Stettner under siege from falling ice that was ever increasing in size, decide it wasn’t in the cards today, and bail. The week prior the Tetons had received a blanket of nice wet spring snow that stuck to everything. Over the previous 5 days it had melted and refrozen several times, but had never gotten warm enough to fully shed it’s blanket. On this day, the combination of rapidly warming temperatures and gusty winds were doing everything in their power to rid the mountain of this snow and ice. When we first got into the Stettner we were seeing pea to marble sized pieces of ice come raining through whenever there was a gust of wind, fairly harmless, and moderately annoying. The ice balls would ricochet through the tight couloir in every direction, giving you no way to defend yourself from the onslaught. As we got to the top of the first pitch the ice balls were consistently between the size of a marble and a golf ball, painful, not too dangerous, but increasingly annoying. As Ben was ascending the second pitch our ratio of “ducking for cover” to “actual climbing” approached 10 to 1. With Ben at the top of the second pitch ready to belay me up the ice chunks were approaching the size of baseballs. Very painful and having the potential to be very dangerous. Finally, after about 20 minutes of climbing and an hour of hiding from the ice we decided that this situation wasn’t going to get better and we bailed.

Ben Traversing from the Glencoe Col George Climbing the First Pitch in the Stettner Couloir The First Pitch in the Stettner Couloir

The Second Pitch in the Stettner Couloir George Rappeling in the Stettner Couloir Lower Stettner Couloir

To add insult to injury, as we were setting up the rappel I was able to successfully get an ice tool (with camera attached for “safe keeping”) tangled in the rope, pull out of the snow, and tumble 750 vert down to the bottom of the Stettner Couloir, somehow miraculously stopping about 50 feet above a 1500 foot cliff. After begrudgingly down climbing to retrieve it and then ascending back up to where we had gained the Stettner, we were on our way down.

The first pitch of skiing down to the Glencoe Col had softened up perfectly, which is fortunate, because with 1500 feet of exposure it isn’t somewhere you want to feel unsure skiing.

IMG_3058

From the col we had a pretty much direct 3000 foot descent back towards our camp in the meadows. The snow varied from perfect corn, to week old wet slide debris on the upper Teepee, and back to perfect corn below. We ripped some high speed turns through paradise and in 15 minutes found ourselves back at camp.

Ben on the Upper Teepee Ben on the Upper Teepee

Ben Looking Down the Upper Teepee George Heading Towards Camp Ben Laying it out on the way Back to Camp

We quickly made ourselves a generous helping of mac and cheese, only to realize we lacked anything resembling utensils…

Climbing Nuts Work Just as Well as Spoons... Fortunately climbing nuts can double as spoons when you’re hungry and out of options. Wiped out from a long morning we laid down around 2 to take a “quick nap” and then maybe go for a short tour later in the afternoon. We woke up at 7 pm… No less tired after 5 hours of sleep we quickly organized our stuff, ate another quick meal and passed back out by 9 pm. Ready to get after the Middle Teton in the morning.

Day Three brought our attention to the Middle Teton via the East Face/Glacier Route check out part three of this trip report for the details: “Memorial Day Teton Trip Report: Day Three”.

Posted in Trip Reports | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Memorial Day Teton Trip Report: Day One – Approach


I’ve been struggling to write this trip report for a while now, trying to avoid a 10 page novel. In an attempt to break it into bite sized pieces I’m going to be releasing the three days worth of trip reports as three separate posts. Here’s “Day One”. Enjoy.

If you asked most people to describe their version of “paradise” more often than not you’d get a description of a nice sandy beach on a tropical island. Ask them what they’d do there, and you’d hear about a lot of different ways to do nothing. My version of paradise is about as far from that as you can get, and this past Memorial Day weekend, we found it.

Teton-Pano

For almost a year now we’d been hatching plans to make an attempt at a ski descent of the Grand Teton. Somewhere along the lines we decided that if we were going to go all the way up there we might as well add the Middle Teton to that plan as well… Because, honestly, the skiing looks much better. Fast forward to Friday afternoon at the Lupine Meadows trailhead in Grand Teton National Park.

