Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wolf Mountain Skate Ski Traverse

Here's a little route that I've always wanted to do, having seen it from the highway south of Hoback, and now that I've been on the route, realize how prominent it is from many places right around town and in the valley of Jackson Hole.

Wolf Mountain is home turf to the area's only heli ski operation, and for good reason. Access is fairly long, though not unreasonable. I started out at 5:15 a.m. on May 16 from the East Table trailhead in the Snake River Canyon, giving me established trail for about the first 3 miles. From the head of the drainage, the snow cover was plentiful, although occasionally punchy. I followed a ridge climbing gradually to the west, and then steeply up to the flatter portion of the Wolf Mtn's south ridge, visible here from the highway at Astoria, and along which I was hoping to skate ski to the summit of Wolf Mountain, on the right.I topped out on the left (south) end of the ridge visible above to be greeted by stellar views of Jackson Hole and the Teton Range. The Grand is front and center below. It was at this point that I donned my skis, and the crust was as expected firm and supportable. Although calm at clear at 7:45 doesn't sound that warm, the window of opportunity to get up, down and out was limited. Last thing I wanted was to be post holing through rotten, unskiable snow for the few miles back to the highway.And here is the view to the south, of the Wyoming Range, east of Alpine and Afton, WY. My skate ski track is barely visible in the foreground. Now for the fun part. I was able to cruise one of the two miles of ridgeline, mostly skirting under cornices on softening corn to this point. Checking the time and temperature, I made the decision that after all the climbing and miles of approach, this was a summit better left for another day. I had already experienced punchy snow, and knew that good snow now would be crap later. I skied a bit further down the ridge and then dropped in.
A few big GS turns down the east face of the ridge here in perfect corn were perhaps the highlight of the tour. I traversed the upper east bowl to get in the Cabin Creek drainage that was also home to a trail, which I found after some very interesting scrapping through the trees and multiple crossings of the rushing stream on suspect snow bridges.
The hike out was fine if a bit muddy in places and punchy in others, and the hitch back to my starting point, went...with(out) a hitch ; ), and I was home before noon.

1 comment:

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