Background

After skiing Albright Peak SE Face, Grant, Nick and I wanted to get back into the alpine and felt that corn could be possible given the snow we saw on Albright. Buck’s east face drew our attention, especially given that we saw it from the summit of Albright. Now that we knew the Death Canyon winter trailhead was driveable we opted to give Buck a go.

Trip Report

We started from the Death Canyon trailhead just before 5:30 AM and headed up towards Stewart Draw. I had read trip reports the night before which made the skin up Stewart Draw sound annoying. We found the complete opposite. We didn’t need ski crampons once; it was nice, firm snow with a low angle drainage gaining progressive elevation. Nothing to complain about.

Nick and Grant skin with the Grand Teton in the background.

We reached the slopes below Buck’s east face around 9:30 AM or so and saw a few people ahead of us on the ridge. Winds were ripping up high which made us think that corn wasn’t going to be quite ripe yet.

The ridge climb up Buck is awesome; at times, it’s pretty exposed, knife-edge climbing with airy exposure over your right-hand side. Thankfully there was a great booter in which made it feel much more secure.

Nick and Grant on the ridgeline.

We reached the summit in just under 5.5 hours. We saw a group skiing the face ahead of us and it seemed to be corn-like with a mix of winter snow. Typical pre-spring conditions with the high pressure window we were in.

Skiing the face just off the summit is fun, engaging steep skiing. It rolls over steep and you can feel the exposure beneath you. After a few hundred feet you begin traversing out skier’s left to a long traverse back along the way you came.

Grant skis the east face of Buck.

We reached the top of the Buckshot Couloir and looked down. It was clearly skied by a number of people but looked like fun, engaging chalky pow. I asked the group if they felt up for an additional 1,200′ of climbing to ski the Buckshot and Nick/Grant agreed. In the moment, I mentioned we didn’t have to rush the day. I came to mess up those words.

Skiing the Buckshot was exhilarating, not because it was crazy steep or anything but because you can easily link it up with the east face for a nice, long ski descent. There were lovely pow turns as we skied down into the valley beneath Shadow Peak. At the bottom, Grant, Nick, and I took a nice long snack break and enjoyed the sun warming us in the valley bottom.

I messed up, mentally, the rest of the day. I really did. I had told Nick and Grant that we didn’t need to rush the last climb back up towards Steward Draw and I completely acted in opposition to my words. I started skinning out in front on my own and completely lost sight of the group. I put on music and flowed in solitude towards the top of the climb. I had no semblance of the fact that Grant and Nick were wanting to spend time with me. I had no idea the aftermath that would come from me not being present with them in that time. I waited at the top for them but when Nick appeared it was clear things weren’t okay. He was frustrated and rightfully so. I wasn’t part of their group. I hadn’t communicated that I wanted some ‘solo time’. I hadn’t explained that I was going to wait at the top. I just drifted ahead. Separate.

The day was filled with great skiing and awesome pictures but the aftermath of that last climb up is still sticking with me as I write this debrief for myself.