Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Southwest Couloir on Moran done!!!!

After my attempt about a week ago, I was ready to go back and ski the Southwest Couloir. I was hoping the snow would be a little more settled and this time I knew exactly where I was going. This time I was joined by three different guys Don, Patrick and Ben. These guys are some of my favorite ski buddies so I was stoked, they also are strong which is great for putting in boot packs. (ha ha.) We left the string lake parking lot around 4 am and started skinning toward the mountain. We were a little nervous about crossing Leigh lake, but we knew it would be faster and day was supposed to warm so we needed to get going. The lake seemed pretty frozen but the top layer was definitely weakening. We cruised across the lake with no major problems and jumped onto shore. We were hoping that the lake crossing was the crux of our trip. We started to skin up the canyon following Moran around. We passed quite a few bar tracks, a couple of them definitely belonging to a grizzly, this made me nervous. I really did not want to come face to face with a grizzly.
As we wove out of the trees and started to gain elevation the alpenglow on the mountains was so beautiful, there was no one in sight and the only tracks, besides the bears that we saw were the tracks from us the week before. We skinned as high as we could which was put us at 9500 feet only 3000 more to go! The snow was pretty frozen so we put on our crampons and started our boot pack up the gully that we had missed a week ago. We were able to move pretty quickly with the hard snow and continued switching off. We made it to the base of the couloir in about an hour and a half from when we had started boot packing, the base of couloir was at about 11,000 ft. We took a quick break and then started our ascent up the beautiful couloir with huge walls on either side and a mix of different types of rock. The snow was a little deeper in the couloir, which made for better skiing, but tough boot packing. The elevation also was starting to slow our pace we reached the top of the couloir at around 11 am and still had not seen any sun, but we knew as soon as we skied out of the couloir it would be really warm. We topped out at about 12,300 just about 300 feet from the summit, scrambling over rock and snow in an exposed area looked a little challenging so we opted out of trying to get to the summit. We clicked in and one at a time skied the long steep couloir. (about an average of 45 degrees entire way.) The snow was variable, but it was definitely high on my coolest couloir list. We skied out of the couloir and into the sun. The mountains around were starting to come alive with wet slides, so we boogied down the gully and out to a safe zone for a break. This time we had to go around the lake and do some bushwhacking, definitely took longer, but we were all glad that we had nothing to do with the lake. We made it back to the car right around 4 pm, made for a long day, but we were all psyched to have skied an aesthetic couloir on Moran!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Attempt of Southwest Couloir on Moran!

It had snowed about three feet in the last week, which was making for some winter conditions. A group of four of us decided to go and checkout and hopefully ski the Southwest Couloir on Mt Moran. I was not feeling totally optimistic, because of all the snow that we had received in the past week, but I was really excited to go and check out a new area. We left the String Lake parking lot at 5 am, the skies were clear and it was below freezing. We skinned across Leigh lake, which was still very frozen. The sun rose up over the lake and made fore a gorgeous sunrise. We stopped for water and food at the mouth of Leigh canyon on the far side of the lake. We then started to ascend up the canyon, the skinning was pretty tough with all the new snow we were trudging in snow up to our knees. I was glad that we had four of us to break trail, because we continually switched off as we climbed about 3800 vertical feet. Somehow we missed our turn and ended up at the bottom of Hidden Couloir on Thor Peak. Dan and Mark were sure we were going the right way and Brian and I were not totally convince, we somehow had veered away from Moran. We decided since we had already come this far that we would just start making our way up Hidden Couloir and get some good turns. We were skinning up the bottom when a small slide came barreling down above us, which seemed to be in slow motion. We were all able to get out of the way, but that was enough excitement to turn us around. We skied back down the skin track and decided to at least see if we could see the Southwest Couloir. We boot packed up a protected saddle and there right in front of us was the couloir, it looked pretty awesome. We knew with the conditions and time of day that we were not going to attempt to ski it. We skied over the saddled and decided to ski down the gully that we were supposed to ascend up. The skiing was really good, with just a few sharks here and there. Since we had not come up this way we were not sure if we could ski the entire way down. The gully narrowed more as the four of us descended in elevation and we all skied to the side in a safer zone and Brian skied down to see if the we could ski through. He said it was a no go, we then strapped on our crampons and got out our ice axes and decided to try and down climb the small ice section. Mark descended first and was having some difficulties so we started to look for another route. We climbed up and to the right and were relieved to find a way out. We skied out and to the lake and were psyched to have made it safely down. After seeing the couloir I can not wait to get back up there to hopefully ski have another chance to ski the Southwest Couloir!!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Static Peak

My two good girlfriends and I decided to go and check out the conditions in Grand Teton National Park. We decided to ski Static Peak, which stands at 11,303 feet. It was a good start to the spring skiing in the Tetons. We started skinning around 730 am and reached the summit around 11 am. It was more of a trek than I had thought. I had been up there in the summer, but the winter approach is different. It was still pretty frozen at the top, which made for tough skiinning. The summit of Static is actually one of my favorite views in the park. You have a great view of Buck mountain and the Grand. It also drops off about 500 feet off the backside. it was still pretty cold when we reached the summit at 1120 am. We decided to just ski the main bowl back down to Stewarts draw. It was pretty nice corn and it was fun to rip big G.S. style turns the entire way down. I was pretty excited about skiing static it was a lot longer and steeper than I had thought. Now I think I am ready for something bigger!!!