BD athlete Steve Romeo reports on a spring ski descent of the South Teton's southwest face
Black Diamond athlete Steve Romeo is slowly wrapping up his 2010/2011 ski season in the Tetons. We say slowly because with the massive amount of snow still in the mountains of Wyoming, he still might be at for another month or more. Below is his report from another high-quality day in the Teton backcountry, this time on the South Teton. Photos by Dustin Lemke.
With an epic winter of snow now wrapping up here in Jackson Hole and the Tetons, spring has literally just sprung and the snowpack is starting to firm up for some great ski descents. Yeah, it’s been a fantastic year for skiing deep and fast powder laps, but for the backcountry skier, it’s been a little challenging hitting some of the bigger lines. If you were lucky, your days off from work coincided with the few weather windows we had, and if you weren’t, then you’re chomping at the bit to ski some Teton steeps. I’d say I’m a little of both.
There is this one line on the South Teton that caught my eye one day and I have been trying to ski it for the entire season. I struck out four times before this successful mission last weekend. Denied on one attempt after a valiant effort in -30F windchills, shut down a second time due to wind-hammered and thin conditions, and a third and fourth time due to early arrivals of the storms that have now left over 700 inches of snow in the high country. My timing of these attempts wasn’t the greatest, I guess, but my determination to ski the line continued throughout winter.
Though the South Teton is one of the more popular high peaks to ski in the range, its southwest side sees little traffic. Its orientation to other, more accessible mountains and areas in Grand Teton National Park make it hard to see and scope out, but I was lucky enough to get a look at it on a Garnet Canyon to Avalanche Canyon tour a couple seasons ago. The Southwest Face isn’t as steep as some of the other descents on the South Teton, like the Amora Vida and Southeast Couloir, but it is quite interesting and combines some technical skiing through rimy boulders at the top, a cruxy rocky section that accesses the tenderloin of the route and then an intricate dogleg to a nice couloir that opens up to a mellow apron above a large alpine lake. Sounds like a nice recipe for a fun ski day in hills… eh?
My partner Dustin Lemke and I got an early 5am start for the five-hour ascent to the summit of the South Teton last weekend. High clouds rolled in just after sunrise and kept things cool up high, which made it challenging to get sun-softened conditions on both the southwest aspect of the descent off the summit, as well as the eastern exposure of the six-mile exit back to the trailhead. Nonetheless, the skiing was fun and firm up high, and quite rewarding after getting slapped in the face on the numerous earlier attempts.
Though the dry ground at the some of the trailheads is starting to show through, 20 feet of snow still lingers in many places in the Tetons and if you have ever thought about a spring ski trip to Grand Teton National Park, this is definitely a good year to do it.