For my Grandfather


Just a quick post for my granddad who passed away last weekend at the ripe old age of 89. I missed the funeral due to too much snow and my flight being canceled. I went and made some turns for him since the snow kept me from the funeral.

SGilsonCred

Yours truly doing some early season nighttime shredding up at Bridger. Mad photo props to Steve Gilson for this one.

Grand Teton ’07


It is a beautiful autumn day here in Bozeman and unfortunately I am stuck in my office working diligently to finish my Master’s thesis with hopes I can graduate this semester. Sitting and waiting for my computer to process data leads me to day dreaming about this upcoming winter and I realized that I have not posted the trip report from my first ski mountaineering trip I went on in January 2007.

It all started with a phone call from my good friend and climbing partner Patrick Lawrence. It was Thursday morning and I had just returned to Bozeman from my annual trip to Colorado.

“What are you plans for this weekend?” asked Patrick.
I had my typical response, “Probably skiing.”
“Want to ski the Grand Teton?”
“I guess… but I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
“That’s cool, I’ll help you.”
“Well if the snow is in and you think I can do it, I’m down.” I answered.

We met that afternoon and geared up. I was borrowing ice tools and a pack and was excited to try out my new crampons. After getting our gear together and making a plan of attack (Patrick mostly planned I just went with whatever he said) we made arrangements to stay in Driggs, Idaho Friday night. We left Bozeman Friday afternoon and stayed at my friend Evan’s parent’s house and caught a couple hours of sleep. We left Driggs around 11:30 P.M. (that’s not a typo it was actually 11:30 at night) and drove the hour to Grand Teton National Park.

We skinned through the night and approached Garnet Canyon. We got to the base of the Tetons and began climbing towards the canyon. After a few hours of constant climbing something didn’t seem right. We should have been in a canyon with relatively mellow climbing, yet we were climbing a very large face. It turns out we missed the cutoff to Garnet Canyon and instead we were climbing too far North and towards Amphitheater Lakes. We quickly traversed to the south and dropped into Garnet Canyon losing the majority of the elevation we had gained climbing all night. On the flats of the canyon we made good time and saw a couple other groups also heading to The Grand.

We climbed towards Tepee Glacier just as the sun was rising and suffered through what seemed like a never ending bootpack.

Sunrise while climbing out of Garnet Canyon.  Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Sunrise while climbing out of Garnet Canyon. Photo: Patrick Lawrence

In case anyone doesn’t know this, the Grand Teton is a BIG mountain. The steep climb out of the canyon only put us at the base of the peak and we still had several thousand more vert to climb. I was feeling the burn already (I was still new to this whole earn your turns, mountaineering style skiing) and looked up the steep face above Tepee Glacier and wondered if it was such a good idea coming on this trip.

Just a few more steps.... Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Just a few more steps.... Photo: Patrick Lawrence

After climbing for what seemed like forever we arrived at the bottom of the Stettner Couloir. The Stettner Couloir is really just a thin band of snow and ice that clings to the side of the mountain. This section provided the most technical climbing and most breathtaking exposure. Having never ice climbed before I was quite nervous looking up at several 10-15′ tall ice bulges. We roped up and Patrick led. We made it up the first pitch without incident. There was a bottleneck at the bottom of the next pitch and we had to wait for some other climbers.

Climbing the Stettner Couloir.  Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Climbing the Stettner Couloir. Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Past Teepee Glacier things are pretty exposed and steep for the rest of the climb and ski.

Past Teepee Glacier things are pretty exposed and steep for the rest of the climb and ski.

A climber negotiates an ice bulge in the Stettner Couloir.

A climber negotiates an ice bulge in the Stettner Couloir.

We finally had our turn to climb and just as we were setting belay, a random solo climber came up behind us. Considering the exposure we offered him a belay which he greatly appreciated. Everything went well until the very last ice bulge. The difficulty came topping out which involved very thin unsupportive snow, as well as plenty of unsupportive rotten ice. Finding good spots for the ice tool was difficult and as inexperienced as I was I struggle quite a bit. Finally I just went for it and sure enough my ice tool came loose and I fell. Patrick quickly caught me and I made it over on my second attempt only a little shaken.

Climbing the Stettner Couloir after a scary fall.  Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Climbing the Stettner Couloir after a scary fall. Photo: Patrick Lawrence

The Middle Teton

The Middle Teton

After the technical section came more bootpacking, this time only with more exposure. We climbed, and climbed, and climbed the the Ford Couloir and finally topped out to the summit ridge. We had set a 2 P.M. turn around time and it was around that time now. We decided to try and push another 30 minutes but I was bonking pretty hard. Finally 500′ from the summit Patrick decided to turn around, it was 2:30 and we still had to repel the 6 pitches we had climbed. I stopped and ate lunch and geared up for the down.

Patrick Lawrence gets ready to ride the Ford Couloir with the summit in the background.

Patrick Lawrence gets ready to ride the Ford Couloir with the summit in the background.

Don't fall Patrick

Don't fall Patrick

Patrick snowboarded down to the repel point and I followed behind the solo climber we helped belay. The snow was chalky and edgy, and every turn I had to think “don’t fall, don’t fall”.

Don't fall, don't fall, don't fall.... skiing the Ford Couloir. Photo: Patrick Lawrence

Don't fall, don't fall, don't fall.... skiing the Ford Couloir. Photo: Patrick Lawrence

We repelled out, which was miserable as wind was blasting up the couloir and we had to wait for other groups to finish rapelling before we could go. We finished the repels as the sun was getting low in the sky. Skiing one more exposed section before skiing down to Tepee Glacier provided one last bit of excitement as well as good snow. It was dusk by the time we dropped off of the glacier and into Garnet Canyon. The snow was rock hard and ultra icy. We skied out to the flats where I discovered my skins were frozen and I would have to sidestep the remaining 4-5 miles. On the way out we lost the trail and had to bushwhack for several hours. Exhausted and in agony from being in my alpine boots (this was pre-AT boots for me) for 18 hours I was ready to bivy for the night in the woods. Goaded by Patrick I continued towards the trail head and arrived back at the car around 11p.m. for a total of nearly 23 hours on the mountain. I was perhaps more exhausted than I had ever been in my life, but I was suddenly addicted. I still hope to make it back out to the Grand and ski from the summit some day.