Slideshow: Middle Teton’s Southwest Couloir to Icefloe Lake

Skiing off the summit of the Middle Teton.

middle teton southwest couloir from treasure mountain bowlAfter skiing the South Teton, we looked at our watches and decided we had time for one more run before other commitments needed to be respected. Our mission was to boot up the Southwest Couloir of the Middle Teton and then ski it…all the way to Icefloe Lake , making it a 2200′ shot. Leaving us deep in the South Fork of Cascade Canyon, we would then tour to the south and catch Avalanche Canyon back to the trailhead and civilization. I don’t think the lower section of the Southwest gets skied very much, but on a trip to Treasure Mountain Bowl on the west side of the Tetons last week, I noticed it was filled in.

The rime on the exposed faces of the Middle always offers such cool visuals, and the trickle of it pinging down the slope kept us preoccupied as we ascended. Finding our rhythm, we booted through boot deep powder mixed with sun crust until we found ourselves at the summit. Needing to boogie, we dug-in next to the summit boulder, clicked in and buckled down. After a zig-zag route through the rocky and exposed upper section, we entered the Southwest Couloir. From our vantage point, we could see all the way down to Icefloe Lake, a cool perspective to say the least.



Variable snow conditions had us skiing powder in the gut, crust in the shade and fantastic corn on the skiers right where the sun had hit the slope the longest. After skiing the upper couloir, we exited onto the more open slopes where people most of the time head to the skiers left, back into the South Fork of Garnet Canyon. Our plan was to continue downward and ski the lower couloir through the cliffs above Ice Floe Lake to the west.

Being well protected by the rock walls on both sides and west facing, the upper section of the couloir was quite crusty and some side-slipping was entailed in order to negotiate the narrows at the top. Once deep in the couloir, conditions improved and we linked smooth turns on softer snow passing a cool pinnacle on the skiers left side. The vast expanse of white snow as we finished the run at Ice Floe Lake messed with our depth-of-field and what seemed like a short slope to the lake turned into quite a bit of vertical on amazing spring snow.

Glider over the Middle Teton.

Taking a few minutes at the lake to enjoy the sun, the mountains, and the moment, in an area where few people ski, it was completely silent. Out of the silence we heard a strange noise above and when we looked up, we saw a glider arcing turns over the South and Middle Teton before flying directly above us on its way north. For some reason, maybe it was the silence, it felt very surreal and was a perfect ending to an epic day. Except that it wasn’t quite the end, as we still had to ski back into Avalanche Canyon and to the Taggert Lake Trailhead. Lucky for us, the skiing was unbelievably good the whole way.


15 Responses to “Slideshow: Middle Teton’s Southwest Couloir to Icefloe Lake”

  1. 1 gringo May 14th, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    looks like you guys scored with a classic spring day in the hills. good work.

  2. 2 randosteve May 14th, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    thanks gringo…whom ever you are.

  3. 3 gringo May 15th, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    thou shalt not question the Gringo

  4. 4 Randokitty May 17th, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    WOW! Those pics of the sundog are still some of my all-time-favorites. Absolutely georgous!

  5. 5 randosteve May 18th, 2009 at 6:59 am

    Thanks Kitty! Dustin took those.

  6. 6 blackdiamond May 26th, 2009 at 9:53 am

    What was the actual date of your ski down the southwest couloir? I live in Utah and am leaving to ski the same route on May 29th. I was just curious about the amount of snow. Looks like you guys had plenty!

  7. 7 randosteve May 26th, 2009 at 9:57 am

    May 9th.

    I have my doubts that the lower section of the couloir to Icefloe Lake goes cleanly now…but there is still tons of snow in the high country and at Icefloe Lake.

  8. 8 blackdiamond May 26th, 2009 at 10:05 am

    my other option is to ski the upper section of the couloir and head toward the base of the south and stay out of ice flow lake and then ski the south additionally. Was the south adequately covered?

  9. 9 randosteve May 26th, 2009 at 10:09 am

    yes…via numerous routes.

    This is from the same day…

    …for you’re info.

  10. 10 newman May 26th, 2009 at 10:13 am

    the south is adequately covered for an attempt on e. ridge or se face (skied it late last week). the runnels are getting nasty though and the normal exit couloir was full of debris. We traversed west (right) at the bottom for a clean exit below the amora vida couloir.

  11. 11 randosteve May 26th, 2009 at 10:23 am

    for clarification newman…did you…

    -connect the southeast face with the bottom of amora vida or the top? connecting it to the bottom sounds rather impossible (sans rapping) without skiing the exit couloir….or climbing east to the col by Matternaught Peak, descending…and then traversing west to get to Lake Taminnah.

    Sorry…just don’t want BD to get the wrong info. :)

    South Side of the South Teton

  12. 12 Colby May 26th, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    I skied with Newman off the South last week. We skied the SE face to the Matternaught Glacier (though I’m not sure it’s a glacier) and out the 15-foot-wide exit couloir at the bottom. Below the exit couloir you’ll find large amounts of debris, but the right side is relatively clear. From there, we traversed to the right above some cliffs, around the top of the drainage, to the large, mellow snowfield that runs west to east under Mount Wister, then down to the lake. Pretty much the entire line is visible in the pic above, with the exception of the narrow exit couloir. All in all, a flippin’ sweet run. The biggest drawback was being forced to park at taggart lake and walk into the bottom Garnet Canyon from there. I think the summer trailhead is the way to go at this point because there isn’t much snow below 7500′, but with our exit out Avalanche Canyon, walking back to Lupine Meadows wasn’t really an option.

  13. 13 newman May 26th, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    thanks colby bud-
    sorry to be scant with the info

  14. 14 blackdiamond May 27th, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Thanks for all the info. I’ll report back and let you all know how the ski went.

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