GoPro Video - Powder on Mt. Moran.
I have skied a few routes in the Tetons, and even successfully climbed and skied Buck Mountain last May, but I had never attempted a mid-winter ski ascent/descent of one of the big peaks in the Tetons until this past weekend. Aaron Dahill, with Exum Mountain Guides, and I had been planning a trip to the South Teton earlier this winter, but then conditions over the past month changed and we turned our focus on Mount Moran.
Mount Moran, (elev. 12,605) from the Colter Bay starting point.
For those who are not familiar with this peak, it has two basic options for winter skiing:
- A long, brutal day that begins around midnight with a 6+ mile skin across Jackson Lake, and then a 6,000 foot ascent up the Skillet Glacier to the summit. This is followed by one of the most classic descents that you can find anywhere with 6,000 feet of skiing with sustained steep couloirs and huge bowls. Then finally a “kick your butt” skin back across the lake.
- Same as the above, except you leave earlier in the afternoon the day before and camp across the lake at the foot of the mountain.
For guys like me, option “1” isn’t even an option, so we were going for option “2”. We were also joined by Exum President/Guide, Nat Patridge and client David DeFazio. Thanks to Nat and Dave, we had a fabulous dinner of antelope steak, baked potatoes, and veggies – all grilled over a small portable grill that they pulled across the lake with the camping gear. This definitely beat the MRE that I was prepared to eat.
The actual climb began at 5:00 AM the following morning and we made it to just over 10,600. This is just below the “handle” of the Skillet, where the really steep climbing/skiing is. In spite of the fabulous efforts of the guides, the decision was made to call off the summit attempt. I can’t speak for Dave, but all of my “issues” were self-inflicted and can be remedied with a ton of practice at uphill skinning in steeper terrain, better equipment, focused strength/agility training and paying more attention to details. In other words, a bunch of life lessons were learned. The reward for summiting would surely have been fantastic, but as a super consolation prize there was some awesome powder skiing for 4,000 feet back down to the lake.
If you want to see the topo and/or download GPS data of this route, visit: http://hi-adventure.com/the-mount-moran-quest-begins-first-winter-attempt/.
Cody and Aaron all smiles as we get ready to depart
Aaron pulling the camping gear across the lake, with a beautiful view of Mount Moran.
The guides performing one of their many avalanche assessments.
The fabulous gourmet dinner.