Mount Moran is no doubt one of the most iconic mountains of the Teton Range. At 12,605′ it ranks as the fourth highest peak of the range and with a prominence of over 2,500′, its summit massif is a daunting goal…made even more challenging by its remoteness and relatively difficult approach. It is an impressive site when viewed from the east across Jackson Lake and lures skiers and climbers from around the world to scale its slopes, faces, couloirs and ridges.
Surrounded by deep canyons (Leigh and Moran Canyon) on all but one westerly ridge, Mount Moran offers and has multiple ski lines on its flanks, most of which are quite challenging. Some have only been skied by a handful of skiers and snowboarders, some are test pieces for intermediate ski mountaineers looking to bag a bigger Teton classic.
After a few attempts to gain its summit, in 1918 Harry Child (of the Yellowstone Park Transportation Company) was quoted in Scientific American saying, “The summit has never been attained and probably never will, as the last 3000 feet of the mountain are sheer perpendicular walls.” Inspired by this bold claim, LeRoy made an attempt the following year, attaining Moran’s northern summit in a sleet storm, only to be turned back at 9pm. Three years later in 1922, Dr. L. H. Hardy, Ben Rich and Bennet McNulty finally reached the peak’s south summit on July 27th , but their note placed in a whiskey bottle at the summit wasn’t discovered until 1964, adding to the peaks continuing climbing history.
For skiers, Mount Moran is a grand descent and offers nearly 6000′ of continuous fall line skiing on many of its routes. It’s first descent of credited to the legendary Bill Briggs, along with Pete Koedt, Dick Person and Fletcher Manley..all on fix heel gear. Other notable firsts on the peak are the first freeheel decent by Rick Wyatt (also recognized to have the first freeheel descent of the Grand Teton) in a rare October descent in 1980 and the first snowboard descent by Stephen Koch in 1991, also known for numbers snowboard firsts throughout the Teton Range.
For the rest of this week, we will focus our attention on Mount Moran, some of it’s routes, as well as tell some stories of my own experiences on the mountain. Stay tuned! (ref: Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range, Teton Skiing: A History and Guide)