GET OUT: Glorious Gallivant

By on March 1, 2016

A leg burning skin from Teton Pass to No Name offers new perspectives and a saucy finish.

Mike Galvin, Carly Baker and Bree Buckley finish their climb out of Moose Creek.  (Photo: bree buckley)

Mike Galvin, Carly Baker and Bree Buckley finish their climb out of Moose Creek.  (Photo: bree buckley)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Around here there is seemingly no shortage of people willing to scale great heights, tip-toe on the edge of their comfort zone, or throw themselves at death’s eye to feel the rush of adrenaline. And while I dream of becoming a ski mountaineer, my fear of injury or death compels me to bail on certain missions before I even begin. This time it was skiing the Middle Teton. Could I keep up with my naturally speedy, inexhaustible ski partners? Could I put my mind over matter and suck up a never ending knee injury on dicey terrain? Am I being a little too ambitious for my experience level? Today, I decided, wasn’t the day to throw together a last minute ski undertaking on the Middle. So instead we went with plan B: A ski tour from Teton Pass to No Name Peak.

I’ve heard stories from my roommate, who became lost in foul weather and consumed by vertigo on the same traverse, so today’s clear blue skies were necessary for our entry into the mountains.

As we drove up Teton Pass, the mountains seemed there just for us—an oil painting of muted pastel colors, luminous in the morning light. From the road the mountains looked reassuringly familiar, ridges cascading north to south as they always do, mirroring every emblematic photo of the Tetons. But I kept in mind that the moment I began my ascent across the southern ridgeline of the Tetons, this masterpiece of peaks would morph into a foreign land.

My watch read 10 a.m. as we began our ascent up the Mount Glory bootpack. I laughed to myself as I noted that while the top of the hike generally marks the end of my energy output for the day, today it was only the beginning. My quads burned with fatigue as I hiked up the relentless grade of the slippery, sun affected staircase, but after an hour of monotonous movement, I adhered skins to the bottom of my splitboard and we embarked on our our northern trajectory towards Teton Village.

Ski touring offers an asylum from the sounds and chaos of a resort, while keeping your mind stimulated and blood circulating. So here we were, three split boarders and one skier, moving across terrain that proved to be more mountainous, perplexing and exhausting than we judged from the road’s perspective. Repeated transitions slowed our pace and the unfamiliar Idaho backcountry required us to lean on our GPS.

To avoid traversing across Rendezvous Peak, we made a collaborative decision to triangulate our path by skiing down to Moose Creek, then zig-zagging our way back up towards the back side of No Name Peak. While this decision required us to travel an additional 2,000 vertical feet at the end of a exhausting day, our unfamiliarity with Rendezvous Peak made it the safest option. Thanks to rising temperatures coupled with recent snowfall, balls of snow coated the base of our skins. Our skis could no longer glide. Frustration ensued among the pack. We became overwhelmed as we heaved pounds of snow up the mountain with every step. I looked at my watch again and realized we were now in a race against the setting sun. My legs protested as I peeled off a few sweaty layers. I knew I had to focus on continuing forward. Step-by-step, I drove my knees to propel my body in a powerful acceleration.

My fears of skiing in the dark subsided as we crawled over the summit of No Name Peak and became reaquainted with the welcoming view of Jackson Hole. Back on familiar ground outside the boundaries of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, we geared up and made our descent down the over-skied, chopped-up face of No Name and ducked into the bottom of the Hobacks just before dark.

Sure, by changing my plans, I may have missed the transcendental alpenglow in Grand Teton National Park and a feeling of badassery. But I explored new terrain and still had time to meet the patchwork of PBR drinking, resort dwelling skiers and snowboarders for an après margarita. PJH

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