I’m gonna milk one more post out of the Winds trip, but I wanted to congratulate Bryan Feinstein, Colin O’Farrell and Ty Cook for a descent of the rad Otterbody Route on the Grand Teton last week. If I have my numbers right, only four other people have previously skied or snowboarded the route…”old school” by some people’s standards I guess (sorry…couldn’t resist…blogesphere humor); Doug Coombs, Mark Newcomb, Doug Workman and John Griber…but there might be someone out there who bagged it under the radar…you never know these days. Solid work!
Ty Cook (The Anchorman) was kind enough to write up a trip report
and provide some photos from the adventure. Thanks Ty!
Bryan Feinstein, Colin O’Farrell and myself had done some great trips recently and this would be the last for a while as Colin was moving to Texas (?!?). We had decided to come in the previous afternoon with large packs full of luxuries to be able to better assess the temperature up high, get a jump on the climbing, and enjoy one last outing together relaxing in our favorite mountains before knocking off the big one.
We started out from our camp in the Meadows at about 1:30 in the morning under mostly clear skies with temps in the low 20’s. Skinning and cramponing up to the Teepee Glacier, then over to the Stettner Couloir went smoothly on a decent crust. A steady wind hit us at Glencoe Cole and we donned another layer and broke out our ice tools. Bryan and I went with a Whippet/tool combo, while Colin had two racing axes. The climbing up the initial Stettner, into the Chevy then Ford Couloirs was pretty straight forward, being mostly neve’ with occasional ice bulges and runnels. It was kind of sporty being in the back, as we had forgone the use of a rope. I climbed in bursts between bulges in the couloir walls to protect myself from the deluge of inevitable stuff being kicked down from above. Bryan, the lungs on legs, stayed in the lead and set a beautiful booter up the Ford in breakable crust over sugar.
The climbing became more casual at this point and the dawn had begun to break. The Ford to the summit was one of those surreal beautiful experiences that only those who chose to roam in the mountains are gifted with through hard work and good timing. We were climbing strong, the snow seemed good, and as I looked out from coulior the strengthening light of the day made the jagged landscape south of us glow in pastels of snow and rock, sharply defining each others forms. The landscape of the Hole and the rest of the range was unobstructed but by thin wisps of valley mist as we topped out on the summit, and I saw my first morning cast of the Cathedral Groups shadow on the western Tetons. We lingered, enjoying the moment, and waiting for the snow to soften in the rising sun.
We began our descent at 8:00 A.M. Bryan and Colin turning and side slipping over rocks off the summit proper, and myself opting to down climb the sixty or so feet to the top of the East Ridge proper. Bryan lead the charge on the type of crust that is great for booting in, but would barely allow ski penetration and would make a self-arrest impossible as your pick would just cut through the crust to the sugar underneath. No falls, at all. I cringed as he made smooth, but loud turns down to the first outcrop on the ridge. Myself next, followed by Colin, we were less than happy with the conditions, except for Bryan who can have fun apparently on anything as long as he has boards strapped to his feet. Our turns where tentative and edge intensive as we watched cascades of angular hunks of crust careen and bounce off into voids around us. We regrouped and decided to wait about in an hour in the cold morning wind until things softened up a little. Which they didn’t.
We proceeded across the East Face to the choke leading down the Otterbodie’s shoulder. I entered the choke and hit a patch of ice and lost the mental game. Shitty snow and big exposure in a 50+ chute, hmmm, I decided to give up the idea of a pure descent on my own part, drove a picket in, gingerly got out of my skis, and down climbed to the first rock outcrop to build an anchor. Bryan followed on skis, with Colin bringing up the rear. A double rope rap got us onto the Otterbody where I was way too comfortable on my points to trade them for skis on softening but still super variable snow.
The sun was getting higher and stuff started to move, so it was time to get out of Dodge. Bryan skied confidently and cleanly almost all the way into the Otterbody Chimneys, myself following on foot and Colin bringing up the rear, a little more tentatively. The day was perfect, except for the snow conditions, and my two bros who had been talking about skiing this crazy thing for years had finally ticked it in good style. It was kind of my job to come along and build anchors for a safe exit, and was proud of the two others and thankful they offered to share this experience with them.I took the lead down the chimneys, getting us to the Teepee glacier in three raps.
Starting to feel the effort of the day, we made turns in buttery snow over wet slide debris and sled luge sized runnels down to the Moraine, finding some nice corn along the way, and down the Meadows headwall back to camp. We packed up and made our way down canyon in increasingly slushy ACL snow with heavy packs and tired legs, buoyed by our success on the final slog out. Back at the car at 3:30 we turned around to look at the line from the Taggart parking lot, glowing from within. Go big, go safe, go with good people. It makes every ounce of effort worthwhile.
Bryan, the crazy man that he is, was off that very afternoon for Indian Creek, Colin would be leaving town in a matter of days, and I was left to ponder, bleary-eyed and awe-struck the nature of the things we do in the mountains and the sublime rewards they can bring. I want to thank Steve for hosting this for us, another killer skier I am happy to have made some great turns with this season. See also Colin’s post on TGR if interested here.