Wydaho Snow: 12.4.15: GTNP, Death Canyon, Albright Peak

Today RT and I went for a fun ski near Death Canyon.  It was fun because we saw a fat, fluffy, friendly fox stroll by, and witnessed a mother-daughter pair of moose running for their lives from something that wasn’t us.  My guess it was nothing, but who knows?

It was also fun because we got to ski round trip from Moose-Wilson Road to the scenic and snowy Phelps Lake overlook and back. We only had to take our skis off once, and that was to remove our skins after the sketchy bits of the descent.  Yay!!!

The views of Phelps Lake and Death Canyon were exceptional, and the crowds were apparently home diddling their smartphones: we had the whole place to ourselves.

Phelps Lake is still open, Death Canyon is plastered with snow, and the summer trail appears skinnable — not skiable — down to the lake.  Anyone seeking the mother of all profile pics might consider taking a wintry dive from the Phelps Lake jumping rock — caveat lector of course.

Albright Peak from Death Canyon Trail: 12.4.15: LOW SNOW: Bottom ~1000′ of Albright looks to be survival skiing or downclimbing.  Middle ~1000′ looks manageable on the drifts.  Upper ~1500′ looks tasty but boney and rather inaccessible.  

Yes, today we only went as high as the Death Canyon summer trail overlook because all the boulders, deadfall, trees, and bushes poking up through the snow looked dangerous and unavoidable.

IMHO GTNP still needs more snow to be skiable top to bottom.  Unfortunately snow storms keep fizzling out before hitting our beloved Hole beneath a heavily geoengineered atmosphere.  See video.

Today’s descent itself was not exceptionally fun due to low snow, but the snow we did find was nice and powdery.  I would recommend Death Canyon trail for an outing this weekend as long as you promise yourself to be careful during the descent.

Occasional rocks are lurking alongside — and within — the existing skintrack, but they’re manageable, especially if you keep your skins on while descending back down the trail to the DC parking lot.  From the parking lot to MW Road it’s good to go and pretty fun: perfect hardpack amid fun, sugary, shallow snow.

A hardy few of the dozens of Federal Employees “working” in GTNP’s sprawling Moose, Wyoming headquarters may want to set the coffee down, slide away from their computer screens, pick up a chainsaw, get some fresh air, and clear all the dangerous deadfall and deadly snags hanging over the Death Canyon summer trail prior to the Phelps Lake Overlook.

There are four trees down over the summer trail that could easily be removed by two people with a chainsaw in maybe an hour total minus drive time.  There’s at least one really nasty snag looming over the trail as well that looks a bit trickier to remove.


South Wall of Death Canyon: 12.4.15: LOW SNOW

We took advantage of the mellow skin up the summer road to talk about avalanches, safe backcountry protocol, and the importance of rallying rationally when the going gets tough.  The overlook boulder provided a good spot to talk about weather and wind in relation to snow safety and ski conditions.

Tomorrow I’m headed back up the Grey’s where snowpack is more sufficient.  Whatever you do, have fun out there this weekend.  Low snow doesn’t have to mean low fun.

Just remember: sometimes “skins on” is the safest and funnest way to descend, especially if you’re headed back down a slippery skintrack surrounded by boulders. 🙂