Wagner Custom Skis

Teton Ski Mountaineering in November?

Posted 2 years, 9 months ago by

November is typically a bit earlier than I start pursuing big lines in the alpine; regardless, Z and I started off the day with all kinds of grand visions for today’s trip.  Neither of us quite anticipated the actual result.

Skinning away from the truck at 04:45, stars shining brilliantly overhead, we broke trail up Garnet Canyon–feeling good and ambitious, hoping for steep turns on sweet snow and fun climbing.  We did find some of that, and some other stuff.  Like a questionably-frozen lake that creaked and popped as we puckered up and kept skinning across the ice.


Skinning below the Middle Teton at sunrise.

Entering the upper canyon--bulletproof skinning through rocks. Awesome. (Here, Z is skinning below the Z Face on Cloudveil Dome. How appropriate.)


Windy? Windy.


We found a whole lot of horrifically scoured snow in the upper canyon.  More scree than snow, actually.  The East Ridge of the South Teton held so little snow on it that we left our glisse gear at the bottom and climbed it for the sake of climbing.  (What?!)  Ski mountaineering turned into mountaineering, in a gusty wind that threatened to peel the skin off our faces.


Climbing the East Ridge in blustery conditions. Note the lack of skis on Z's pack.

No snowboard, but fun climbing. Amazing views, too.

Climbing back down the East Ridge. That's what you do when there isn't enough snow to ski.

Or you might opt for a rappel or two.

The mandatory Eddie Bauer shot. Contemplating how we're going to get out of the mountains.

See all that snow blowing around on the ridge? That was unpleasant. You can just make out our bootpack in the center of the image.


We also found horrifically awful turns (bulletproof windslab, 10″-tall sastrugi, remnants of last winter’s snowpack with the consistency of glacier ice.)  Lots of them.  Punctuated with stretches of scrambling over snow-dotted scree fields in a hurricane.


Check out Z's edge penetration into the hardpack. Mmmm.

Better turns as we drop down to 10,000'. Blustery up there!


To be fair, we found really good turns lower down as well, sweet powder thinly covering jagged granite.  Like skiing through a minefield, except the casualties were the bases of our boards.  We left curls of base material and edge shards all over that place.

And then we skinned back across that lake.


But the question is: would I do it again?  Hell yes, in a heartbeat.



*You may have noticed that I used the term “ski mountaineering” rather than “snowboard mountaineering”.  Fear not–I am indeed still snowboarding, and loving my Wagner Custom board and approach skis.  I use the term “ski” generically.  Consider it a pursuit of efficiency, or laziness.  “Ski” requires 6 fewer letters to type, and a whole syllable less to think or speak.


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