Skiing the Glacier Route on the Middle Teton
Location: Middle Teton, Grand Teton National Park
Trailhead: Bradley/Taggart Parking Area
Distance: 16 miles
Time: 9 hours
Top Elevation: 12350 ft / 3,765 m
Vertical: 7000 ft
USGS Maps: Grand Teton, Moose
After skiing the Sliver Couloir, I was pumped for another ski mountaineering adventure in Grand Teton National Park. Aaron Diamond, Joel Bettner, Nick Braun, and I woke for an alpine start as mountains are best enjoyed in the mornings – especially when you try to beat the alpenglow to the peaks.
Our mission for the day was to head up Garnet Canyon to the Middle Teton. Ideally we wanted to ski the south facing Ellingwood Couloir if snow conditions permitted. Otherwise we would ski back down our ascent route – the Middle Teton’s Glacier Route.
Fueled by coffee, pumped with enthusiasm, and armed with snacks, we set off from the Bradley/Taggart parking area. We went up and over the moraine and crossed Bradley Lake in the dark. Next time I’m going to make sure I have fresh batteries in my Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp! We continued skinning up Garnet Canyon as first light soon hit the Tetons.
After slipping and sliding on a refrozen skin track, we reached the meadows and were greeted with a stunning view of the Middle Teton. We cruised across the meadow and headed for the North Fork of Garnet Canyon that splits the Grand Teton and the Middle Teton. Between bootpacking, skinning, and snacking, we made excellent time.
We made good time to the base of the Middle Teton glacier, which hangs on the north face of the Middle Teton. We skinned as high as we could and then transitioned to booting up the steep face – putting on crampons for the last steep pitch. I was glad to have my Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe and BD Whippet combo.
In just under 6 hours and right around 6000 vertical feet, we reached the col between the Dike Pinnacle and the Middle Teton. The East Face tempted our crew to summit, but slabby conditions and sheer rock faces didn’t allow for it.
From the col, the Ellingwood Couloir dropped down the south face and the Glacier Route drops down the north face. There was no cornice over the Ellingwood and we had a good view down the face.
We waited for a bit to see if the transitional conditions would soften the couloir – making an exposed line safe to ski. In the meantime we soaked in the views of the towering Grand Teton, the East Hourglass Couloir on Nez Perce, Cloudveil Dome, and more. The Tetons are breathtaking.
After about a half hour, Aaron belayed Nick in to check out the snow. The snowpack was a bit weird so we all opted to ski the steep north facing Glacier Route.
The skiing in the Middle Teton’s Glacier Route is steep. Don’t fall. The first few turns are definitely 50+ degrees before it tapers out to around 50 degrees and then mellows from there. The skiing was a bit variable and wind effected, but fun nonetheless.
At the bottom of the Glacier Route we found a mix of corn snow and wind buff down to tree line. Below that we linked together decent turns all the way down Garnet Canyon to Bradley Lake. After a quick skin and a fast ski and we were back at the car.
At the end of the day, my Suunto Core watch read 7700 vertical feet in 9 hours. That seems a bit high, but I would guess that we hit just under 7000 feet and about 15 miles – give or take a few. It was a big day and tons of fun.
Our route on Hillmap
Here are some additional images from skiing the Glacier Route on the Middle Teton:
We skied the Glacier Route on the Middle Teton on March 9, 2015.