Our ski tracks can be seem below the East Face of Static Peak
It’s not Austria, but I’m off to Salt Lake City for a few days to attend a Black Diamond athlete summit and I’m pretty excited for this event. We will be getting a tour of the Black Diamond offices and production facility, as well as meeting with folks in production, design, marketing and advertising, as well as the president/CEO himself, Peter Metcalf. One of the days will be on snow and I hope I can keep up with the likes of Nick Devore and Chris Davenport.
I’m not sure what my blogging status will be down there, so here is a mega-photo trip report of a long tour in the mountains I had on Friday with Reed Finlay and Mike Werner. The tour started with a skin up Wimpy’s to ski a north facing couloir. We proceeded to climb Static Peak to ski it’s East Face. Friday was the last day to access the peak before the winter closure (Dec 15-April 15) goes into effect to protect bighorn sheep winter range. After skiing the face, we continued to the top of Albright Peak (aka Peak 10,552) to descend back down to the valley via it’s East Face as well. It was a good long day in the mountains and Mister Suunto logged it at about 7000′ of vertical.
The day started out very cold and Mike said his thermometer read -13°F down in Melody Ranch. Lots of water crystals were in the atmosphere and sun-dogs seemed to be everywhere. The one below is actually called a Circumzenithal Arc…check it out! And check out some of these sundogs over on the TelemarkTips forum.
Though it was still quite cold, we got some good radiant heat from the sun (for the time being) and all warmed up on the hike. Here, Reed is about to get nailed with the sun laser.
We hammered to the top of our first run, Wimpy’s Knob and skied a fun couloir down into Static Draw. The snow was a little tricky at the top and it even took one of us down. The snow improved as we exited the gully though and we enjoyed some nice turns before our next transition.
Due to the cold temps, from this point on I hiked with my shell on…a rarity for me. The misty clouds came and went, and the wind kept the wind chill well below zero. We stopped a couple times to talk about the route to the top of Static Peak.
We were hoping to be able to keep our skis on our feet the whole way to the top, but a few sections of steep wind-packed snow forced us to boot a short pitch. They would have been skinnable if we had our ski crampons though.
The summit of Albright (aka Peak 10,552) is very symmetrical from the north and we had hopes of skiing it on our way back from Static, culminating a trifecta of the Static Draw area. Reed puts his buff to good use keeping his face warm as he skins towards Static Peak.
The clouds and sun continued to have cool effects on the the lighting, illuminating some slopes while at the same time obscuring others. This southeast side of Static Peak rarely fills in that much and you can see the summer trail barely covered by snow on the ridge.
It’s no wonder that this area of Grand Teton National Park is closed from Dec 15th-April 15th every year to protect bighorn sheep winter range…because we saw a few as we neared the summit. They literally ran up the ridge to the top of a peak, briefly gazing down on us at the summited, before disappearing to who knows where. I’m no expert on bighorn sheep, but from a distance these guys looked big and healthy…I’m glad they have their own little lair up here and I will respect their boundaries during the closure.
The sky started to open up a bit, revealing the peaks of the southern Teton Range when we got to the summit of Static Peak and 11,303′. Reed gets warm with some hot chocolate while scoping out the East Face of Peak 11,094 in the distance.
The north side of Static Peak is quite steep and you don’t hear about people skiing the extreme lines on it very much. Rumor has it, Theo Meiners followed some bighorn sheep into the couloir…jumping a 15 foot cornice to get into it.
A totally clear view of Buck Mountain never really came to fruition. There are still a few lines I want to ski on this peak so I know I will be on it a few times this winter. Though it was rather nice and warm on the summit, we wanted to get a move on in order to have time to ski Albright while it was still light out.
You kind of ski the East Ridge of Static to get to the face and unfortunately it is rather wind scoured. We all nailed a few rocks on the way, but soon enough we were on the face which held a little more snow.
This next picture was taken at the top of the couloir Theo supposedly skied on the North Face of Static Peak. Here, Mike makes some turns down towards the East Face.
The snow was still pretty thin on the face of Static ,and Mike and I tentatively skied it so as not to trash our skis. Reed picked his way around to find some steeper shots that held more snow.
The face consists of a series of chutes that interconnect, depending on where you want to end up at the bottom. We were headed to Albright, so we wanted to trend towards the south. Reed scores a few more decent turns.
As we got towards the bottom of the face I started to feel more confident that most of the rocks were covered and could ski a little more aggressively. A nice cliff welcomed us at the bottom of this shot, but lucky we could traverse out the the skiers left to exit.
Though not the primmest snow I’ve skied, the snow on the apron below was better than that on the face and we could leave our signatures. Can you guess which tracks are mine?
It was Reed’s turn to lead the way and he picked a tricky slope to gain the saddle to the west of Albright. The lighting was still very cool and the temps were dropping on the shady northern sides of the peak. We kept moving to stay warm, making many switchbacks through the thick trees and wind rowed section towards the summit. Finally we were forced to hike the exposed rocks near the top and I slipped a couple times.
Though most of the snow on this tour was not the best to be skied on this day, the East Face of Albright held the best turns. The lower slopes were even better and we hooted as we simul-skied towards the valley. The sagebrush started to poke above the surface of the snow and forced us to pull back, sniffing around for the best line to the valley trail and the double-pole out the the trailhead. Below, Mike Werner gets some late day goodness in the gut of Albright.
I was glad to have a long day in the mountains behind me and my face tingled from the sun and wind on the drive back to town. Ciao for now!