This is one of the most coveted ski mountaineering lines in the U.S. It’s got everything you could want in a rad big mountain line. Standing on top you’re blessed with one of the grandest views around, but don’t stay gawking too long, you’ve got skiing to do (and some rappelling). The turns off the summit are often rocky, but not that steep, one can just walk down if you’re not feeling sporty. The upper Ford is a proud beautiful open slope that’s steep for sure, but not puckering unless it’s firm and icy. The slope gently sucks itself in and develops into a large chute with plenty of room for turns. It narrows and narrows until a downclimb or rappel is required to get over the ice bulge. The line has come very close to being “free’d” without rope, but not successfully yet. It may be one or two or three rappels to get through out of the Ford, through the Chevy and into the Stettner couloir so come prepared to build anchors. In most years the Stettner can be scratched down or skied, or easily downclimbed. The line then traverses hard left up and down to the Teepee Glacier saddle. Descend the Teepee and out Garnett canyon to the trailhead.
Park at the Taggart Lake trailhead and skin the flats to Bradley Lake. From here the terrain kicks up as you head into Garnett Canyon. Stay low in the canyon heading directly up until it opens up. From here head to the northwest up the broad open slopes towards the Teepee Glacier. You’ll often be here in the dark, in fact you should have started early enough that you ARE here in the dark, good to mark it well on your gps to avoid overshooting the Teepee. Hit the col atop the Teepee and traverse around into the series of couloirs.
This line is getting really crowded and the tight confines and complex nature make it VERY dangerous when there are many parties piled up in the chutes and on the ice. This added hazard is very hard to manage and it’s ideal to avoid other parties. Don’t go on weekends and shoot for late winter when things are stable instead of spring when most parties go. Another reason late winter is better is that with so much south aspect, the sun heats it up quickly and the lower Ford and Stettner Couloirs become funnels for massive amounts of wet snow. Ice tools recommended over mountaineering axes, a few ice screws and stoppers should suffice for the rack.
What do you consider late winter?
Hi Nick, just about now!