In June of 2006, Reed Finlay and I skied the East Ridge of the Dike Pinnacle on the Middle Teton and then continued on to ski Koch’s Couloir down to the moraine. Here’s the trip report for the archives.
I remember this descent vividly because it stands out a one of my favorite late season ski trips into GTNP. Reed and I got an early 4am start from the Lupine Meadows trailhead and encountered a light rain shower as we made our way into Garnet Canyon. Even though we would be hiking on the dry trail for a couple hours, we opted to hike Teton-style, meaning wearing our AT boots from the parking lot, in an effort to save weight on our backs. We transitioned to skinning at the Platforms, which is pretty much where I draw the line for skiing in Garnett Canyon late in the season.
Moving quickly, we made our way to the saddle just east of the Dike Pinnacle, where we encountered some boot tracks coming up form the southeast side. This bothered me a little bit cuz I really hate getting sloppy seconds on ski descents. Luckily, it looked like whoever was up here prior to us didn’t feel comfortable and the tracks stopped not too much higher. This was the first time I’d climbed the Dike Pinnacle and it was fun booting up the ridge to the summit. Amazing views of the Glacier Route from the main summit of the Middle are right in your face when you get to the top, in addition to the 360 degree views of all the big peaks…awesome!
The slight northeast aspect was keeping the snow firm on the East Ridge, which was fine by me, cuz even though the skiing isn’t too challenging, it is slightly exposed…but still very enjoyable. A couple technical ski moves got us down the mountain a bit and some cool clouds offered great opportunities for photography. The snow softened up as we lost elevation skiing back down to the saddle and we carved GS turns on the Middle Teton Glacier in route to Koch’s Couloir.
I’ve always wondered why this couloir bear’s Stephen Koch’s name, since it was Steve Shea who potentially had the first descent of the couloir back in 1979 during the filming of the movie Fall Line. By request from the film crew, Shea ended up skiing the line three times that day to get the footage needed, but a nasty fall above the 60 degree ice bulge a the bottom of the couloir ended the day on a sour note. The fall was captured on film and it shows Steve narrowly avoiding rocks and escaping serious injury. If you can find a copy of Fall Line, it is defiantly work a viewing.
We slung our rope over a small horn and rapped into the couloir. I’ve heard of some people downclimbing into the couloir, but we had the rope…so we used it. The snow in the couloir was just stellar and had softened up enough to allow for fast confident skiing down to the crux. The lower section of the couloir doesn’t fill in all the time, but I had been scouting it for some time and knew it was good to go. Reed and I exchanged huge grins when we meet up down on the glacier…another line off the tick list.
While we were loading the skis on our packs at the Platforms for the trudge back to the rig in our ski boots (the downside of going ‘Teton-style’), we ran into Jenny Lake Rangers, Jack McConnell and Renny Jackson, who had watched us on the descent from their gear cache. They said it was really cool to watch cuz the terrain looks so rowdy from below. I commented that it was really fun to ski…cuz the terrain looks so rowdy from above. Funny how we skiers all think alike.