Teton Mountains, Wy-Daho, Report: Pretty-Plus-Tricky (In That Order)

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The spoils at the end of a mighty hike. Photo: P.M.Fadden

Report from March 18 & 19, 2023

A glorious window of blue came to rest over the Teton Mountains recently.

It was a welcome, two-day slice of sharp, bright sunshine made all the more inviting thanks to a forecast for reasonable snowpack stability.

We took the opportunity, hitting the hills super early, and headed for a friendly little aspect lovingly called ‘Mini Mary’s.

Presento Mini Mary’s. Photo: P.M.Fadden

We’ve had this quiet zone earmarked for a while now. 

It’s north-facing, nestled comfortably inside the middle-west features of the Teton Range, and to get there means a fair bit of a walk.

Tricky to the south. Photo: P.M.Fadden

At the ripe AM hour of our start, the snow surface is very set in its ways. Somebody called it “crunchy,” which we felt was a significant understatement.

Sun spread across the faces by about 8:30 – 9 am, which is stunningly beautiful, but did n.o.t.h.i.n.g. to soften the supersurface.

To call this “pretty” is probably a significant understatement. Photo: P.M.Fadden

The meat of the approach to Mini Mary’s is a long-haul ridgeline orientated East-West, and the walk itself is along the dips and climbs of its south-facing shoulder. The snowpack coating that shoulder bears an eerie resemblance to the firmness of a billiard table.

The going proved slow. And we are glad to have brought the crampons along.

Step. Plant, Repeat. Photo: P.M.Fadden

The fruits of this tricky labor wait on the north-facing side.

For most of the walk, that north side is a load of cornices in sequence, giving the whole formation an appearance of a healthy cresting wave. 

Groves of trees grow back from its edge. We stuck to those as we went.

A safe ‘pocket’ beside a ridge with definite barrel-envy. Photo: P.M.Fadden

Mini Mary itself came into clearer focus with each new step.

In truth, this zone in the Teton Mountains is far from towering. Its height rises only marginally above the ridgeline access. And the vert, which spools below the ridgeline, isn’t much to speak of either.

But where it shines are the gentle pitches and lightly glade-d lanes that all are north-facing and commonly cushioned in sparkling untouched powder snow.     

That pristine state is exactly what we found.

Not feeling in the mood for chances, we planned lines to hug the edges of the tree groves and a returning route of ascent straight up through them.

The turns here are pure delight.

Pleasing angles and helpful trees. Photo: P.M.Fadden

North-facing aspects are a much-much softer animal than their nearby south-facing siblings.

Snow was consistent, splashy even, and oh-so-fun.

We seized as many laps as the hour of the day would allow. But we had a clock to mind, too, because the walkout wasn’t getting any shorter.

More north-flavored eye candy. Photo: P.M.Fadden

In theory, after wrapping a final line, there are two routes of exit.

One is to simply re-ascend the cone of Mini Mary’s and begin the long trek to Happy Hour.

The other is to kit out at the base of Mini Mary’s and break a touring path west, following a line of tree growth that gradually climbs and ultimately tops the same ridgeline but much farther along its length, effectively cutting a very corner from the total distance.

As appealing as fewer steps felt, we looked at that second option–with its mega cornices perched overhead–and opted to keep to the theme of reducing chance.

Most important meal of the day. Photo: P.M.Fadden
The trusty steed. Photo: P.M.Fadden

All told, it was a six-hour jaunt and a zesty case of sun/wind burn; a small price to pay to finally tick off an experience we’ve been (moderately) patiently waiting-on for a while.

We would go again tomorrow, but as it happens, there’s weather arrived in the Teton Mountains, and it looks like a week of rippy fresh snowfall throughout the region.

That front moved in today and looks to stay for a while, so the smiles continue to have every reason to be wide in the Teton Mountains of lovable Wy-Daho.

5-DAY OUTLOOK

TODAY’S AVALANCHE FORECAST


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