Skiing Maroon Bells Bell Cord and North Face
The “Double Bells” Human powered in a day.
Autumn Photo from FB
Skiing Maroon Bells Bell Cord and North Face
The “Double Bells” Human powered in a day.
Autumn Photo from FB
Ski descent Otter Body Grand Teton National Park
I just left a grip of incredible steep couloirs in Cooke City Montana. It was raining.This is my spring ski trip to explore and shred new mountain ranges in Montana and Idaho, but it was just too warm. While chilling in Bozeman plotting my next move, I checked the weather in all of the major Rocky Mountain ranges. I have them all as icons on my iPhone. Snow nerd? Maybe I just like steep skiing and its all about the weather.
The high Tetons were going to see low 20’s or even teens at night and mid 30’s during the day for the next few days and it was currently snowing. But it certainly wasn’t a “new range” for me. My buddy Mike and I had one line in particular we were waiting and watching for the ideal conditions to shape up. I called Mike from wet and warm Bozeman on Thursday afternoon. He returned my call in 30 minutes and said he and Chris would leave Breckenridge Friday at noon to meet at the Taggart Lake trail head for a 2am start Saturday morning.
A ski descent of the mythical Otter Body may just come together. 1957 We wanted to ski the Grand Teton in powder. So, of course this means deep trail breaking. It also means the potential of being ‘lanched’ in the Stetener Chevy or Ford Couloirs if there was a party above us. This, and knowing the sun hits the East face at first light, meant a 2am start. We have paired our entire kit down to the lightest, yet solid mountain tested tools. Mike choose his Faction Agent 100’s with Dynafit TLT Carbon boots and of course a Dynafit binding. Expecting a mixed bag of deep pow and glazed east facing spring ice, I grabbed the Agent 90 and Ultra light Scarpa Alien 1.0 carbon boots. I’ve learned to enjoy both the big guns for shorter days and the smaller light equipment when going far and high. I’ve learned speed equals safety in the mountains and the easier the skinning, the more rad lines we ski! Two teams started some hours before us. We were able to catch up, and after thanking Inga and Blake for their hard work we took over the trail breaking duties on the Teepee Glacier. Once in the Stetener it was waist deep wallowing and our speed really slowed. We still had time with the early start and unseasonably low 15 degree temps above 11k. So hateful post-holing ensued.
We tied in and I lead up through the ice bulge the Chevy Couloir. It’s only a few spots of Ice with one AI 3 bulge to clear. Mike set off breaking trail into the Ford Couloir while I finished belaying Chris.
Booter up the Ford Couloir pictured here. The summit was close now and the views got real.
Shot of Inga and Blake at top of Ford where previous photo was taken from.
A tall summit always feels even better with skis doesn’t it!
We had been forecasting the snow stability from far away for a couple weeks. Checking precip, wind, temps, Avy forecast and other skiing activity. Doing our homework leading up to a big high consequence line is a prerequisite for my partners and I. I don’t go for the send unless I learn most of the deck is stacked in our favor.
Here we make the final assessment of recent snow before committing to the steeper wide open East face. Soft and stable. Check!
The upper east face skied a foot deep of soft with 3-4″ of light and fresh on top. That is, until we were 2000′ lower and it rolled over steeper. Right before the first rappel the new snow had sloughed off to reveal the spring glaze. Thank you JD at Alpine Sports Breck for the 3 degree side bevel! Slow it down and locate the anchors man! Mike and I worked together to find them.
One 30 meter rap brought us to the line’s namesake Otter Body. Despite this snowfield hanging over a 700′ cliff it didn’t seem as heavy or steep as other pitches on the line. Maybe 43 degrees here but the gravity below kept us honest. And the snow was great again. Of course until it steepens right before searching for hidden anchors. I was sensing a devious trend here.
The need to be dialed on steep skiing with the weight of our standard day touring pack, plus mountaineering gear goes without saying. But despite shredding with the heavier pack, the skiing is not the hard part for solid Freeriders. It’s the mountaineering spidey sense, to sniff out the usually buried anchors, and quick efficient rope handling skills. Then there is the ‘ski-to-rap, stash-the-poles, grab-the-ice axe’ type transitions. And no matter how smooth we are, there is always some jerry like antics to factor into the timing. It’s all good if we have built in the ‘unknown time suck’ factor and most importantly, Jerry doesn’t drop the rope. You laugh but it happened to the best. On this mountain, one week prior, twice in one day, by two separate pro Jerrys! I say that with much respect two of them are the real deal with ski mountaineering resumes to rival the greats! Keep it tight-loose!