After picking up a few items in town, getting permits, and handling a couple last minute work emergencies we arrived at the trailhead ready to begin packing our bags at the crack of 5 pm. The mood at the trailhead was decidedly summery, trees and flowers in bloom, temps in the 70s, and perfect blue skies. As we unpacked the car most people would have started to question our sanity.  We crammed ~60 pounds of winter gear into each of our packs, eager to escape to the wintery paradise above.

The trek from the trailhead up to the meadows in the floor of Garnet Canyon is about 5 miles and 3000 vert. Our plan was to head up to the meadows and then push another mile and 1500 more vert up to “The Moraine” and setup camp. From there it would be ~1500 vert up the Middle Teton and ~2500 feet up to the top of the Grand. Putting us in a prime location to get after both of our objectives over the next two days. Things, however, never quite unfold like you expect. After a relatively late start and already having decided to take it super easy to attempt to not wear ourselves out on day one, we found ourselves arriving at the meadows around 9 pm.

Teton Sunset Shadows

Fortunately and unfortunately we found the perfect campsite waiting for us there. Most of the meadow was still under about 5-8 feet of snow and we knew we would definitely be looking at snow camping if we went any higher. But, right smack in the middle of the meadow there are a few huge boulders, the snow had melted out about 10 feet in diameter around these rocks creating the perfect campsite for us. We could pitch our tent on dry ground, under the rock, completely protected from the wind by the snowbank, with enough room to cook, hang out, and dry our gear without having to worry about snow. To boot there was a bear box (read: marmot box) melted out nearby, and 10 feet from our tent was a little stream of pristine snowmelt that we could drink directly from. Needless to say … we didn’t see any reason to continue upwards.

We set our alarm for 1:30 AM (three hours later) and promptly passed out.

Tetons - Meadows Camp Tetons - Meadows Camp Tetons - Meadows Camp

 

Day Two and our attempt on the Grand Teton can be found here: Memorial Day Teton Trip Report: Day Two

Posted in Trip Reports | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Racking up for the Elephant’s Perch


James and I are up in the Sawtooths in Idaho this weekend. Currently racking up for this magnificent beast.

20130615-225940.jpg
A 7 pitch classic on the Elephant’s Perch near Red Fish Lake. Should be a great time.

20130615-225433.jpg

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

BerthoudBackcountryBeta.com Launched


As we expand the focus here beyond just Berthoud Pass to include the rest of Colorado and bigger lines all around the west I wanted to make sure that what this project started as, an online guidebook to Berthoud Pass, remains a priority and an easily accessible resource. To that end, today we launched BerthoudBackcountryBeta.com (go on, click over there, it will open in a new window). It may look familiar (i.e. exactly the same) and it will never be anything more than Berthoud Pass beta, lines, pictures, route descriptions, and trip reports. There is obviously still work to do getting pictures and descriptions up for the rest of the lines on there. Being based out of Grand County, Berthoud will continue to receive more focus than any other particular area, but as we expanded our scope I didn’t want the Berthoud Beta to get lost in the shuffle.

You might also notice a new Google Earth view. In my opinion, this is the easiest and best way to actually get a feeling for a line, and hopefully helps people more easily make good decisions about where they want to ski.

Posted in Updates | Leave a comment

Not Done Yet – Stay Safe


Set out with a few friends to ski the area I call The Playground in Flora Creek this afternoon. The wind was ripping from the west, gusting up over 50 mph, and transporting a lot of the new snow we just received. Ryan and Alex, in an attempt to get out of the wind ducked down off the ridge and into the drainage higher up than I did, transitioned, and began to make their way over towards the fun.

View of the playground on a much tamer day

About 300 vert down they posted up on a small dirt ridge you can see in the pic above and waited for me. I rode down the ridge parallel to the cornice for a few hundred feet, rolled over the windlip, started to initiate a turn, and boom — I was immediately in a sea of fracturing snow.  The crown, between a foot and 20 inches deep, was about 10 feet uphill of me and everything 50 feet in front of me and behind me was all sliding. Fortunately the slab was really soft and I had good momentum to the left, so I was able to ride out of it to a safe zone. But anytime you get caught in anything like that it really makes you reflect on what exactly happened leading up to and during the event.

