Reed Finlay skis the East Face of Ranger Peak.
The highest peak in the Tetons north of Mount Moran.
I recently bought a little kicker 6HP motor for my drift boat, mainly for putting across Jackson Lake in the spring to access skiing. Sorry, not a very big fan of canoeing. It’s getting a little late in the season for it to be real handy this year, but none-the-less I wanted to get out this weekend and test it out. Putting in at Leek’s Marina, I rallied two other skiers and we motored towards Ranger Peak, the highest peak in the Tetons north of Mount Moran.
Dawn on the west shore of Jackson Lake.
Since most of the snow is melted below 8500′ in the Tetons right now, and there are no trails into the Ranger Peak region, we knew the first 2-3 hours would be a bear until we reached snowline and we tried to stay positive as we headed into the bush. Reed and I went Teton-style (read…hiking with your ski boots on) from the boat, opting for more support, protection and traction negotiating the bushwhack to come. The lighting was ominous, with a think fog hanging over the mountains as we entered Quartzite Canyon. For the record, though originally named Quartzite Canyon in 1942, it is more recently known as Falcon Draw or Osprey Canyon by local fisherman.
Crazy lighting on the way into Quartzite/Falcon/Osprey Canyon.
Pick which you like best…it’s all good.
It didn’t take long for us to be pretty darn wet from the dew covered brush and dirty from the numerous deadfall we rolled over on the approach, but we found ourselves at snowline and more open terrain at about 8:30am. Our packs were pretty light since we left all our avy gear at home and opted not to bring skins either, which made things a bit more bearable. It felt great to be back in the snow again and the sun began to burn through the clouds (and my skin) after being concealed for the majority of the last three weeks.
Entering the upper canyon.
We moved quickly as the snow below 10K’ was nearly all “summer-snow”, but things slowed down as we approached the big east facing bowl of Ranger peak, as the most recent snow from all the weather we’ve been having hadn’t fully consolidated yet. The bright side was that the snow surface was totally white and smooth and free of sun cups and although it was warm out, the wind was blowing and keeping the temps not too high.
Brian Ladd looks into Waterfalls Canyon and Glacier Peak in the distance.
We dropped into the east facing bowl sometime before noon and linked turns for a thousand feet, coming to a stop at one of the many cirques and tarns that make up the approach to Ranger Peak. I look forward to returning to the area in more winter-like conditions as the terrain looks limitless. After skiing the face, we traversed high to the skier’s right and booted to the top of Peak 10,686 to ski a nice couloir we had eyed on the way in.
Ahhhh…that felt good!
Scrambling up loose, broken rock, we climbed to the top quickly. Brian dropped first and called up that it wasn’t the couloir we had planned to ski. Reed and I ran up to the summit and poked around eyeing the terrain, comparing it to photographs we had taken on the way in (a great benefit of digital cameras) and determined that it was indeed the route. After skiing down to Brian, I continued further down a steep rollover and located the entrance to the narrow couloir section of the line. The skiing was great and the sound of the wet snow flying your skis slapping against the rocks was kind of cool. 1500′ of skiing brought us to another cirque and near the end of the skiing.
Reed drops in on Peak 10,686.
Our bushwhack back down to the lake shore took a different route than on the way in and we found ourselves holding onto bushes and tree branches, lowering ourselves over short rocky drops. We had heard of an old abandoned cabin somewhere low in the canyon and we spotted it from the slopes above. We checked it out for a minute or two, but the mosquitoes were on the hunt and starting to swarm, so we boogied as fast as we could back to the boat.
We had talked to a ranger about this cabin the night before, so it was cool to find it.
It was so nice to just fire up the motor and relax on the float back the car, as opposed to having an epic canoe paddle through choppy waters. Man…am I getting soft or what?