TSR: Baxter’s Pinnacle: 5.1.2014

Rock on Baxter’s Pinnacle (S side) is dry but the descent gully is sketchy, rotten, runneled snow.  There were no parties behind us so we opted to downclimb and rappel the route itself which proved fun and doable without leaving any gear behind.

Today we had beautiful blue skies and warm temps for the second straight day after the recent snowstorms, so Nightmere, Nick P, and I went for a look at Baxter’s Pinnacle.

Meredith Edwards Baxter's Pinnacle

The road opened today so we were able to drive to Jenny Lake (still frozen) and ski across.  We got a mid-morning start and were able to skate across the fast, firm lake surface in 10-15 minutes.  We found good snow up the canyon and dry rock on Baxter’s Pinnacle.  I wouldn’t have wanted to skin up that steep face much later in the day and would have preferred to bootpack or ski crampon it on a firmer crust: the top two inches of snow would slip out on us occasionally during today’s ascent.

Rock was warm and beautiful.  There was a bit of loose crap on the  dirtier portions of the climb.  All the ledges were dry, with only a few drifts on the Pinnacle at all.

The summit had the largest drift but it was easily avoided and rappel chains were accessible. The standard descent route to the West of the Pinnacle was full of steep snow with deep runnels so we headed back down the Pinnacle itself.

We made one single 70m rope rappel South off the summit knob and down-climbed to a second rappel just above the steep chimney section of the route.  A large rock fin there offered a natural anchor and a double 60m rope rappel was just long enough to get us down to the ledge I’m standing on in this picture.

Baxter's Pinnacle Grand Teton National Park

Pulling the ropes from around a big rock fin gave Nick and I quite the workout but they came down clean.  We set up the rappel so we were pulling on our thicker and less stretchy rope, which seemed to work well in the situation.

From that ledge a doable down-climb  brought us back to our skis.    We were concerned about kicking off wet slides so we looked for a route with minimal exposure and clean fall lines.  Good, fun, creamy, supporting snow had us back to the lake at exactly 2pm.

We made it most of the way across the lake on a fast crust, but ~90% of the way across the lake we started punching through the sun-warmed crust into ~6″ of slush atop the lake ice.  It gave a rather disconcerting sensation but the ice underneath felt thick.

It could have been a lot worse, but I’ll probably opt to hug the shoreline for my next return trip across any GTNP lake.  On a cold morning I think some of the lakes might still be skateable, but I’ll do so cautiously.  In the afternoons I’ll probably stick to dry land or hug the lake shore tightly.

We saw that a lot of wet slides had released naturally on many aspects at many elevations throughout the day.  Baxter’s Pinnacle seemed to be a pretty safe option for a casual, mid-morning excursion in GTNP but we probably should have started a few hours earlier to make it a safer day.  We left town at 9am but probably should have left at 7am.

Skies were totally clear today.  No evidence of government meddling with today’s weather, at least not over Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  One Love.  Peace.