Note: This trip report is part of the TetonAT Trip Report Contest. Lee is now in the running to win a FREE pair of Black Diamond skis based on viewer response and the TetonAT panel of judges! Good luck Lee!!
Kokanee Lake after the East face of John Carter run.
Photo: Max Melchior.
The evening before, plans had been brewing in my mind for an attempt at a beautiful line I had spied on our third day at Kokanee. This aesthetic, steep, N facing line split the E-W ridge off Sunset in two when a happy accident of nature must have induced a fault in rock. We now had 3 days of weather that tended to induce snow stability and a few days of data from a N – facing slope that corroborated that stability. All I had to do was to try to find someone to share in this experience. I talked to Vince and to the custodian, Wylee C., and shortly, we had a plan.
We still had to lay tracks down the E face of John Carter. Our error in leaving the slope unscarred was remedied by early morning. The group split up and I headed off to S Glory Basin to take a look at Outlook.
Sunset peak carpet bombed by multiple skiers.
Photo: Rob McLachlan.
After skiing off Outlook and admiring more views, I made my way over to Sunset where Wylee and Vince were making their way up a bench to the north summit. We joined up and quickly determined that there was no way to either bootpack the ridge leading over to Kokanee Gravity Research (KGR) couloir. We looked for a way off the N summit to drop into the bowl immediately west of the summit to see if we could drop down, but all routes looked cliffed out. From our perch ,there was another beautiful line piercing the NE ridge dropping down to the bowl, so we decided to ski over to it. While we did all this, the rest of the group tracked out the W face of John Carter, then came over to Sunset and proceeded to track that out in an impressively efficient display of powder farming.
We headed over to the S peak. Wylee put in a bootpack along the ridge to the Crazy Mary entry. The S face of Sunset sees a fair amount of wind so it was rather firm and I’m glad we didn’t try to skin over there as it would have been a chore without ski crampons. The bootpack itself is also a tad exposed and the last downclimb to the Crazy Mary entry a challenging experience for those who have vertigo. Wylee dropped in first into waist – deep powder; Vince dropped in second and I took the caboose while the rest of the group snapped pictures of us as tiny dots skiing the 300m shot.
Wylee dropping into Crazy Mary.
We made our way up to Goat Track ridge (we saw some pretty crazy looking mountain goat tracks all along the knife-edge) and scouted out the double entry to KGR. There was a fair bit of space in the right entry so Vince and I elected to drop in on that. The left entry was a bit narrower so Wylee hopped in there. With a protected spot where the Y’s intersected about 200m down and with radio communication I hopped in first into waist-deep stable snow.
Lee dropping into KGR Couloir.
The pitch was consistently steep (55 degrees in top third; 50 – 45 in middle third; 45 then 40 at bottom bench thereafter). What was a pleasant surprise was the consistent quality of the snow, which can be very variable in steep couloirs. Only at the bottom bit of the 600 m pitch was there some debris from old slides and we could make pretty confident turns the whole down. We leap-frogged each other and comfort levels and stoke grew as the snow stability proved to be excellent. This turned out to be the highlight of the trip for me; my partners were confidence-inspiring, our route selection was good, our timing was perfect and the experience was phenomenal.
Vince finds some 3-day old powder in KGR Couloir.
The icing on the cake was that the slog out from the valley bottom which had been so exhausting and so long 3 days ago turned out to be a relative cakewalk. We were out in about half the time and back with plenty of daylight.