About halfway to the fork in Avalanche Canyon today was when I knew I should have gone skiing on Teton Pass instead. It was snowing really hard now, and you could hear the winds ripping on the peaks above.
Brian Ladd and I succumbed to the fact that we wouldn’t be climbing and skiing the couloir we had planned to today, but at this point we figured we might as well continue a bit higher to at least get in some powder turns. Our skis lead us up into the South Fork of Avalanche Canyon and the slope below the popular Turkey Chute, a 40°(ish) couloir that drops off the backside of 25 Short.
We were able to stay out of the main slide path down low, but as we skinned higher, we were forced more into the slide zone. Not feeling comfortable with the situation…wind loading, surface slabs, and a good hard running surface…we decided this would be the end of the road. We snuck into a small slot on the side of the slope to transition into descent mode…and that’s when it happened.
It was completely silent and all I heard was a small sound from Brian before I felt the snow tug at my skis. A large slough had released from above and was cascading down upon us. It knocked Brian over and washed him down the slope a bit before he was able to grab onto a rocky outcropping with his gloveless hands. I was closer to the slope’s edge, and was able to scoot backwards as the second wave came through and continued to beat Brian against the rocks.
When the snow stopped coming from above, I watched Brian get up and yell for me…not knowing I was still where we had stopped. Luckily, I was able to gather my pack and poles as the slough came in, but Brian was still in free-heel mode, and the force was enough to pull one of his skis off and send it down the slope…burying it along with his poles and backpack.
We quickly searched for Brian’s gear, but were only able to recover his pack…not wanting to linger too long in the run-out zone in case more snow decided to release. I lent Brian my poles and we worked our way out of the canyon…with Brian only on one ski.
Surprisingly, we made decent time back to the parking lot, even though we had to go around Taggart Lake…since we were punching through the surface a bit on the way in. Props to Brian for his skills in getting out of the canyon so quickly with limited equipment. Looking back, I don’t think the slide was big enough to really bury someone very deep, but maybe knock you around a bit…so we were thankful to get away uninjured.
I’m sure Turkey Chute will get skied a bunch more this season, so hopefully someone will find the skis and poles and return them. We lost 1 Atomic Kailas (183cm) w/ Dynafit bindings, 1 Black Diamond Flick-Loc pole, and 1 Black Diamond Whippet self-arrest pole (unfortunately…the Whippets were mine).
If found please email me at: Randosteve@tetonat.com or call 307.690.2716…Thanks! Oh yeah…please use caution out there until the snow has a chance to settle. The wind has really done some serious loading in spots.