In this case, the pocket of deep, top loaded, snow was relatively small. As it ran downhill the pitch mellowed out fairly quickly and there was only a couple inches of new snow on top of the old very consolidated and refrozen snow so it never picked up too much momentum and didn’t have the energy necessary to step down into a weaker layer in the older snowpack. The debris spread out leaving a very shallow debris pile no deeper than a foot throughout the majority.

slide

If I were to look back and think about the decisions that lead to this, I would say we were distracted and annoyed by the wind, wanting to get down and out of the wind quickly without taking the time to assess what the snow was doing. On top of that the snow was great for this time of year so there was definitely a level of excitement about skiing powder two days removed from June. On top of that, I had definitely lowered my guard for this type of slide, focusing more intently for the last month on potential for wet slides.

Ultimately, all it takes is one day for us to be back in “winter” conditions, no matter how far along the transition to spring or summer snow we are. Stay safe.

CAIC Observation can be found here: https://avalanche.state.co.us/obs/obs_report.php?obs_id=19780

Posted in Conditions, Trip Reports | Leave a comment

Flora Creek – May 15th


Posted in Video | Leave a comment

The Real (reason I like) Berthoud Pass


Robert Creek

To me, this low grade cell phone shot epitomizes what I love about skiing Berthoud. In the background you can see much of the Current and Second Creek drainages, burnt out and brown from our lovely dust storm a month ago. But in the foreground you can see Ben White ripping down an untouched 3000 vert line that’s only an hour skin from the pass. No matter what the conditions are like, no matter what the avy danger is, there is always somewhere you can go that will yield fun, safe, usually untouched quality snow.

The end of March through the beginning of May totally redeemed our season. With many inches of high water content snow falling and sticking to everything the high elevation lines are in all time shape right now. Ben and I got out on Robert Creek this evening and hopefully will be heading over towards the infrequently skied Flora Creek drainage tomorrow.

A few more shots from today:

Robert Creek Robert Creek Robert Creek Robert Creek

 

Posted in Trip Reports | Tagged | Leave a comment

Cold Fusion Trip Report


The book was open to the Utah section for the hundredth time that week. After throwing the idea of skiing Cold Fusion to Steve, I couldn’t stop looking at it. The pages of 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America revealed a beautiful line on Timpanogos. Skiing Timpanogos was on my list of things to do, and the fact that there was a line that was also in the book was strikingly attractive. A couloir that stretched 3,000 vertical feet from the north summit of Timpanogos in just under a mile would be a phenomenal descent. The weather looked good for a Saturday, 4/28/13 attempt.

A view of Cold Fusion

Saturday morning came, and I was awake with excitement at about three, even though I could have slept some more. I chose my Renegade Shorts to go under my ski pants, as it would be a warm day.  A while later, Steve and I were in the parking lot putting our packs on and heading up the closed road just as the sun broke the horizon. We got to see the almost full moon set just before we took off.

North summit of Timpanogos from the parking lot just before we started our day

After about a five mile approach, we were at the base of the couloir. We began to go up, and didn’t bother with skins because of the fine boot pack the hikers and skiers from earlier days had set. We took our sweet time, and saw two groups of people. Some hikers were on their way down, and some skiers were on their way up.

Looking up from the base of the couloir to the false summit 3000 feet above us Most of the way up was a well established boot pack, but not a ton of ski tracks

Once we got to the top of the couloir, we ditched our packs and it felt like we floated from the false summit to the true summit. We took our time and hung out at the true summit for a while. The beauty of Timpanogos was stunning. A true alpine environment with nothing but rocks, snow and blue sky, the potential for adventure on the mountain was limitless and there seemed to be no good reason to descend. After deciding enough was enough, Steve and I walked back along the ridge to the top of the couloir and began our descent.

Steve on top of North Timpanogos Steve coming back from the true summit

The top of the line had very thin snow. We walked down a little ways before I put my skis on and he put his board on, and then we dropped in. Wind deposited and warming at the top turned into slightly corned snow, and by the bottom, it was quite like the consistency of mashed potatoes.

Sitting down at the top of where there was enough snow, about to get ready to ski Steve about to drop into an amazing descent

The day had been warm and the snow was sticky, but it was a phenomenal descent nonetheless. After skiing a great line, we were greeted by the road we approached by, and then we got in the car and went home to a good night of sleep

What the skiing looked like near the top and near the bottom from my point of view

Posted in Trip Reports | Tagged | Leave a comment

Rush Chute – April 25th


Posted in Video | Tagged | Leave a comment