If you look carefully you can see Chris rappelling through the last major cliff feature. One day on a monster El Niño year some bad ass will ski the 60 degree ice and send this 100 footer to the massive slough pile at the top of the Teepee Glacier. I bet that day is far away. Or is it?
Teague Holmes, Chris and Mike are amped to have skis on the Teepee glacier and DAMN….to have skied the Otterbody on the GFT!!!
Teague Holmes, Inga and Blake successfully shredded up the Ford Couloir and figure 8 it up past the Teepee Spire. Thanks for the skinner up to the Spire!
The Otterbody route on East Face of The Grand Teton Grand Teton National Park Wyoming USA
What a way to top off a rad winter of lapping the resort when it’s deep, riding park when it’s not, human powered dawn patrols and weekend backcountry tours. What do we have our eye on this spring!?
14-15 March 2015
Mt Timpanogos to Mt Olympus
It’s funny how our perceptions are changed. Time, people who go before, personal bests and trying adventures change our perception of what is possible. And it’s just damn fun to hang it out there and realize the mystery of a new adventure.
Before I first moved to the Wasatch for the winters, I went on a long adventure with my friend Chris Covington. I say “long” because at the time, it was a long day of backcountry skiing on regular sized ski touring equipment for me. I had gone much further on race skis with a lighter pack in half the time. But this, was different. Like most, I had not explored much out of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The Wasatch still seemed huge and much of the terrain was still unknown to me. Here is a quick synopsis of our adventure. We started at the White Pine trail head- climbed the Pfeifferhorn and skied it’s North West Couloir, rapping the cliff in the middle. We then skied up the head of Hogum Fork up and over Thunder Ridge into Bells Canyon and up Lone Peak. From there we changed into our rock climbing costume, rapped into the Lone Peak Cirque and climbed the Center Thumb out. We changed back into our ski costume and skied a North east Couloir and out Bells Canyon where we hitched back up Little Cottonwood Canyon to complete our big adventure. It took about 12 hours and was likely 15 miles, 7,000′ of climbing and all with a rope and rack on the back. And ya know, I felt tired but great. What else could we do here? Of course I began dreaming up more big adventures and link ups in the Wasatch.
Over the years the adventures keep getting bigger. It’s the normal progression right? Fast forward past four winters in the Wasatch to last weekend.
“…yeah Noah Howell skied from Lone Peak to the SLC Twins during his ‘Super Coaster’ “yeah, thats pretty big.” “Timpanogos is a big single run.” “How about we link ski lines on Timp and Box Elder in a Day?” Andy Dorais- “Hmmm, why don’t we ski lines on Timp, Box Elder, The Pfeifferhorn, and the SLC Twins in a day.” It just kept getting more and more absurd. I don’t know who suggested it, probably Tom Goth, “…but why not add Mt Olympus and then its an enchainment of five of the most prominent peaks in Utah and Salt Lake Counties.” So we’ll ski from Mt Timpanogos to Mt Olympus? Why not? I like skiing all day and night!
Lars Tom and I made the nearly one hour drive to the Battle Creek trail head in Pleasant Grove. It seemed strange to drive for almost an hour mostly on the interstate only to get out with the intent to ski back home over some of the ranges largest mountains. It was still dark and I wasn’t awake enough to come to my senses before my light Scarpa Tru running shoes were on and we were walking up the dirt trail to the snow. I note ‘light’ since we would be carrying them for the next day and a half. This stretch of dirt was only a couple miles of the 6,500′ ascent and one of the times we gave the middle finger to global warming. We hit the snow at the dead elk caracas and enjoyed fast skinning and good booting to the summit in the rising light.
Lars and Tom saw Mountain Goats near the North summit while I was obliviously walking the rock ridge toward our descent.
Tom dove in first, opening the 4000′ cold creamy descent into the Timpanookie basin, through snowfields and gladded chutes, down a rad little couloir and out the road until the snow gave up, and spring pavement took over.
