The Moonwalk Couloir (TR, Jan. 2018), and Other West Face Lines – Peak 25 Short – Grand Teton N.P.

The Moonwalk Couloir is located on the west-north-west side of 25 Short (USGS Peak 9975′) in Grand Teton National Park – a more committing and exciting alternative to the commonly skied Chute the Moon and Turkey Chute Couloirs. The line rarely (if ever) fills in from the top, requiring a mild but exposed down-climb that can be difficult to locate. Though only 600 vertical feet, the Moonwalk offers an exciting early season adventure, or the perfect introduction to tight and technical Teton skiing. For reference, a brief description of Chute the Moon and Turkey Chute will be included.

Common ski lines on the western slopes of Peak 25 Short
Original unedited image: Google Earth
(c) tenthousandtoofar.com

Intro/Other Lines

The west side of Peak 25 Short is a beginner couloir adventurer’s paradise. One of the shortest approaches in Grand Teton National Park grants users access to a myriad of steep alpine chutes. Turkey Chute and Chute the Moon are the most commonly skied, and will be discussed in brief below, without photographs, for aspiring skiers. The Moonwalk Couloir, the subject of this article, is a steep and funky alternative just north of Chute The Moon that offers a phenomenal entry-level ski mountaineering experience. The Moonwalk is steeper, tighter and more committing than its neighbors on either side, but remains short and sweet. The Broken Thumb Couloir is labeled in the above picture for reference only. The Broken Thumb is a totally different beast, and will be the subject of its’ own Ten Thousand Too Far article in the near future.

Turkey Chute

  • Vertical Drop: 1,500 feet
  • Summit Elevation: ~10,000 feet
  • Aspect: N-NW
  • Average Slope Angle: 41 degrees**
  • Maximum Slope Angle: 48 degrees**

Turkey Chute gets tracked out faster than any line in GTNP. Without a trail the entrance can be a little tricky to find, but with some poking around just south of the 25 Short summit, the chute should be easy to uncover. The upper flanks are often windswept and will require a brief down-climb (3rd class, loose scree). The Turkey is fairly wide, has clearly defined walls and should be very obvious from the couloir’s snow-line. Though highly trafficked, a pronounced rollover can exceed 45 degrees and depending on the time of year, a midway constriction can become reasonably narrow, forming a threatening terrain trap. Due both to skier traffic and the line’s affinity for cross-loading, this zone has been the sight of many avalanches. Don’t let the easy access and casual reputation fool you, this is a real deal alpine chute that deserves respect. I first skied Turkey Chute seven years ago, as my first Teton couloir, and don’t think I could have picked a better line.

Chute The Moon

  • Vertical Drop: 500 feet
  • Summit Elevation: ~10,250 feet
  • Aspect: N-NW
  • Average Slope Angle: 37 degrees**
  • Maximum Slope Angle: 38 degrees**

Chute the Moon is the mellowest of the zone, offering 500 feet of moderate couloir skiing with an expansive apron below. The line is located at the base of the south ridge of peak 10,696, just to the left of Chute The Moon, about 0.75 miles from the 25 Short summit. Because of the added walk and lesser vertical relief, Chute The Moon sees slightly less traffic than Turkey Chute. The line is also a popular way to access the East Face of Buck Mountain.

Finding Chute The Moon is easy. As soon as the flat ridge from 25 Short begins to steepen on the way to Peak 10,696, the entrance should be wide and obvious. Previous skier tracks are likely, but even without a trail, the entire line is visible from the top and very clearly “goes” – if you have any doubts, you are almost certainly in the wrong place. In early season or after particularly nasty wind events, the upper 60 feet are often windswept and will require a bit of gentle down-walking. Chute The Moon is perhaps the best entry-level Teton couloir. With an extremely wide girth, moderate slope angle and seamless egress, it makes for a great beginner objective, bail-out line (if the east aspects of Peak 10,696/25 Short get too toasty) or warm-up for lines in the North Fork of Avalanche Canyon, or East Face of Buck Mountain.

