As a rule, I rarely venture out into the mountains solo. Almost all of these ski mountaineering and climbing adventures that I do are with one or more partners. It is fun to share the experience with others, it fosters teamwork and it definitely provides an added layer of security in case of injury. However, sometimes we need to challenge ourselves, prove that we can “do it alone” and use the mountain experience to refocus on life.
I had been studying different routes in the Tetons all summer to figure out the maximum amount of snow without the exposure of hanging snowfields or risky cruxes. My research lead me to what looked like a nice route that involved the Teepee Glacier on the upper end, a short transition to a couloir that lies between the north wall of Disappointment Peak and the east face of the Grand. A couple of quick discussions with Exum guide, Aaron Dahill, confirmed that this route was indeed doable and the couloir had a name, the Dike Couloir.
At one point in this ongoing discussion, Aaron was going to lead me up into some linkups and we would just get as many snow fields in a day as possible. I was all for this, but Aaron ended up getting booked on Grand Teton climbs ahead of our little mid-summer skiing adventure.
As part of the plan, I was to be in GTNP on a week-long camping trip with Ann and our youngest daughter Rachel. We had been working on a full itinerary that had included hiking, fishing, a tour of Yellowstone, horseback riding, shopping in Jackson and a little biking. Near the end of the week on Friday the 1st of August, I made the climb up to the Teepee Glacier. This allowed me to get my August skiing in from my continued pursuit of the TAY, (Turns All Year) Club.
My day started out at 4AM in the Colter Bay tent camping area, with a 5AM start from the trail head at Lupine Meadows. I was back at the trailhead at 3PM, after climbing over 5,000 feet, skiing 2,000 feet and covering almost 13 miles. The climb and ski was relatively easy. The scramble down and around to the east end of Delta Lake was downright tough. Huge boulder fields, loose scree/dirt on steep slopes, wet grass, trees and not a trace of a trail until I hit the upper end of Delta Lake. There is somewhat of a “trail” around the north side of the lake, but one encounters a lot of bushwhacking that is aggravated by packing skis and boots. Although this was a tough “slog”, I was glad that I had ran into Eric and Ryan getting their “turns in” too. They had some excellent advice on general route selection and where I needed to get to pick up the trail.
As with most things in life, we rarely end up really being alone. On my hike up to the Meadows, I shared the trail with a couple from southeast Idaho, who were headed for the summit of the Middle. One of the guide services has an established camp at the base of the Teepee Glacier and it was in sight for the entire portion of the glacier. Finally, through coincidence I met two other guys climbing up to ski the Dike Couloir just as I skied down to it. This isn’t an attempt to justify my “soloing” it on this trip, but it is interesting to me how often we meet people along the way who share our “passion” and we strike up a friendship as we go. I do believe that even when we think we are “going solo”, we aren’t alone. That doesn’t remove responsibility from me for my actions, in fact it reinforces it. And it does give me strength and confidence to handle those tough situations.
I always look for learning opportunities on these adventures and on this trip I came away with increased confidence in my planning capabilities, my route finding skills and of course, the value of input from others that I “run into” on my treks.
See the GPS map and data below for stats on this climb and ski. I have photos and additional details on the trip in this TR on the Teton Gravity Research Forums.
GPS Data and map of summer skiing in the Teton Range: