Reed Finlay skis in front of Table Mountain.
Although our snowpack isn’t the greatest up here in the Tetons so far this year, there is still a lot of great skiing to be had and when the bigger lines aren’t filled in yet, it’s better to focus on obscure runs and long tours. It’s probably been about 10 years since I last skied Dartmouth Couloir and I was looking forward to the day I would do it again.
Dartmouth Couloir sits on the west side of the Lower Saddle and drops you into Dartmouth Basin and eventually into the South Fork of Garnet Canyon. It doesn’t get skied very much, mostly I think because of the 11 mile exit one must make out of Cascade Canyon to get back to the Bradley/Taggart Trailhead. Few people actually visit Dartmouth Basin and it’s cool to go to those places that give you views of the peaks that are rarely seen.
Skinning out of the clouds in Garnet Canyon.
Joining up once again with my trusted ski partner Reed Finlay, we started skiing towards Garnet Canyon just before daylight on Friday under cloudy/foggy skies. The forecast was for sunny weather and we hoped it could burn off so we could enjoy the visuals of the day. Reaching the Meadows in a couple hours, the high peaks started popping into view and put smiles on our faces. Time for the sunglasses!! Opting for the “winter route” up to the North Fork of Garnet Canyon, we skinned over piles of avalanche debris from the big avalanche cycle a couple weeks ago, before booting up the steeper headwall section.
It was back to skins once we reached lower angled terrain and instead of taking the direct line to the Lower Saddle, we booted the short couloir that sits just to the looker’s right. I’m not sure what the accepted name of this gully/couloir is, but I’m sure all the Teton climber folks call it something. Reaching the Lower Saddle, the winds were ripping, so we dropped back to the east for a rest and to layer up before heading towards Dartmouth Couloir.
Since the couloir sits on the western flank of the Teton Range, which gets pummeled by winds, we had to scurry around on rocks for a bit to find the best point to drop into the line. We tried to find a way into the high, skiers right side, but things started to get a little spicy, and more than we are bargaining for on this day. Someday, it would be fun to ski this line all the way from the Upper Saddle or from the Enclosure. I think that would be a 5700′ run into Cascade Canyon. Today, it would be about 4000′.
We were psyched to see that there actually was enough snow in the couloir to make it skiable and since the wind was still hammering us, we hunkered down in our jackets as we put our skis on and buckled our books. Poking through some rocks near the top, we made turns where we could, before making our way to the skier’s right side of the couloir and better skiing. Conditions were variable to say the least, but all the snow was very skiable and really quite fun.
Lower down, I set up to take some shots of Reed in front to Table Mountain and the obvious Y-Couloirs that split its east face. I have dreams about these lines coming into shape…they never do. Reaching the lower slopes of Dartmouth Basin, we cruised on good snow before taking time to appreciate the views and where we were. Unfortunately, since the days are still short, we needed to boogie in order to be back by dark and we continued down bowls and avalanche paths until we reached the bottom of Cascade Canyon.
There weren’t any signs of tracks at first in Cascade Canyon and breaking trail was slow going through the hollow snowpack. We saw some fresh and deep tracks of what I thought might be a mountain lion, but it was kind of hard to tell. (Sorry…no photos.) About a mile from Jenny Lake, we ran into a ski track from what looked like someone who had been ice climbing, and it made travel way easier and faster, but I still face-planted negotiating down Inspiration Point with my heels unlooked and with kicker skins on.
We were happy to cross Jenny Lake while there was still daylight, but the rest of the ski back on the park road was in the dark. Not too big deal without headlamps, but I was feeling zombie like by the time we reached the car.
Support TetonAT and don’t get caught out in the dark. Check out all the
Black Diamond headlamps at Backcountry.com…I like the Spot.
FREE shipping on orders over $50!!!