Note: Chute The Moon will occasionally be used as an ASCENT path for skiers RETURNING from Buck Mountain. As such, mindfulness for potential parties below should be exercised.

A pre-Moonwalk Picnic!

The Moonwalk Couloir

  • Vertical Drop: 600 feet
  • Summit Elevation: ~10,250 feet
  • Aspect: N-NW
  • Average Slope Angle: 47 degrees**
  • Maximum Slope Angle: 51 degrees**

What Is It? And Where Is It?

Many moons ago (😉), in the far gone days of 2018, I heard about the Moonwalk Couloir. I had scouted the line from Shadow Peak months earlier and quickly became obsessed. The Moonwalk is nothing particularly other-worldly, but it is very unique, especially considering its’ close proximity to the road. The entrance, just like all lines on the west face of 25 Short, is often wind scoured. Unlike Turkey Chute and Chute The Moon, the Moonwalk sees very little traffic, so finding a previous trail into the couloir is unlikely. Instead, the entrance is best located by first identifying the line from the summit of 25 Short. Then, walk along the ridge (likely following a skin-track) until you reach a prominent high-point near the couloir (before Chute The Moon). A narrow chimney with an awkward rappel station leads west into the bottom portion of the Moonwalk, but this adventure does not require ropes. Instead, continue just a pinch further south to find the entry ramp leading west, down, into the goods.

Down-climbing into the Moonwalk Couloir, looking over my right shoulder.

Moonwalkin’ (in fresh powder!)

Our Moonwalk adventure took place amidst 10-14 inches of fresh snow, the day after a strong January storm passed through town. Depending on the season and recent wind, the down-climb is likely between 30 and 45 feet. I lead the charge and began kicking steps into the fresh fluff, which sat upon nothing but loose scree. I dulled my aluminum crampons but stayed committed to my craft, knowing I would eventually hit firmer crust below. About 25 feet down I hit a very firm wind-crust, coupled with pretty nasty exposure, that had me grateful for crampons and an axe. Scott and Briana followed suit, and soon the three of us were reunited, stomping out platforms on the westernmost ridge to change into skis.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many “safe zones” in the Moonwalk, making it a committing line. Even changing into skis was an exposed ordeal – three skiers perched in the gut of a dangerous avalanche path – sitting ducks. The first half of the couloir averages 47 degrees** and funnels through a narrow and even steeper 50+ degree** choke before expanding “hourglass style” into a larger apron below. I dropped in first, angling right and throwing a few consolation ski-cuts, despite being undoubtedly wedded to the line. Nevertheless, nothing moved, so I began cautiously dancing through the knee-deep powder filled belly of the beast, reserving any excitement for after the constriction. At the time, I’m not sure I’d skied anything narrower or steeper, but I remember feeling nothing but excitement and confidence. I released large but light sloughs with each turn, and methodically made my way into the lower apron without tumbling. Protected behind a large rock buttress on skier’s right, I watched as Scott and Briana took advantage of my cleared path and ripped the steeps without apprehension, or fear of avalanches.

Approaching the rollover crux, powdah!

Brianna and Scott took first and second pulls in the lower couloir, unleashing big arcs on a completely virgin powder field. Truly phenomenal turns were enjoyed all the way to the bottom of Avalanche Canyon several thousand feet below. The lower aprons, glades and headwalls of the North Fork provide some truly amazing skiing in their own, making the Moonwalk far more than a 600 foot couloir. Though the adrenaline wanes pretty quickly, the opportunity for untouched snow in such a highly trafficked area, a few pitches of real deal steep skiing and several thousand additional feet of high quality, low consequence shredding makes this line a contender for my favorite non-technical descent on 25 Short.

A wise man once said, “It’s not the size of the couloir in the fight, but the size of the fight in the couloir.” Or did he?

Scott tearing up the lower Moonwalk!
**Slope angle data provided by CalTopo.com

As always, thank you so much for reading. Your support means everything to me, and is the main driver behind my sharing of these stories.
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Disclaimer:
Skiing is dangerous! This article was written strictly for informational purposes only. If you decide to attempt anything you read about in this article, you are doing so at your own risk.
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