Our time in Jackson is coming to an end. It’ll have to be for now, because we’ve only nudged on the crumbles of everything there is in the Teton backcountry.
Last time I and Martin were here, we were way to scared and insecure to try anything but the highway up 25 short and Whimpy’s. I cannot say that we’ve done anything extreme this time either, but we have definitely traveled further into the backcountry, and skied much more interesting terrain, than in February. It seems like every day has brought us new ideas of tours that we want, and can, do. We have done some of them, but there are oh-so-many that remain undone. Two weeks is just a fart in the universe when it comes to the Tetons, and now its time to leave… So until next time Jackson, from yours truly Ms Jackson, Thanks. It has been really great to make your acquaintance.
Time for some ride reports. As I have already written in earlier blog posts, we started off easy and safe by taking the highway up 25 short during two days. After that, we couldn’t resist the temptation to ride down Albright. Ah, Albright. But that is old news.
On our fourth day in Jackson, we were ready for the slightly longer approach to the Mavericks, located in between Whimpy’s and 25 short. Somewhat a slog of an approach, but also less skied and therefore more untracked snow to shred. In addition, the Mavericks offer a really nice and consistent inclination, making it perfect for jump and play. Even I had to jump, to the extent that I broke my pole… totally worth it. Mavericks proved to be so good that we had to go back and do it all over again (twice) when Brian, Doro and Jenn joined us from Laramie.
On the fourth day, my feet were killing me and altitude disease, snow-clogged skins and blisters were killing Jenn, so while Martin, Brian and Doro did Albright again, I and Jenn surfed down Whimpy’s. The snow was a bit crusty, but hey, I’m Swedish, and it still rocked in comparison to the windblown terrain above tree line there. AND, I got to see that wolf turd. Epic!
After 6 days of skiing (including our day on Togwotee pass), my feet hated me, sincerely. So while Martin, Brian and Doro did Mavericks again, I stayed at home working (yes, I’m so good), re-molding my boots and getting a pair of new insoles. Revolution! Not only did my toes get more space, I actually got some heel grip as well. All hale the personnel at Teton Mountaineering!
On the last day of Brian’s, Jenn’s and Doro’s visit, we decided to do some exploring of our own. While on Mavericks, we had spotted a really nice looking colouir going from the north side of Whimpy’s into Stewart’s draw, and this is what we had our eyes on.
Now, going down something that you haven’t climbed up (we of course climbed Whimpy’s using the highway skin track), is a bit of a problem, since you don’t really know what you have under your feet. The colouir wasn’t extremely steep, or long in any way, but with the persistent weak layer and the wind loading, it was still a risk. To evaluate the situation, Martin did a ski cut and dug a swift pit in a relatively safe zone. We decided that it was a yellow flag, but not red, and skied one at a time.
I can’t say that it was blower top to bottom, but the upper part was actually really good, and the ride we got down the canyon after was as sweet as pumpkin pie (something that I have now actually tried. Very nice. Like ginger bread dough).
One thing that felt especially good this time for me, was that the decision to ski the colouir was all mine. I could just as well have gone down Whimpy’s with Doro. It was I that wanted to ski that colouir, and I wasn’t afraid of being able to ski it, I was just concerned about avalanche danger. I made the decision to ski it, no one else. And I did it good. Wohoo!
On a very sad note, I have to mention that on the first day I and Martin skied Mavericks, I skier was tragically killed in an avalanche on Pucker face near Jackson Hole ski resort. He wasn’t an ignorant fool and neither was the people who were with him that day. Rather, they were all experienced backcountry skiers. In a very sober note on Teton Gravity Network Forum, one of the skiers in the group tells the story of missed warning signs and group think. But all of the things he mentions are things that I would probably have missed too. I know way less about the backcountry than they do, so I would probably have missed even more red flags. My thoughts go out to the relatives and friends affected by this tragic accident. What we can do, is to try to learn from their mistakes and try to avoid doing them again. I’m pretty sure I will fail a number of times. Hopefully, I will be lucky at those times, but you never know.
Its kind of interesting (for me) to reflect about how I myself think when I’m in the backcountry, and the risks that I take. I’m pretty sure that I take bigger risks now than I did a year ago, but I also think that I take less risks now than I did 4 years ago. Back then, I nearly shit my pants all the time as soon as we went off bounds. But back then, I also did not know anything about avalanches, and so I always followed the group. Today when I go, I do it because I deem that the risk is a risk that I am willing to take, not because the rest of the group is doing it. That feels like progress.
Ok, enough about risks and bad news. Lets get it on with the happy new year!