Middle Teton Mission
In 2007, ski mountaineer Mark Newcomb commented on a website that he believed the full Southwest Couloir of Wyoming's Middle Teton had not been skied in its entirety out of Cascade Canyon, offering a clean descent of the Middle Teton without ropes. That provided inspiration for pro skier Caroline Gleich and Adam OKeefe to attempt to ski it this spring. Here's the couloir as viewed from Icefloe Lake.
The Way Up
Caroline Gleich pauses on the approach to the Middle Teton as the sun rises over Disappointment Peak. The route to the summit of Middle covers about 7 miles and roughly 6,000 vertical feet.
Adam OKeefe cuts a skin track in front of Cloudveil Dome. Ski crampons provided extra security on the icy morning hike.
The summit marker was completely buried when they arrived, but Adam knew where it was and dusted off the snow and ice from a recent storm. Most people who ascend and descend the Southwest Couloir only touch the top half of the full line.
After tagging the summit, Caroline reascended as she saw a sucker hole and managed to snap a fleeting glimpse of the Grand Teton. The Middle Teton provides one of the best views of the Grand.
Caroline adopts the standard ski mountaineering pose while making a turn through the upper half. Although it was sunny on the approach, a set of dense clouds rolled in as they neared the summit. The limited visibility coupled with layers of breakable, punchy crusts created challenging conditions.
As quickly as the Teton weather rolled in, it cleared out. They were grateful for the visibility in the lower half of the line as they encountered sections of blue ice, covered with a few inches of dense May powder.
Point of View
Even though it looks like fresh powder, it was not. It was completely bulletproof ice the entire way down. "Here, I was thankful I had sharpened my ski edges," Caroline says. A ski tune is advisable before a ski mountaineering trip to the Tetons. This section was steep, narrow and slick.
A clean descent as defined by Mark Newcomb is a descent of the purest style; no ropes, skiing a peak with no rappels on the way down and no booting back out. Adam was jubilant after skiing through the crux. The descent would continue many miles through Cascade Canyon.
Exit This Way
They faced numerous obstacles on the exit besides the arduous length: heat, patches of isothermic snow, and diminishing supplies of food. But morale remained high as they jogged out for 3.5 miles to Jenny Lake, where they caught a boat ride just in the nick of time.