By: randosteve|Posted on: February 29, 2008|Posted in: Broken Link to Photo/Video, GTNP, The Tetons | 3 comments

Avalanche Canyon

Wet and rainy conditions welcomed the racers, but Brandon French toughed it out and was the first American, and first in his start group, to cross the finish line. Challenging conditions for all racers and props to the other US team members for gutting it out to the finish. Italian Guido Giacomelli won it for the men. Unfortunately both Nina and Lyndsay didn’t make this race due to illness. Click here for full results.

Well, it looks like we are headed to Chamonix for a day or two before heading back home to the states and Jackson Hole on Tuesday. To tell you the truth, I’m jonesing for some steep Teton couloirs and it looks like my ski partner Reed Finlay has been doing his part to keep the stoke meter high. Here, he gives synapses of a descent he did last week on one of what we call the 11’s Couloirs on Peak 10,960, which with around a 100” base right now and about 450” of snow this year are in prime shape. Nice work Reeders!!

For quite a few years I have been looking at these lines up in Avalanche Canyon (“11’s”), wondering how to link up these beautiful twin couloirs. I know a few guys have skied these lines– the name ‘Ed Bushnell’ comes to mind– any comments Ed? I tried hard to find a partner for this trip but everyone either was working, was sick, or was in Europe for the Ski Mountaineering Championships. So I decided to head out on my own and see what kind of adventure would happen.

Peak 10,960 Mar 06

I left the lot at 9 a.m. and saw a few others gearing up for Turkey Chute and 25′ Short. Originally I was going to try something further up the canyon but started to change my mind the closer I got to these lines. Got to the forks at about 11 and decided to bail on going further up the canyon ’cause the 11’s looked so good and it was one of the few areas that didn’t have tracks on it. I skinned up to the lower couloir on wind-firmed snow. I was definitely glad to have and try out my ski crampons from B&D Designs– thanks Bill! Once in the lower couloir I cramponed on firm snow to the crux of the climb: either left up a fluted snow fin onto an overhanging rock slab or onto a rapidly warming slabby face of thin snow which stymied me two years ago.

Doug Cook attempting the slabby crux Mar 06

Johnathan and Cameron getting ready for part two of thier dayAfter trying both options and failing, I decided to ski back down and skin around into the S. Fork of Avalanche and boot-pack a couloir/rib system up the SE side of the peak. As I was transitioning I noticed two folks making beautiful turns down Turkey Chute. They skied right up to me and after a few words I had talked them into joining me on my adventure. Their names were Jonathan, a gung-ho Aussie transplant and ex-patroller living in Boulder and his friend Cameron, a ski patroller from Copper Mtn. originally from Maine with a solid tele background and numerous trips to Tuckerman’s Ravine. They have been out here enjoying our wonderful range and getting as much touring in as possible so they were both pretty worked but stepped it up and decided to join me. I was very happy to have their company!

 First few truns with Grand in the background

We made pretty good time to the summit of the peak and I enjoyed hearing their tales of patrolling at Copper. We summited at about 3:30 and enjoyed the calm air, sun, and stunning views all around. We could even see turns on the Grand! I led the way into the looker’s right line and was impressed by the steepness and good snow at the top. As I got further down though the snow became a lot firmer and I became less focussed on the views and more in tune with making the turns.

Getting steeper

Cameron making turns above the alcoveI finally got to a little alcove out of the line of fire and had Cameron come down. He skied it in style– on tele gear!! We changed positions and I went further down to a place where I could traverse onto the rib in the middle of the couloirs– part two of the run. We waited for Jonathan to make his way down to us. We then skied some really nice powder and chalk in the trees down to the crux of the run: a traverse on icy snow above some ice-covered slabs down into the lower couloir, looker’s left, where I had been earlier in the morning.

Making turns in the lower part of the couloir

I went first, side-slipping and stepping over some rotten snow and ice into the safe haven of the alcove! Then Cameron and Jonathan down, one at a time. It took a little while but better slow and steady in these conditions!

Powder turns below the peak note ice buldges and chockstone below right couloir on the bottom

We got down to the alcove and with all the ‘sporty’ stuff behind us enjoyed some chalk and powder turns down to the forks of the canyon and a little refreshments at the bottom. It was rewarding to admire our achievement in the setting sun before heading back to the parking lot. Hats off to two fellow adventurers and thanks for a great day in the mountains!

Reed Finlay