After spending five hours in the car on Friday driving to the trailhead only to turn around and drive another five hours back to Jackson, needless to say I was fired up to get out and get some skiing in this weekend. The local forecast was for temps in the low twenties at night, which meant that the snow would really freeze up well, so things were looking good for a big day. There are so many lines in the Tetons that I want to ski. Some are big and exposed, others are short and steep and kind of obscure. The trip I put together for Saturday involved skiing two Teton peaks, the South and Middle Teton, and Dustin Lemke joined me for an unbelievable day in the park.
The day dawned just about perfect, with a warm glow on the peaks as the sun rose. Approaching from Taggert Lake, we hiked (on and off snow) for about half an hour before putting our skis on. (Btw, since I’ve been getting bombarded with this question…for now…I think Taggert Lake is still the best starting point to access Garnet Canyon.) Arriving at the Meadows, we stopped for a long break and enjoyed the warmth of the sun and virtually zero wind. Conditions are as phenomenal in the Tetons right now and lines are filled in more than ever before this year.
Continuing up the south fork of the canyon, we were headed to ski the East Ridge of the South Teton. A short, but exposed and steep line coming off the east summit of the peak. In the past years, this route was seldom skied, but these days it seems to be rather trendy and I feel it was popularized by Jimmy Chin during his Teton Trifecta in spring of 2008. This is my second attempt at it and although summitting the South Teton on my first try about a week and a half ago, near blizzard conditions made me opt for a mellower way down.
Instead of gaining the summit of the South Teton via the standard route up the Northwest Couloir, we choose a more direct approach up the East Ridge itself. Snow conditions looked just about perfect on the way up and as we rose above the col to the west of the Ice Cream Cone, the views and exposure really started to kick in. Steepening as we got higher on the ridge, we could tell that although short, this descent was going to be rather exciting as well. The tops came quickly as Dustin punched the bootpack in on the final pitch and since we had another peak on the agenda for the day, we quickly transitioned to ski-mode and dropped in.
Technical skiing kept us on our ski tips as the line pulls you to the skier’s right and above some big air down to the North Fork of Avalanche Canyon. My first few turns sent rivers of slough rocketing down the steep face and after letting things settle down a little, I continued downward some more before pulling out the skiers left to let Dustin come on down. Dustin, a merchant marine just back from being at sea for over a month) handled his first turns back in the Tetons with ease and continued past me through some more spicy sections.
Quickly, we were off the ridge and able to relax, now knowing why it has received so much attention lately. Defiantly worth as an objective for any Teton ski mountaineer and recommended when the conditions are good and filled in. Things seemed to be holding up well in regards to both the weather and the snowpack, so we skied down to the saddle between the South and Middle Teton to begin the second half of our day.