Skiing The Nugget Line on Cloudveil Dome in Grand Teton National Park
Location: Cloudveil Dome, Grand Teton National Park
Trailhead: Bradley Taggart Parking Area
Distance: 10 miles
Time: 7 to 8 hours
Total Vertical: +/-5050 ft
USGS Maps: Moose, Grand Teton
After getting the phone call from Aaron Diamond that conditions in the Grand Teton National Park were looking prime, I hit the road. I always look forward to road trips to Jackson, especially when I get to ski in the GTNP for a few days.
Our first ski objective was to ski The Nugget Line off the Cloudveil Dome. Some people may call this the Cloudveil Dome’s southeast couloir. Aaron Diamond, Brian Johnson, and I pulled into the Bradley Taggart parking area around 7am. Armed with my Liberty Variant 97 skis, I hit the skin track in the early morning light and I did my best to keep up while being distracted by alpenglow.
We cruised across the flats and quickly crossed the frozen Bradley Lake to the mouth of Garnet Canyon. The skin track weaves its way up Garnet Canyon crossing multiple runout zones and criss crossing the creek. Eventually we hit the meadows with a stunning view of the Middle Teton – a spot where my camera got a workout.
We rapidly crossed the meadows and took the left (southwest) fork of the canyon toward the Cloudveil Dome. The snow conditions were firm, but we were able to skin right up the steep headwalls as we worked our way toward the small col on the east side of the Cloudveil Dome.
After expecting to transition to crampons on the final pitch, we surprisingly, were able to skin the entire way – something that is uncommon. With 2.5 meters plus of snow, a quick snow assessment indicated stable snow conditions. Skinning in my Scrapa Maestrale RS boots made the walk easy and we made it all the way to the col with skins on.
After about 5 hours and 5000 vertical feet of climbing we geared up at the col – harnesses on, boots in ski mode, Dynafits on tight. We were ready to ski the Nugget, but first we ate some calories, drank some water, and soaked in the views.
The views from the col are outstanding. The Ellingwood Couloir and the Chouinard Couloir stood out on the Middle Teton. The summit of the Grand Teton looks inviting. Avalanche Canyon stands out thousands of feet below us. Every direction offered impressive views, especially looking down the steep south face, where we would ski the Nugget Line.
The Nugget Line dives steeply off the col. The first few turns are a bit rocky. With a few well placed jump turns we were off. After a few hundred feet we hooked east into an island of safety. With a big ski cut, we headed into a wide open bowl that narrows into a pencil like couloir before it opens up into a massive, mellow, wide open snow field.
We leap frogged our way down the Nugget Line, finding exceptionally fun snow to make turns. The skiing was phenomenal. Hopping from safe zone to safe zone, we eventually neared the bottom of the couloir where we would have to rappel over the chockstone, which resembles a “nugget.”
As is common in the Tetons, there was fixed gear already in place. Due to the early season snow, multiple anchor extensions were necessary to reach the anchor and rig the rappel with a 70m rope. Aaron went first and left his snowboard on. Brian and I opted to stash our skis on our packs prior to the rappel – this was the better option.
RandoSteve from TetonAt.com has a good YouTube video of a wet slide at this exact rappel spot. Watch it here.
The rappel was easy and we cleared about 10 meters of actual vertical rock. Below the rappel, is a cool hidey hole to gear up in, then it’s time to ski the apron. With exhausted legs, we made turns down to the floor of Avalanche Canyon.
Now we just had to mix some skiing, side stepping, rock dodging, and bushwhacking to get back to Taggart Lake. The trail was in place, so off we went. Eventually we made it to Taggart Lake and skied across it’s ice covered surface.
We found the trail again, dodged some snowshoers, and made it back to the car after an 8 hour adventure. Time to head to the Local for water, food, and beer – in that order. Great day.
Additional images from Skiing The Nugget Line on Cloudveil Dome in Grand Teton National Park:
The Nugget was skied on December 9, 2014.