Skiing The Broken Thumb Couloir in Grand Teton National Park
Location: North side of 25 Short, Grand Teton National Park
Trailhead: Bradley Taggart Parking Area
Distance: 7 miles
Time: 5 hours
Vertical: 3250 ft
USGS Maps: Moose, Grand Teton
After two big days of skiing in the GTNP, we had knocked off The Nugget and the Apocalypse Couloir. For our last day, we opted for a shorter adventure so we could get on the road a bit earlier. With warm weather being a factor, we chose to ski Broken Thumb Couloir aka the North Couloir on 25 Short.
Aaron Diamond, Anton Sponar, Brian Johnson, and I geared up and hit the skin track around 730am. Our goal for the day was to skin up 25 Short, an ultra classic mellow, east facing powder ski line and then ski a more technical ski line off the more spicy north side.
According to TetonAt, this ski line goes by a variety of names – Broken Thumb Couloir, Ulnar Collateral Couloir, Doc’s Thumbs, or North Couloir on 25 Short. The story goes that a guy named Doc aired the crux and broke his thumb. It’s all legend to me, so let the adventure begin.
25 Short sits at 9975 feet, 25 feet short of 10,000. Skinning up it’s east face is not incredibly exciting. There is a well worn skin track that works uphill for 3000 feet that is regularly erased by aged powder turns. At the top, the views are impressive because it’s the Tetons.
When we reached the top, we quickly transitioned to ski mode. We all cinched down our harnesses, ripped skins, flipped boots into ski mode, and clicked into Dynafits – except the token splitboarder. We were ready.
We skied some steep powder turns in some nice cold snow, only to quickly realize that our route finding was a bit off. We had headed too far west and were directly over the Forks – an area we didn’t want to be. A quick traverse back to the skier’s right took us over to a rocky area above where we needed to be.
On the way to the line we had impressive views of The Nugget. As we lined up our descent into Broken Thumb, we noted that it is directly across from the Four Hour Couloir on Shadow Peak. As we started to ski, our tired legs were greeted with a firm wind slab that kept us focused on making controlled turns in steep terrain.
Shortly into the actual couloir is the crux. Aaron built an anchor on the skier’s left side of the couloir’s dominating rock walls and we rigged a rappel with a 70 meter rope. The knotted ends of the rappel rope barely hit the snow far below. Even though the crux must fill in throughout the winter, that Doc guy must have hucked a pretty big cliff!
Once back on snow, we downclimbed about 10 feet and clicked back into our skis. The Broken Thumb Couloir had firm, but fun snow throughout. We quickly skied from the bottom of the rappel out to the apron one at a time.
The apron was filled with nice faceted snow that skied great all the way to the floor of Avalanche Canyon. There we regained the established out route to the east. After maneuvering around boulders, barely missing tree branches, and hanging on through some crusty snow surfaces, we reached Taggart Lake.
Propelled by tired legs, we skated across the ice covered lake back toward the car. Round trip this fun adventure took about 5 hours. We headed back to Jackson for a bite to eat and to grab our stuff before heading home.
The Tetons are always spectacular and I look forward to coming back soon. Probably in January.
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Click here to see our route on Hillmap.