A light rain greeted Reed Finlay, Chris Figenshau and I at the Bradley/Taggart trailhead this morning. Valley temps were hovering around 38o, so only a thin crust had formed on the snow. Luckily our line was north facing and the clouds and wind were on our side…for the time being.
This was my first attempt at the Northwest Couloir on Mount Wister. I, like many others, have mostly noticed this line when skiing on the south side of the South Teton. I have wanted to ski for years now, and I was amped to make an attempt. I’m not sure if it has ever had a descent either.
We skinned across part of Taggart Lake, and made pretty good time back to the split between the North and South Fork of Avalanche Canyon. The sun had done a number on the new snow we got a few days ago, and we mostly stayed on top of the surface the whole way to Lake Taminah. The clouds started to break, and things began to heat up quick…and it wasn’t even 9am.
We skied below the impressive North Face of Mount Wister and towards the Northwest Couloir. The original plan was to climb the West Ridge of Wister, rappel into the couloir, ski it, and rappel over the chockstone at the bottom. Sounds easy enough…right?
As the couloir came into view, it looked like the climb over the chockstone wasn’t that bad, but the upper half of the couloir wasn’t very filled in either. We decide instead of having to rappel half of the couloir, we may as well climb directly up it…to the highest point we can ski from…again, sounds easy enough.
We skinned up dense powder to a nice staging area below the couloir and geared up for the bootpack. At this point I was feeling positive about the climb, really psyched to get into the couloir. Reed busted trail to the crux and refused to give up the lead, since the climb over the chockstone looked like it was going to be fun. We he got to it though, rotten sugar snow and slabby rock made the climb much harder. We all had a crack at surmounting the crux, but to no avail. Reed poked around the most, inspecting every possible route under the chockstone as well.
Unfortunately it looked as though this trip was stopped dead in its tracks. We chilled for a bit in a nice alcove/cave formation formed below the chockstone, before skiing back down to the lake. We skied good powder followed by sticky powder in the sun, but it was bittersweet. We had thoughts of going for something else, since tons of sick lines are found in this area of the park, but the sun was just too strong today, and we didn’t feel good about the temps and snowpack.
I have one more day off before heading back to work this weekend, and I spied a couple cool routes I’ve never skied before. I think today I will go on a solo mission…and race the sun.