Spring this year couldn’t have been much better. After returning from a winter in Chamonix, France I was happy to be home in the Tetons. With late storm cycles piling up the inches in the mountains, this was one of the best springs we have seen in a years. Cool temperatures kept the snow conditions just right for my boyfriend, Owen Leeper and I to make a run on what he called Peak A Week. Owen who is a native from Aspen Colorado came up with this idea last summer to help check off some of the peaks in Colorado. After moving here in November, Owen was ready to start a new checklist in the Tetons.
Peak A Week for me started out with the Grand Teton. Neither of us had done it before and it was something we both really wanted to do. With prime conditions this year we went for it. With Mark and Janelle Smiley, Dan star, Owen and I, the day started out at one in the morning. When we got to the top of Teepee Glacier and approached the first technical part of the climb, we checked the conditions and decided to go up the Chevy Couloir. After some roped ice sections it was easy going to the top. We reached the summit just after 10 am. Sitting up there and taking in the views we waited for an hour for the snow to soften up. The first turns where amazing and smooth. We descended into the Ford Couloir where the snow was steep and much firmer. After skiing down the Teepee glacier we decided why stop there and skinned up 15 minutes and dropped into a couloir above Delta Lake. The day ended at three pm. Very happy and tired. Feeling confident with each other’s skills we decided to set out for more.
Next we skied the Middle Teton glacier run. This was a very interesting ski. Once again we were up early, this time at 3 am to skin up Garnet canyon. Originally I wanted to ski the Elleningwood Couloir on the south face so we decided to climb up it to check the conditions. When we got to the bottom of the couloir you could see a huge runnel on the right side. The left side still looked good so we started up it. Looking back on all of the peaks we did, this one was the scariest climb. With our single mountaineering ice axe and crampons barely digging into the bullet proof snow I was scared. For 45 min I could barely look down, but just focused on getting to the top. By the time we reached the top of the couloir the sun had cooked the snow on the summit face. Instead of our ice axes barely going in, they sank deep into the snow. With conditions quickly warming, we transitioned to skiing. We decided to ski the Middle glacier run which looked smooth and fun compared to the bullet proof, runnelled conditions of the Ellingwood that we climbed up. We moved fast and made it down safely with some of our best corn turns of the spring.
South Teton was a fun adventure. Again up at 3am. We really lucked out on this peak because we walked all the way up to the base in our tennis shoes. We switched to ski boots and crampons as we started up the north face of the peak. As we started climbing, black clouds were rolling in and it looked like we might get turned around, but luckily the clouds blew right over us. With the colder temps and cloud cover we waited for an hour on the summit for things to warm up (occasionally cursing the clouds as we shivered). Our original plan was to ski the southeast couloir, but as Owen skied the couloir, jumping back and forth over a massive runnel that ran down the center I opted for the east face. The face was perfect corn snow with great views. We skied all the way to valley floor in Avalanche canyon past a couple frozen lakes and the beautiful Shoshoko waterfall. What awaited us next was a lovely bushwhack session above Taggart Lake that seemed to go on forever. We took tree skiing to a whole new level; skiing over patches of dirt and downed trees for as far as we could. We finally reached the trailhead where we dropped our bikes off that morning, and a quick 20 min bike ride back to the car at Lupine Meadows.
Next was the east face of Buck Mountain. This was a fun and easy peak. Getting to sleep in till 5 am, we felt lucky. Only having to climb 5200 vert this one went quick. The snow was very runneled and sun cupped, but we still managed to get some good turns in. This was also the same week of my 60k. I skied Buck on a Tuesday and raced my 60k on Saturday where I placed 1st.
Mt. Moran: The Skillet Glacier. This was a long haul. A couple days before we went I asked a friend which way he thought was the best way to go. Having skied it two days before us he suggested we go up from Leigh Lake because the snowline was lower than the Jackson lake route. The night before our ski we canoed over String Lake, portaged to Leigh Lake with all our ski gear. Having lost a pint of blood from all the mosquitoes on the portage we finally canoed across Leigh Lake. We got to shore at 10pm, set up camp and went to bed. We started the day out at 4am. Usually Mt. Moran is 6000 vertical of climbing but the way we went added an extra 2100 vert of climbing up and over a saddle. Having just ran my 60k 5 days before I was struggling. My legs were shaky and my mind tired, I wanted to quit. Both Owen and I were worn out when we reached the never ending “handle” section of the climb. We realized it topped out on a false summit and we had a bit more to go. We dropped our gear and made a dash for the top. Skiing down was hot; the snow was warm and sloughing into a gigantic runnel down the face. When we got half way down we realized we were on the wrong side of the runnel. By now it was about 12 feet deep and 8 feet wide. I watched Owen ski down and air over it, but with a certain death luge off the cliff below if you didn’t make it, I decided to take my skis off, crawl down into it and climb out the other side. We made it back to our gear at the bottom of the skillet, but now we had to climb back up and over the saddle to get back to our camp site on Leigh Lake. After some avy debris skiing and a quick swim we canoed back.
Five weeks, five peaks, all classic Teton ski descents. Peakaweek has helped me transition from rando racing in the winter to ultra-running in the summer. I look forward to continuing #PEAKAWEEK, whether it be running or still skiing, find out by following our adventures on Instagram @merejune and @o_leeps or by following the hashtag #PEAKAWEEK