Background

Nick, Grant, and I headed to the Tetons in March of 2024 for a week of skiing. For most of the winter, the Tetons were plagued by a persistently unstable snowpack with weak layers. As March rolled around, however, stability began to improve as those weak layers were buried so deep humans could no longer impact them. Long story short, our trip timing was quite lucky and we were going to have nice stability.

Trip Report

Over the course of the 13 hour drive from Seattle we waffled on what our first day should be. During the drive I saw a Strava post from a friend of mine that skied the Red Sentinel Couloir and the East Face of Teewinot Mountain. I chatted with him briefly and he recommended the Hourglass couloirs on Nez Perce. We were sold. Day 1 would be incredibly scenic touring through Garnet Canyon, right in the shadow of the Grand Teton.

Nick and Grant skinning up, with the Grand Teton in the background.

We quickly learned that all spring tours in the Tetons involve both early wake-ups and lots of flat walking. Each range has its own characteristic; it felt like we were learning the ways of this range. We parked at Taggart Lake TH at 4:30 AM and began the flat skin over towards Bradley Lake. Within an hour we were past Bradley Lake and began ascending up Garnet Canyon. The early morning hours always seem to just melt away once the sun comes up. We were right beneath the Middle and Grand Teton as sunrise began; all the flat skinning was immediately forgotten.

Sunrise over the Tetons, looking back from Garnet Canyon.

A group passed us on our way up and mentioned they were heading up the NW Hourglass Couloir on their way towards the ‘Spooky Face’. The night before we’d read various trip reports and knew that by heading bottom-up on the Hourglass Couloirs we wouldn’t be able to ‘top out’ the NE Couloir. We were fine with that, though, and just knew we’d have to manage the potential for people dropping on top of us.

We opted to boot up the NE Couloir first, as the other group was heading up the NW and we also figured the NW Couloir would stay in the shade longer than the NE. The couloir was beautiful: steep, with dramatic rock walls and chalky powder. The couloir was a lovely pitch, steep enough to keep things interesting but not so steep to be scary. There were a few tracks in it but not so many that it was roughed up.

Nick and Grant booting up the NE Couloir of Nez Pearce.

We climbed up to just beneath the chockstone where people rappel down. When approaching via the south side of Nez Pearce you can rappel into the NE Couloir with a 60m rappel. We didn’t want to be burdened with ropes and extra gear so we opted to forego the top-down approach.

The couloir was lovely chalk up high, then some punchy windboard in the middle mixed with good powder. Variable is probably the most accurate description. Regardless, it was quite enjoyable. We skied down to the fork where the NE and NW couloirs converge and transitioned to booting up the NW.

Grant skiing the NE Couloir. Above him you can see Nick, standing where we topped out beneath the chockstone.

The NW Couloir is less steep and much wider than the NE Couloir and seems to see more traffic. There were many more tracks in the NW Couloir, enough to make it a bit choppy. The booter from the group ahead of us skiing the Spooky Face was much appreciated.

Nick and Grant booting up the NW Couloir of Nez Pearce.

The top of the NW Couloir gives great views of the Middle, Grand, and South Teton. We ate some food, peeked over at the ridge up to the summit of Nez Perce, and then began skiing down. The snow was similarly variable to the NE Couloir, with more chop.

The final climb of the day was a cooker: up a south facing slope to the Red Sentinel Couloir on Disappointment Peak. Thankfully the snow had softened and ski crampons were no longer necessary but we were not yet acclimatized to the heat of spring. The slog ensued until we had a nice break at the col atop the Red Sentinel Couloir. We basked in the sun for a while, listening to reggae music and enjoying the beach vibes of the spring.

The Red Sentinel Couloir is wide, maybe 40 degrees at the top, and pretty shaded from sun. It had many tracks in it and looked a bit like a resort run. There was fresh snow left on the side panels that we could enjoy, but the main gut was pretty choppy.

Looking down at the Red Sentinel Couloir from the top.

Skiing out the other drainage was pretty smooth. We were able to ski easily to Delta Lake, pushed a bit across the flats, and then traversed all the way back to Bradley Lake. From Bradley Lake we threw on skins to skin back up the divide between Bradley Lake and Taggart Lake. From there, we skied/skated/pushed our way back to the parking lot. We enjoyed beers and sunshine in the parking lot; our only regret was not parking our car with the tailgate facing the Tetons so we could enjoy the view.