Aliens off, shoes back on and down the road we walked. Toms awesome girlfriend Dominique met us to refuel. Bellies full we walked the road up to the Tibble Fork trail head and began our ski up Box Elder. Box Elder took a while during the heat of the day. Luckily Tom had done great route finding homework and kept us right on course as we all alternated taking good pulls to break trail to the summit. Somewhere around the top we hit about 12k of climbing for the day and the legs were beginning to feel the accumulated vert. On the summit we ate and drank well. All three of us know these events are only eating and drinking missions with a lot of skiing thrown in. After skiing some ok snow down to the Shotgun Chutes the day got even better. The Shotguns always seem to deliver cold settled creamy snow many days after a storm. We laughed all the way down the 3000′ line.
-Phone dead no photos from Box through the Pfeiff 🙁
-Phone charged a bit when at aid in LCC Keep reading for more photos!
The climb up the Pfeifferhorn found us breaking trail about half way before we opted to take an existing skin track. We chose to avoid the steeper more direct and solar aspect approach with the hot temps and wet snow. Could be tricky footing and just a couple steep slopes to climb under warm snow. We cruised seemingly effortlessly on a low angled skin track before gaining the ridge and scrambling and booting to the summit. Climbing up the Pfeiff late in the day after an early start and over 15,000′ of skiing, produced a strange feeling . It was like we were suspended in time. As I booted the last steep pitch onto the summit I looked at my feet for careful steps in the icy boot track. When there were no more steps to take me any higher, I looked up and out past Box Elder back to Mt Timpanogos in all it’s grandeur. It looked impossibly far away. I turned to look at the Salt Lake Twins and felt, happy. This, this is where it all makes sense. It all works so well. This is perfect. The boys ripped skins and we dropped the east ridge and into the high North facing headwall of Maybird. We enjoyed a nice 4000′ run of shaded snow all the way down to Red Pine trees and the road below Tanners. Dominique showed up like clockwork with provisions to power us onward. We changed socks, mowed down donuts, pizza Coke and potato chips. Lars had broken a pole while crossing the creek so I attempted to fix it with a coke can, stick and duct tape. Nothing was going to stop us from finishing this thing.
Except maybe Tanners.
Nothing worked very well. We kept switching from post-holing in the mildly crusted iso-thermal snow to slipping while skinning on Avy debris. It was so slow. And then we realized we had followed snow up an east fork about 800′ vert off course. We planned to fork right to avoid the suspected melt out and waterfall of the main drainage but we forked to early. I gained a ridge and turned on the high beam. Yep, way off. The guys were demoralized. We really slowed down, stopped and messed around for to long deciding how to move forward. I figured we could continue and according to the map and memory, ski off and around Dromedary to regain our route up the Twins. It seemed like the conservative thing to do was back track. I hate back tracking. We were now 15hours, and around 17,000′ into the trip. We punched in and stumbled back down through the half frozen avy debris only to turn the corner into the correct fork to re-ascend. It’s now 9:30 at night and we need to punch and slip our way back up at least 2000′ to the top of Tanners. And then we still had the Twins, the Defsmith shwack, Wasatch Boulovard and Mount Olympus to go. Wow. And you know what? I didn’t give a #u$%. This is a small bump in a long road. We finally made it to the top of Tanners in 4 and a half hours including our detour. What normally takes us an hour and a half took three times as long in our state and difficulties. Happily at the O’Sulivan/Dromedary col we ate more food and drink. Throw the lever on the Aliens, rip skins and drop into the dark. Score! We surffed the cold dense powder down the North side high into Broads Fork. We cut left part way down and started up the fourth major peak of the “day” under the stars and calm night air.
At this point Lars started to act pretty sleepy. We all certainly had our moments. Once we met the rock step in the ridge that requires some exposed climbing I suggested he lead as I thought in his sleepy state that leading would cause him to be more on point rather than less engaged while following. We don’t use a rope for this section and the holds are good if you are awake. Plus, he had been there only a few days earlier to ski the South West face of the Twins. I followed as Lars quickly climbed up the rock step and we were booting toward the fourth major summit.
Once we hiked a leg up and pulled onto the summit, the expansive lights of the Salt Lake Valley flooded our eyes. What a sight.
It was 2 in the morning. We skied off into the sustained steep North west Couloir of the most prominent Mountain over the middle of this valley of well over a million. Most of which were sound asleep as one should be at 2AM. This 6000′ line would be a popular classic if it wasn’t for the shwack out Defsmith Canyon. During a regular tour it would be great to ski the top 3000′ and ascend to Bonkers. Or do like Noah Howell and ski the 4 or 5 major lines off the summits of the Twins. Why not?
