High pressure and bluebird skis was enough to get Randokitty and I out in the mountains for a couple nights last week. The plan was to camp about a mile from the mouth of Waterfalls Canyon and ski whatever looked good. Cold, sub-zero temps greeted us as we arrived at Jackson Lake for the crossing at dawn. A nearly full moon was lit up like fire as it set behind a glowing Mount Moran as the sun rose. Truly a magical time to be on the lake.
Since the approach was mostly flat before reaching our camping spot, I opted to tow a sled with the majority of our overnight gear in it instead of packing it on my back. I like pulling a sled when conditions are good and it makes me feel like Rocky hauling logs through deep snow in Rocky IV. Ironically, and if I remember correctly, wasn’t the footage of Rocky training outdoors in the winter (supposedly in the Soviet Union) filmed in Kelly, WY? The crossing went well and we picked a camping spot off the lake a bit so we wouldn’t be stuck in the cold air that sits on the valley floor at night. (I learned my lesson already with that one.) It also had nice eastern exposure so the early morning sun would warm us as we drank coffee and ate goat-meal.
After dropping off the sled, we continued up canyon to explore the surroundings. So many lines to choose from and with the sun rising quickly, we opted to head toward the shaded North Couloir of Eagles Rest Peak. Randokitty relaxed in the sun as I rallied my remaining energy and booted up the couloir alone. Views to the south opened up as I topped out at a col and the skiing was consistently marginal as I descended back the Kitty’s lair. As we enjoyed the sun and some food before heading back to camp, we watched as someone skied Ranger Peak in the distance. It’s always cool to see a lone track in a vast sea of white snow. After crossing numerous wet-slide debris piles on the ski back to camp, a little bit of Jagermeister helped keep the spirits high as the suns set and lit up the west face of Moran.
The next morning we had a leisurely start and skinned out of camp at 10am. Though the sun was warm down low, high ridge top winds were in the forecast which would hopefully keep things a bit cooler and in place at higher elevations. We had our sights set on Doane Peak, which is equal to Ranger Peak as the highest Teton Peak north of Moran, and has multiple options to ski off its summit.
It was nice to follow our skin track down low in the canyon from the previous day, before veering into new terrain. As we crested the ridgeline above 11,000′, the winds began to pick up, pushed us around and gave us a free dermal abrasion as we hiked on the wind-scoured ridge to the summit of Doane. The views south into the canyons north of Moran was amazing and it truly showed that there is plenty of terrain left to explore if you have the time.
Our descent route took us down to the northeast, on a ridge separating two nice looking bowls, before skiing a very interesting moraine feature. The snow was chalky, with the occasional patch of soft snow where you could find it. Not the best skiing I’ve ever had, but with little signs of avalanche danger, our moods stayed relaxed on the descent. One last steep pitch brought us back into Waterfalls Canyon and I was proud of Randokitty for her skiing. Creamy, wet snow at the lower elevations brought us back to camp and bright stars and warm drinks made us content as day turned into night.
As we laid down in our sleeping bags, I fired up my phone to check the weather forecast for the next day and our exit out back across Jackson Lake. To my surprise, an intense weather system was moving into the valley with heavy snow and high winds and I hoped we could get across before it turned on. I dreamed about wandering around in circles on the lake with zero visibility…not something I was looking forward to.
Light snow on the tent woke me up before 6am and I rallied the Kitty to motivate and pack our gear up before our tracks across the lake got filled in. Sure enough, the vis shut down as we got to the lake. The wind picked and our track disappeared when we were about half-way across. Luckily, I had a compass handy and had taken a bearing on our approach, so we had a sense of where to go. After about half an hour of staring and skiing in milk-bottle conditions, the east shore started to become visible and my anxiety began to dwindle. Soon enough we were loading the rig with our gear and eating cinnamon rolls that I had left in the van for our return. Home sweet home.