Teton Range, WY Report: Legendary “Pucker Face,” A Missed Friend, & A Golden Eagle

Miles Clark | | Conditions ReportConditions Report
Pucker Face. image: snowbrains

Report from February 23, 2022

Burning.

Burning fingertips at 10,200′ as I scrunch my fingers into a ball inside the palms of my gloves.

The searing pain distracts me as my fingers rewarm and I stagger uphill.

I’m grinding up the ridge towards Cody Peak in the Teton Range, WY.

It’s -7ºF and a light breeze is all it takes to damn near freeze my fingers.

As the pain subsides, my awareness returns.

It’s gorgeous up here.

A light fog blowing in the from east gives the sunlight a surreal glow.

My mind spins as I realize I’m going to ski Pucker Face.

A very close college ski team buddy of mine, Mike, passed away in an avalanche on this face in December 2013.

Gear and Cody Peak. image: snowbrains

For years, I didn’t ski this face at all, no matter the avalanche danger nor conditions – I just kept walking.

Today, knowing I’ll ski it my brain wobbles with emotion.

There are people all around, including some friends I made on the tram ride up, but I am alone.

I click into my skis, stand atop Pucker and talk to Mike.

No one’s yet skied the main face of Pucker.

I have it to myself.

Grand Teton on the left, Cody Peak on the right. Miles about to drop Pucker Face. image: snowbrains

The avalanche danger is rated Moderate at this elevation for this day and I see a wind-deposited whale of snow to my right.

“Better avoid that thing,” I think.

I envision my line, work my hands back and forth like Olympic ski racers do before their downhill run.

“Dropping in 3, 2, 1.”

Amphitheater. image: snowbrains

The first turns are creamy and good.

I look over my shoulder after the 3rd turn to see no avalanche but a bit of sluff already starting to gain steam.

I’m outrunning it easily.

Cliffs and Grant. image: snowbrains

After 5 turns, the snow gets hooky and I start hitting the ice underneath.

I stick to my plan of 8-10 turns then hucking off the little rock donger in the middle of the face.

2 turns before I’m about to jump, my sluff catches up with me and scares me off the air.

The Teton Range. image: snowbrains

Scratchy, firm, hooky, weird high-speed turns on the apron.

I speed into flatter terrain, feel the float of good snow again, and relax.

I’m pumped – another successful Pucker Face in the books and the bad knee I’ve been struggling with this season held up great.

Grant up. image: snowbrains

Thanks, Mike.

From there I met up with an extremely fun friend named Grant.

We hiked forever to get to our next line and the snow was even better.

Grinding up. image: snowbrains

This run was less steep and a bit more north-facing making the snow better and deeper keeping us off the grinding ice below.

After this second run, I was tired.

Jagged. image: snowbrains

The run back down to the real world was dust on crust, tracked, and fun in spots.

I jumped straight into my car and raged across the Wyoming desert back to Park City, UT where I had an appointment for a special knee brace the following day.

Cody Peak. image: snowbrains

I saw 20 head of mule deer, 100 head of elk, and 1 elk down on the side of the road.

3 golden eagles were feasting on the elk and I spooked them as I approached.

One flew straight at my car.

Example of how big golden eagles are…

I hit the brakes but didn’t swerve (never swerve for wildlife!).

I missed the eagle by about a foot.

It was simply freakin’ huge…

Golden eagles are large…

Golden eagles are bigger than bald eagles.

I would have felt terrible had I hit it…

I’ve seen all kinds of animals on this road:  golden eagles, bald eagles, osprey, elk, mule deer, pronghorns, rabbits, and even a big ole badger one day.

The Tetons are big. image: snowbrains

I got pulled over going 80 in a 70 and only got a warning…

My 1st ever warning in my life.

I made it to Park City just as night was descending (never drive out here at night bc of the animals).

I had fasted this day and breakfast for dinner was great.

Utah was forecast to have a sunny powder day the following morning.

Thanks, Tetons.

I’m not sure that I’ll be back this season.

Alaska on Sunday…

Recent Reports:

Avalanche Forecast

image: jhavalanche.org, 2/23/22

Weather Forecast

image: noaa, 2/24/22

Photos

Tracks. image: snowbrains
Corbet’s Couloir. image: snowbrains
Road to Park City. image: snowbrains
Road to Park City. image: snowbrains
Wyoming’s desert. image: snowbrains
Big desert factory. image: snowbrains
Daniel, my favorite town in WY. image: snowbrains

 


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5 thoughts on “Teton Range, WY Report: Legendary “Pucker Face,” A Missed Friend, & A Golden Eagle

  1. Miles, l love reading your reports, and this one made an exceptionally good impression on me. I wish l could express myself better in English.

  2. Thanks, Chad. Yes, I miss Mike. We still stay with his family in Mammoth sometimes and it’s nice to reconnect that way 🙂

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