Let’s not discuss the shwack out of Defsmith. This is one of the parts where we give the middle finger to global warming.
After escaping the grips of Defsmith we strolled over to the 7-11 to refuel. (Dominique was asleep like everyone else but us and the store clerk) He wasn’t sure what to make of our ‘get-up’ and red eyed wandering around the store, pulling pop tarts, chips and eating donuts right off the shelves. After guzzling coffee and Redbull to wash it all down, we staggered down Wasatch in race suits and skis on our backs. I fell asleep three times while walking and almost fell down. Thank god it was dark and everyone was still asleep.
We charged up the Olympus trail, Lars leading with renewed energy from the rising sun, making it to the summit in not much over 2hrs. As we scrambled the rock to the summit I felt a wash of emotion. These are the days. These are the days we feel alive. When we are at our best. Doing what we do well. When it all makes sense and it all works so perfectly. We were tested for 29 hours and were tired and couldn’t be happier. Lars and I looked at each other and felt the same thing. We smiled, put the boots on, and down climbed the bit of rock to the top of Memorial #1.
While walking through Olympus Cove, Lars a winning Ultra runner mentioned The Mt Timpanogos to Mt Olympus was the longest, furthest, and most vert he had ever completed in a push. I agreed. I looked back on my first “big” adventure in the Wasatch. It was far with a climbing adventure built in, a total blast and eye opening to the potential for exploring in the Wasatch. This Timp-olympus Enchainment was an absurd route idea and right in our back yard. It’s a riot to conjure up ridiculous adventures and then go see if you can pull them off. We end up forever changing our perception of what’s possible, and building relationships and memories. I believe it’s the collaborative minds and sequence of mystery, creativity and realization that make this game of adventure so damn fun. Thanks for the stoke Andy, Jason, Lars and Tom.
23,000′ ascent and 23000′ of skiing, 50+Miles??, 5 of the most prominent summits, 2 counties, 1 wrong turn, fantastic snow, horrendous snow, Scarpa Aliens, 6 Kate’ Bars, Gnarly Whey and Boost, 2 Redbulls, a broken ski pole, and two sunrises.
The Teton Trifecta
Jason and Andy Dorais and Tom Goth and I seem to share an insatiable appetite for ski mountaineering in a light full throttle style. We seem to to line up mountains and stack ski lines to march through with non stop enthusiasm and group mega stoke! This adventure found us taking brakes cooking and skiing in the dark. We were still able to complete a good sized enchainment and the down time along the way was a bit chilly, and awesome!
After a mid afternoon start from Salt Lake we drove to the Tagart Lake Trail head. After quickly packing and splitting group climbing gear and a stove we shoved off at about 2:15PM. After shouldering the packs up the South Teton we skied the NW down to the col. The crew of Andy Dorais, Tom Goth and Jason Dorais and I then booted up the South West Couloir of the Middle Teton in the waining low light. From the summit of the Middle Teton we were treated to a stunning sunset. After rapping in from the towering dark summit we clicked in. It was a surreal experience to ski the cold soft snow on the Glacier Route on the East face by starlight. Once we reached the foot of the Grand Teton we took turns manning the stove and napping while we brewed up some food and water and dozing off for a few hours. Well Tom and I manned the stove while Jason and Andy enjoyed their reclined position in our little pseudo biv snow hole. It’s ok, as they pull their share and then some. The Night air ushered us up the Teepee Glacier to the Stettner Couloir up the Ice bulges of the Chevy and on to the Ford where we climbed to our second snow hole to kill some darkness just below the summit rock. So now it’s about 4am and shiver-bivi only lasted an hour or two until Andy jumped up and shouted “I can’t do this any more I’m skiing!” We taped to summit, looked around at the stars since the stunning Grand Teton ariel views were covered in darkness, and skied off into the icy abyss. Sounds moons but it wasn’t bad as we all had skied it a few times prior. I had only skied it once, though it’s the kind of line that becomes forever etched into my mind. It felt so familiar, like an old friend you once feared and now love. While skiing the Ford Couloir in the total dark I closed my eyes to see the views I’ve seen during daylight adventures there. Turns out the feeling of exposure on a steep icy line goes away in the dark. The sun painted these iconic peaks of the Grand Teton National Park while we rappelled the Chevy Couloir. the word ‘grace’ came to mind. How lucky are we, to move through and take in this beauty? Once back on the Teepee Glacier we skated along the glazed ‘never gonna corn up today) surface to the Dike Couloir and out Glacier Gulch and breakfast at the Bunnery in Jackson Hole.
