The backcountry off Teton Pass is heavily trafficked, but you would be surprised how concentrated that traffic is around the closest tours. I guess it isn’t that surprising considering you hike less and ski more downhill with the closer lines, but I enjoy the touring part of ski touring. So I will often head out to the Claws, or even further. This weekend, since both Rob and I were recovering from the Jackson crud, we settled for the Claws and Avy Bowl.
Right out the back door of the cabin on Sand Mountain in Clark, and a short 20 minute snowmobile ride up lies Meaden Peak. Meaden has some incredible tree skiing, but more importantly, it has an awesome view from the top and some great steeps. Rob and I first skied the NW aspect last year, but wanted to put turns on the NE side, so we could view them from the cabin.
Rob and Sam set a really steep skin track to the top, and the skin across the ridge was completely worth it. With 360 degree views it would have been perfect, except for the clouds moving in and blocking the sun as the day went on.
The NE face offered some great turns but almost zero visibility as a cloud descended once again.
The face offered up untouched deep and steep goods that we throught were alright. Just as sweet were the lower turns through widely spaced pines on the way down to meet my parents at the snowmobiles.
It has been the backdrop for many of my adventures growing up: building a kicker in the backyard, clearing fallen trees,epic bonfires, and long hikes with the family dog. It is a lone volcano shaped peak in a sea of ridges. Hahns Peak has been on my skiing bucket list for a long time.
Finally, with the encouragement of Rob and Sam, it was going to happen. We loaded up the snowmobiles for the approach with the temperatures a balmy -11 F, and roared off in a two stroke cloud. The snowmobile ride brought us from the cabin near Sand Mountain to the northern side of Hahns Peak.
We started our skin through an incredible, old-growth aspen grove. A few of the trees were wider than my wingspan, truly huge for an aspen tree. As we neared the cloud ceiling visibility got continually foggier.
On the last push to the ridge, I could barely tell the difference between the snow under, my feet, the stuff falling from the sky, and the fog. It was a nauseating couple of switchbacks, only helped by closing my eyes. Once on the ridge, the visibility was a bit better, and it highlighted the cliffs on both sides. Those of you who know how much I LOVE heights won’t be surprised when I say that I made the traverse fairly quickly.
The building at the top of Hahns used to be a fire watch-tower, and the watchman would live at the top year round. Rumor has it they are going to open it to the public starting in the fall, which is too bad, because we could have used a reprieve from the wind right then. Instead we settle for a few Oreos, some elk jerky (fresh – thanks mom and dad!), and got ready for the descent.
Which wasn’t bad at all!
Steamboat is an incredible place and a great access point for adventures. The Zirkles, Flat Tops and Sand Mountain are all just a short drive and a hike away. Rob and I had the opportunity to get up to our cabin in Clark, and we quickly got all three snowmobiles stuck in the driveway. With old, circa 1990 snowmobiles, the paddle is about a half inch deep and on new, unpacked snow, this means having a great digging machine. Finally we put in a track and waited for the snow to set up.
In the meantime, we skinned across the field and skied the cabin chutes, a series of chutes on a north facing ridge that my parents and uncle cleared out last fall.
It is incredible to have safe, fun powder runs right in our backyard!
With hours of digging snowmobiles and skinning under our belts, the only logical thing to do was to fire up the wood-fired hot tub that we built in the fall. I would say life up north is pretty damn good!
Early morning park adventures never get old, even in the bitter cold. Today was one of those bitter cold, wonder Wyoming windy days. We set off early, coffee in hand to drive out to the park to ski a peak called Wimpy’s. With the persistent slab, we planned to ski pretty conservatively, although there are some really cool couloirs off the backside. On the way in, we passed an early morning herd of deer and moose.
Skinning into Wimpy’s takes a bit more flat traversing than 25 Short ,and I took advantage of the time to get some skin track shots with the Tetons in the foreground.
Some days it is beautiful and sunny, and I am able to zone out for the skin track and cruise, and sometimes it is like today. Today it was bitter cold and windy. The skin track was blown in almost immediately, meaning that since rob was two switchbacks above me, we were both breaking trail. About three quarters of the way up, I needed to take a break. I took a knee to get a bit out of the wind and the steep soft skin track had obviously taken a tool on my hydration. Before I had a chance to get my water out, I had to put a hand on the ground to steady myself. Even though I wanted to take a longer break, the risk of getting chilled in the wind was too great, so I drank, ate a few bites of frozen pb&j and continued my slow motion slog to the top. That is the thing about backcountry touring. There is a fine line between too cold and sweating, between moving fast enough to be comfortable and needing to stop for food. Often, you can do a whole tour and wait until you get back to the car to chug some water and eat a ton, but that was not today.
At the top I grabbed another snack while transitioning and stashed some more calories in my pocket to snack on on the way down. Luckily, the way down was 100% worth the way up. Our tracks were the only ones out there.
Not only was the snow good on the way down, but the track out was a coast. Needless to say I took a long hot shower to warm up after Wimpy’s. Does that make me a Wimp?