Background

Our Tetons trip was coming to a close and we had one more day of nice weather before low pressure returned and ushered in second winter. Nick and Grant had both left; Letty, Erin, and I were scheming up ideas to take advantage of a few inches of new snow overnight. We didn’t have much motivation for a stupid early wake-up with a long approach, so we compromised and agreed on the Apocalypse Couloir on Prospector Mountain.

The Apocalypse Couloir is written about extensively on the internet; it’s aesthetic, steep, and involves rappels that give it a true ski mountaineering feel. We were stoked to bring the ropes out, not having used them at all throughout our Tetons trip.

Trip Report

We opted to start from the Granite Canyon trailhead to avoid traffic getting back through Jackson to our AirBnB in Wilson. The skin may have been shorter from Death Canyon TH, where people typically start, but the shorter drive time (10 mins vs 40 mins) made up for it. We started just before 6:45AM and brought a 60m 7mm rope and x2 30m 6mm rad lines (to tie together) for the rappels. We’d read you can either do x2 60m rappels or x3 40m rappels. We opted to bring more rope and make the raps quicker.

The approach dragged on for quite a while. We all were just feeling the fatigue of the week, I guess. The approach up Prospector is pretty uneventful: a low-angle ramp up the south/southeast face to a ridge that brings you to a nice tree anchor off of which to rappel. We topped out just before 11AM and saw a group catching up to us. There was nobody ahead of us so we’d rappel in first and have the line to ourselves.

Looking down at the first rappel from the tree.

I set up the first rappel with a ‘biner block, tying the 60m 7mm rope and the two rad lines together. Letty rappeled in first down to a fixed nut anchor, I then followed and Erin followed after me. We didn’t have crampons on and it wasn’t a big deal; if conditions are icier and less fresh snow they’d be nice. The first rappel involves walking down over rocks and some ice. It’s not anything crazy but definitely some junk in there.

Looking up at the first rappel from the fixed nut anchor where our 60m rope got us.

From the first rappel I debated skiing down what people typically rappel. It was well filled in and was steep but not insane. I clicked into my skis but by the time I did Letty and Erin were readying the second rappel and it just seemed silly to get in their way, nevermind try to ski around the ropes. I kept my skis on for the second rappel and the 60m line got us easily down to the ‘cave’ where people begin to ski, typically.

Our rope got stuck on the second rappel because of the large-sized carabiner that had been left. We tied a pretty big stopper not on our second ‘biner block and it wasn’t clearing. I solo’d back up to the second rappel and cleaned the not, then booted back down to the cave. Some faffery for sure.

Looking down at the upper couloir from the cave where x2 60m rappels got us.

The upper couloir was dreamy; the snow overnight accumulated to make for some really nice powder turns, maybe boot-top deep at points. There was some sluffing but nothing too bad. The top couloir is quite north facing and shaded; after the first pitch it doglegs to skier’s right (east). The upper pitch isn’t crazy steep, maybe 40 degrees, and is quite enjoyable for linking turns. We skied down the north-facing pitch to the east facing dogleg.

Looking at the upper couloir from the dogleg.

The east-facing dogleg is where the clock begins to tick and you need to be fully committed to getting out quickly. There is tons of hanging snow that is ripe for puking down the couloir from that point onwards. After the dogleg the pitch of the couloir mellows out quite a bit, but the snow gets worse (because of the east facing tilt) and it narrows significantly, especially around the ice formations further down. I skied and radioed to Erin/Letty to come to a point just above the ice choke-point that people sometimes rappel past. I snuck through this without much issue but it wasn’t lovely. Definitely some points where my 181cm skis were not fully in contact with the snow. Erin and Letty cautiously made their way down through the ice choke and we quickly skied out the bottom of the line.

Looking down the lower couloir, just above the ice choke.

Going into the day we had discussed potentially leaving our ropes near the lake and doing another climb up to ski the Son of Apocalypse Couloir, a mellower line on Prospector that doesn’t involve any rappels. Apocalypse had taken a decent amount of time, however, and our stoke for going back up was lost. We were happy with our day thus far and opted to go back to the car and drink beer.