We completed The Teton Trifecta in a long overnight style quite different than our usual light and fast speed touring ways. And it sure was a unique ski mountaineering adventure. Switch up the style and who knows what we’ll experience!
Early april 2014
We all have seen enough mediocre video ‘edits’ that would add up to many waisted days. Seb Montaz Rosett will not waist your time in front of the screen. I first stumbled appon his fine work durring the winter of 2010. I worked part time this season and ski toured my but off. His short films kept me hungry for more skiing adventures. This season of local exploration was followed by one of the best we’ve had in Breckenridge Colorado. 2000heaven as its known by many. This season Seb really kept me engaged. I was planning to make the pilgrimage to Chamonix the following season and followed his video conditions report. They showed the daily skiing life in the high mountains of the French Alps like I had never seen. He brought me into their adventures.
I could particularly feel the excitement, exposure and camaraderie in this short.
I highly recommend ALL of his films but you must buy these two. Hope you enjoy being right there with them!
Timp feels big.
It feels remote.
The summit ridge is 17 miles long and it’s flanks rise six thousand feet from the valley. Lot’s of real estate to ski and explore.
Last January Andy and Jason Dorais and I had been itching to get out there since the snow began falling. We began our ski from the Mutual Dell Trail head and followed the trail up across the Timpanook road. From there we fell into the frequent line rotation we’ve found works so well to move the group while breaking trail. Up Up into the Wooly Hole below the Steep Grunge Couloir. While skiing under it I thought back to my first time skiing on Timp…
January 2012: ‘In Andrew Mclean’s Chuting Gallery he states the Grunge reaches 62 degrees. When I read that I thought no way. I better have a look. Last February I found myself perched on the truly vertical face of the cornice, Black Diamond Cobra ice tool thunked in, tilting my edges up and down trying to find the point at which my edges would grip the, eh hem, ‘very hard snow’ and where my boot would lever the edges free. I messed with this while hopelessly wishing for wider then 73mm skis and staring at the 1000’+ feet of rocky cliffs directly below. Luckily I had chopped a small inset into the cornice to get started from. Today wasn’t the day to ski it from the rim. Skis off, haul myself back up with my tools, Crampons on, back over into the void and climb the 30′ to more edge-able snow and marginally less exposed stance. Yep. It’s in that 60 degree range alright. Not skiing it from the rim ‘on site’ bugs me a bit. Have to go back when the snow is chalky.’
And I’m back. We then continued up a chute into the Pica Cirque and from there wandered up another couloir to the North summit ridge.
The stark reality of two weeks of January high pressure hit us as we stepped on to the west side. It held almost no snow.
One helluva mail route says Andy Dorais
Jason Dorais and I headed back to drop into Pica Cirque
Thankfully the east side had plenty of snow. So after checking the mail on the North summit box we trail ran down the rocks and clicked in for a great couloir in good cold snow.
From here Jason had to bail for work. We spotted him through his exit couloir and turned em up hill. After rippin’ surrffy facets under The Giants Staircase summer trail, we were feeling pretty psyched. So many folks were whining about ‘no snow’ and ‘another shitty season’ we were linking up cirques and couloirs on the biggest mountain around and loving every minute of it.
Andy and I ascended a well defined couloir up to the Timpanook Basin below the North West side of Roberts Horn. Andy thought the only reason that couloir was well defined is the result of such low snow for the time of season. Bonus couloir! After walking up the Horn we sat on the summit and enjoyed the ominous swirling lenticulars over the Central Wasatch. Our altimeters jumped 100′ while sitting still on the summit. Never a dull moment in the Mountains.
Looking back to our line on the North Summit and the rad cloud show
As the wind picked up we called 9k a good half day and smeared the velvet recycled wind buff out to the road and back to the car.
You know, It’s days like this that I remember. The snow wasn’t deep, nor the sky sunny. In fact the snowpack was relatively ‘fair to shit’. There was an over all malaise in the Utah ski community. But when one is blessed to live in the mountains with motivated friends who are perpetually psyched to get after it, well, then count your blessings. Despite the ‘poor’ snow pack we went out to have a look in a wild place. We found all snow conditions including very good surfy facets and recycled velvet. And we had a damn good time on that Wild Wasatch mountain.