South Teton – SE Face: Jan 24, 2014

Sustained high pressure in Jackson for the first time in a while means lots of people have been fired up about getting out into the park recently, despite the generally poor skiing conditions up high.  On today’s menu:  the South Teton.  Nobody in our party of three had been up there before, and we were all pumped to go tick off a new Teton summit.  A cruiser skin track helped us up Garnett to the Meadows in just about 2 hours, but skinning conditions from there up the South Fork proved to be terrible.  Much of it had been scoured bare by the wind, and what snow there was was firm and slick.

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Cobi booting up some of the wind-hammered snow

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Sorry Mr. Splitboard

Having still made good time to the saddle, we considered incorporating a trip up the Middle Teton into our day for a double summit, but promptly decided against it after seeing the typical thin, wind-ravaged snow conditions up in the SW coolie.

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Not today

Booting from the saddle up the NW couloir on the South Teton proved to be straightforward and relatively easy, despite the thin snow and occasional dry tool move towards the summit.

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Looking south from the summit

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Kevin scoping out the summit area

South Teton Panorama Small

180 degrees of Tetons, from Buck to the Middle

Our original plan had been to downclimb the NW couloir back down into Garnett Canyon and ski out from the saddle area, but the face below us dropping into Avalanche Canyon was looking more manageable than we’d thought.  We could see most of our line from above, and a large low-angle bench separated our route (and slide path) from the steep slopes and massive cliffs below.  The snow had been catching sun over the last several days, but managed to stay soft and dry up top.  We decided to go for it.

South drop

Happy to pass on the downclimb in favor of a little shreddin’

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The skier’s right wall of the SE couloir in the foreground, and the sunlit low-angle bench in the middle of the SE face below.  From there, we could cross over beneath the couloir to reach Matternaught Col.

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Looking down the SE couloir at the steep, probably thinly covered entrance

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Kevin making turns down the upper SE face

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Cobi dropping in

From the bench, we dropped away from the hanging face to the wide run below the SE couloir, carrying as much speed as possible to ski up to the saddle with Matternaught Peak.  This seemed to be one of the more exposed pitches of our descent avy-wise, so of course we skied one at a time to the col, staying as high as possible on the slope.

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Tiny skier in enormous mountains

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Looking back up the SE couloir from the Matternaught Col.  Still a nasty exposed chockstone in the narrows, I’ll have to revisit this guy once things fill in!

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Kevin popping into the soft snow beneath Matternaught Col

Skiing down from the col we encountered a short pitch of shaded, nicely preserved pow down to a hardened, bumpy, low-angle canyon for our exit.  The skiing down from here was pretty bad….and only got worse when the snow ran out and we had to walk down through talus fields with our gear in hand.  After two or three minor downclimbs, we were able to get our skis/boards back on for good and begin the long traverse out from the depths of the Avalanche Canyon North Fork.  To do so, we traversed high and left as far as we could on snowboards, eventually switching to ski mode and crossing over to the south side of the canyon, meeting with the tracks coming out from Turkey Chute.  This exit is always kind of a pain in the ass, but well worth it for another awesome day in the Teton high country!

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