Static Peak is one of my favorite ski descents in Grand Teton National Park. At 11,302 feet, with lines from moderate – the South Bowl – to extreme – the North Couloir – and a relatively simple approach, you would think she’d generate more traffic, but no. Despite being next door neighbors with the ever popular Buck Mountain and Albright Peak, fair game for the whole winter, Static is looped into a wildlife closure with the nearby Mount Hunt and Prospectors Mountain among others, keeping all slopes off limits from December 1st through April 30th – preserving “lower elevation” Bighorn Sheep habitat. Skiing any high summit in GTNP before December is a surefire way to destroy a pair of skis, effectively chopping the Static Peak ski season to a measly three or four weeks in May. Come June the prominent eastern and southern aspects buckle to the calls of summer. The wildlife closure used to end as early as April first, but seems to get bumped back every couple of years. Regardless, if you can hit the window, Static Peak holds some of the best corn skiing in the park. As such, I was ecstatic when Drew Grasso answered my late season rally call, despite the whole 2:30AM wakeup and one hour commute thing. I had great views of Static three days earlier on a slightly burlier mission to ski Buck Mountain’s East Face, so I knew Static’s East Face – my favorite line – was in great shape. Off for some more May turns shall we? ‘Andale!
Static Peak – East Face
I skied the East Face three winters ago, before the wildlife closure got extended to May. Anyone who has spent much time in the alpine knows the difference two weeks of warm weather can make. There are many ways to approach Static – by way of Albright Peak, Wimpy’s, Stuart Draw, Static Draw or part of a longer extravaganza with peaks to the north, most commonly Buck. In April, I climbed Wimpy’s – the sub-peak directly to looker’s right of Albright – and skied one of the many west facing couloirs that drop directly into the basin below Static. I have long fancied doing the same by way of the North Couloir on Albirght (photo below.) However, by May 19th we had but one option – tennis shoes and a dirty trek into Stuart Draw. As mentioned above, there are several descent choices. The South Bowl is the most benign, a low angle slope that provides a safer escape option should conditions turn sour, or a moderate spring corn run. The East Face – our line of choice and the only one I’ve ever skied – is considered the king line, 40 degree fall-line face skiing that reminds less of the Tetons and more of Montana’s Big Sky country. Lastly, the north face holds a prime, fear striking, blood curdling, off-camber couloir that bisects an unforgiving cliff-band at a harrowing slope angle that I estimate to be at least 55 degrees in spots. The beautiful gash is definitely on my bucket list, but would require the perfect balance of ideal snow conditions, proper mindset and maybe some rope-assisted technical foolery like ski-belays or a rappel entrance. The late Teton legend Steve Romeo skied the line in 2011, and I haven’t been able to dig up any other accounts. I’m sure it’s been done a few other times, but woah, the North Couloir on Static Peak is certainly a doozie.
With shoes on from the parking lot and starting just shy of 5:00AM, we followed the Buck Mountain climber’s trail to the mouth of Stuart Draw (more info about the approach can be found here). We wound through lower Stuart Draw, forked south into Static Draw and continued up the path of least resistance to the base of the East Face. The ease of late season travel in Stuart and Static Draw make Buck, Static and Albright much more appealing than the nastier approaches of Avalanche and Garnet Canyons to the north. To reach our ski line, even this late in the year, was a simple two miles bushy hiking and a straightforward skin starting at 7,500-8,000 feet. The safest and traditional way to ascend Static is by wrapping beneath it’s southerly bowl and ascending the broad saddle northwest of Albright Peak. For us, confident in steep snow climbing, not wanting to waste time and well ahead of any significant warming that could produce dangerous avalanche conditions, we opted to ascend the East Face directly. After a laissez-faire approach and a leisurely break below our line, we ripped skins, popped on crampons and began plugging up the expansive swath of mountain ahead.
Booting the East Face took less than an hour, but even before 9:00AM the snow was beginning to soften. We climbed the path of least resistance, straight up the line we intended to ski. By the top we were kicking boot-deep steps into rotten snow – time to pick up the pace. Luckily, a chilling wind swirled on the summit keeping the conditions firm enough to allow snacks and pictures. I never get tired of this summit. Views to the north of Buck, The Grand Teton, Nez Perce and Teewinot dominate the sky and remind of how small we actually are. After a quick tri-pod session it was back to the skis. Beneath a beautiful bluebird sky we cranked turns on the firm upper face, which softened gradually the lower we went. We negotiated a few rotten cliff areas but mostly enjoyed perfect supportable corn for a party-style descent to our break spot below. Satisfied by perfect turns amidst epic Teton scenery, of which we had all to ourselves, we plunked down on a rock to enjoy sandwiches and tea before making our way back to reality.
We discussed the possibility of skiing other lines, but the day was warming fast. We opted to bail early and salvage the tasty scraps of Static and Stuart Draw below, before snow turned to slop. We hit the car by 12:30PM at a very casual pace, wrapping up another superb day in Grand Teton National Park. Most of my affection for Static Peak comes from it’s unique blend of mellowness and intensity. I don’t have a better way to put it. Static seems to straddle this delicate line like no other. Yes, the approach is long enough to test your fitness but no, you won’t need to start in the middle of the night. Yes, you’ll want an ice axe and a set of crampons, but they’ll probably only get used for a few minutes. Yes, a fall on the East Face would be dicey but no, you won’t be gripped out of your mind. Static Peak holds big mountain views and big mountain skiing at bargain price, an intermediate step between the 10,000 foot peaks below and the monsters to the north – an epic Teton adventure without shattered quads and blood pressure spikes. I have a soft spot for Static Peak, and wonder why every Teton ski mountaineer doesn’t too.
(SEE DISCLAIMER BELOW)
No rock or ice gear is needed for the South or East Faces of Static Peak. A light duty aluminum ice axe and a likewise set of crampons would be in my pack no matter the season. I would also bring ski crampons for firm conditions or anytime after early spring.
- Round Trip Distance: 6-8 miles
- Vertical Gain: 4,500 feet
- Time: A comfortable half day (6-8 hours)
- Trees to Hurdle: 16-19 (give or take 6)
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