Background

Nick, Grant, and I had just done a long day in Garnet Canyon skiing the Hourglass Couloirs and Red Sentinel Couloir. We were looking for a shorter day and were curious if corn had set up yet in the Tetons. We didn’t want a crazy early start so we opted for Albright Peak. Our initial plan was to ski the SE Face of Albright Peak from the Death Canyon winter trailhead, then ski the Son of Apocalypse Couloir off Prospector Mountain. Over dinner we consulted Google Maps and found that the road to the trailhead seemed to be closed. This confused us, as many trip reports called out starting from the winter parking area. Hmmm…

We hemmed and hawed late into the night and ultimately agreed to stick to our plan but start from Granite Canyon trailhead, which we knew was open. It would mean approximately 3 miles of flat skinning to Phelps Lake but we agreed to stick to our original plan.

Trip Report

We started just before 6 AM from the Granite Canyon trailhead and began the flat skin to Phelps Lake. At one point we ripped skins, thinking we might be able to ski some of the slightly downhill road in the firm morning snow. We didn’t get very far before needing to don skins again and opted to just keep them on the rest of the way. The skin to Phelps Lake went quickly; within an hour we were at Phelps Lake and began the long skin across towards Albright.

A photo from later in the day, skinning across Phelps Lake with Albright Peak in the background.

The slopes up Albright were ripe for ski crampons: firm enough that skis slid out but not firm enough to support booting. I HATE ski cramponing, partially because I find it difficult and partially because of an accident I had years ago where I slipped and fell while skinning. This climb was going to be difficult for me.

Just above the lake, Nick and Grant and I split up. Nick and Grant put on ski crampons and climbed up together, while I opted to try and boot. This was where the day began to turn south for me. I began transitioning from postholing to skins to ski crampons back to postholing numerous times. I should have just stuck with ski cramponing and got into a rhythm, but I didn’t. My frustration spiraled and I became quite irritable. At one point, I caught up with Nick and Grant and Nick graciously asked how I was doing. I irritably responded, with not so nice words, and Nick rightfully wasn’t pleased. I was a pretty shitty partner on the climb up, to be honest.

I sometimes view suffering as a solo endeavor. With the exception of injury, I view suffering as something we individually manage, understand how to deal with, and persevere through. I did not communicate this to Nick nor Grant. Instead, they could only see that I was pissy and grumpy. If I had communicated better, things might have improved. Instead, they deteriorated.

Near the ridge between Albright and Wimpy’s Knob I ran into another few people. They mentioned they had come from Death Canyon winter trailhead and hadn’t needed to use ski crampons at all. This only added to my frustration, now turned into disappointment. Oh well…things could have been different.

I caught up with Nick and Grant on the summit. I chuckled at how difficult I had made the climb look. This disarmed them a bit and they laughed too, noting that it was kinda silly how easy things could have been if I had just leaned into more and embraced ski cramponing. I could have just settled in; instead I fought the whole way.

We skied soulful corn on Albright; the summit was kinda pow, of some sort, then just a few hundred feet below the summit was ripper corn top-to-bottom. We were glad we had approached via Granite Canyon so that we could ski all the way to Phelps Lake, instead of needing to traverse back towards Death Canyon TH.

Nick skiing off the summit of Albright.

At the lake we regrouped and discussed the rest of the day. Nick brought up that my demeanor wasn’t okay and we briefly discussed what could have been done differently. I was caught a bit off guard by the comments but could see where they had come from. Reflecting now, I see it much more clearly.

We opted to not go up to Son of Apocalypse for a number of reasons, the primary of which was we just wanted to preserve the day as it had been: ripper corn top-to-bottom. Other reasons included wanting to keep energy in the tank for more days, etc.

In short, Albright Peak SE Face is a lovely ski descent that is a great option for spring corn. Approaching from Death Canyon winter TH makes it much easier than the way we did it.