The front door slammed and I woke up to my roommates coming home from their night out. I heard one say sympathetically, “Keep it down. Bryce has to wake up at 3,” but at that point it didn’t matter as I looked at my phone that read 2:30. The day before, I got a call my friend Matt Phillipi. He told me he needed a partner to go ski a couloir off the west side of the Grand Teton. Right off the bat I said yes. I had never skied in the Park, a.ka. Grand Teton National Park, and neither had Matt. Having said that, the adventure at hand was going to be interesting. We talked about the details; how to get out and back, what was necessary to bring, and made plans to leave early in the morning.
Matt picked me up at 3:30 and we reached Taggart Lake trailhead around 4 a.m. Not knowing where to start skinning or skin at all, we walked along strips of snow under a day old full moon looking at each other in confusement. We walked about 300 yards and decided to hide our shoes under a tree. The skin in wasn’t too challenging and the views were unbelievable in Garnet Canyon. Both of us were awestruck of the mountains surrounding us as they continued to grow higher every slide we took.
It took us close to 9 hours to reach the lower saddle of the Grand Teton. Once we reached the saddle, there was a large sigh of relief. We found some shelter from the wind to bundle up and regroup as we took in the view. It was a crazy feeling being alone in the middle of the Tetons looking into Wyoming and Idaho from one spot. One of the most impressive views I have seen since living in Jackson.
We radioed the filmer, Eric Daft who came in from the Idaho side and shoot from Table Mountain, and began the final ascent to the entrance of Dartmouth Couloir. Scaling the scree field with gale force winds made the final stretch unforgiving. We actually hiked too far at first and ended up having to down climb to the entrance of the couloir.
I gave the count down for Matt and off he went. The snow looked good as I watched him rip a few turns before he went out of sight. Excitement and nerves came over me because of the lack of knowledge and not being able to see farther than 50 feet down the couloir. Daft radioed in and told me Matt killed it. I told him I was dropping in 5, then off I went. The snow was really good for how warm it got and was able to make some big, fast turns. Quite the first descent for both of us in the Park. POV footage below:
Saying our goodbyes to Daft, we started our trek out. The fun had just begun. People who we talked to all told us to exit out Cascade Canyon making the trip a big loop and the “easiest” way out. Neither of us new what we were getting into to; an 11 mile death march. There were no ski tracks to follow until Jenny Lake making the trail out a shot in the dark. The canyon was about 95% flat forcing us to skin almost the entire way. On the way out, there were a few goods scares. We came across bear tracks that riddled the area (some that looked fresh that day), we traveled over countless new wet slides, witnessed the biggest wet slide I’ve seen (thankfully on the other side of the canyon), and weren’t prepared for being out as long as we were. Once we passed Jenny Lake, we were dehydrated and throbbing in pain and made the call to go straight to the road. We were thankful to get where we were but still had 4 miles to walk, without shoes, back to the truck.
We returned to the truck exhausted around 10 that night. Scared of sitting down and not getting up, I went on the search for our shoes and somehow found them. I had never been so happy in my life to sit down and recline the seat back. It took us over 7 hours to get out making it a round trip of 18 hours and 20+ miles covered. That was the longest, most grueling tour either of us had been on.
Pushing your body both physically and mentally that hard makes a person say, “I’ll never do that again.” But for those that love skiing and the mountains that allow us to do it, another adventure will come about; short or long, easy or hard. So, would I work that hard for 18 hours to ski for a minute again? Of course. That’s what keeps my respect and love for the sport continue to grow. All in all, ignorance is bliss.
7 thoughts on “18 Hours of Hiking for 1 Minute of Skiing | Dartmouth Couloir, Grand Teton N.P.”
nice! guys. lets see: snowmobiles=none; helicopters=none; sherpas=none. good work.
LOOKS LIKE YOU HAD A BRYCE DAY!
Excellent Article! One of the better written pieces of ski porn I’ve read in quite some time. Thank You
Way to stick it out. Look forward to seeing Daft’s view.
strong work, Bryce. Great write up.
I’m tired just from reading this.