North End Recon & Beta Bomb – Eagles Rest (almost) In A Day – Waterfalls Canyon, Grand Teton Nat. Park, WY (3.16.22)

Eagles Rest Glacier? Waterfalls Glacier? I’m not sure how this thing doesn’t have a name, but someone should call USGS and tell them there’s a huge glacier separating the twin summits of Eagles Rest Peak, deep in the confines of Waterfalls Canyon, needing a title. Either way, first time partner Nick LaToof and I skied it from Colter Bay in a day, took lots of photos, gleaned inspiration on new lines and enjoyed some odd 3,000 feet of mellow powder turns. Instead of focusing on the line we skied, this article will be brief and revolve around providing beta to aspiring Eagles Rest & Waterfalls Canyon skiers.

Waterfalls Canyon viewed from Jackson Lake. The east summit of Eagles Rest Peak (~10,957′) rises from the lakeshore high left. Ranger Peak is the furthest visible peak on the right side of the frame. Peak 10,686 rises from the lakeshore on the right, in front of Ranger.

Wait What? Two Summits? Where are we?

Eagles Rest Peak has two “twin summits.” When looking at maps this can be quite confusing, especially because some publications have the two high-points mislabeled. The proper summit of Eagles Rest Peak is 11,263 feet above sea level with 459 feet of prominence, situated behind the “east summit” shown in the photo above. The “east summit” of Eagles Rest Peak is exactly that, the first highpoint to the east of Eagles Rest Peak, standing at an approximate elevation of 10,957 feet, directly above Jackson Lake, on the south toe of Waterfalls Canyon. For the sake of this article, I will separate these two distinct peaks into “Eagles Rest Peak” and the “east summit of Eagles Rest Peak”.

Approach

Getting to Waterfalls Canyon isn’t the hardest thing in the world, but isn’t trivial either. On a sunny day Waterfalls Canyon and the northeast face of Eagles Rest’s east summit are easily identified from Grand Teton National Park’s Colter Bay lot, directly across Jackson Lake. Can you see? Just skin right at the beast following the path of least resistance, about 3.5 miles. Stuck in a complete inversion induced white out like when Nick LaToof and I wandered onto the frozen shoreline of Jackson Lake on March 16th, 2022? Then I suggest using a GPS mapping device of some sort. Nick got us to the mouth of Waterfalls Canyon using Gaia GPS with minimal lost mileage. With a firm and frozen lake surface that allowed for efficient travel, we were very content and reached the canyon in well under two hours.

Views of mountains poke through the haze.
Splitter cracks aren’t always great.

Once in Waterfalls Canyon, the optimal approach seems to contour along the south side of the drainage, generally staying a few hundred feet above the river. After approximately 1.5 linear miles, dense trees relent to an open basin with views of Eagles Rest Peak to the southwest, Peak 10,686 to the direct north and the stunning Columbine Falls (WI4?) straight ahead.

Columbine Falls from the Eagles Rest skin track.

Confusion? To the Glacier!

All the time Nick and I were gallivanting across Jackson Lake I thought we were gunning for the North Couloir of Eagles Rest Peak, a North Teton classic. Over Instagram messaging Nick and I agreed on skiing the North Couloir, but he mistook my ambition for the large, generally north facing glacier on the east side of Eagles Rest Peak. Technically I was piggybacking his mission, so instead of trying to influence our trajectory I succumbed to a mellower day of glacier exploration. Furthermore, Nick didn’t pack a helmet or an ice axe, adding merit to the notion of keeping things tame. Following Nick’s mapped route we switchbacked south up approximately 1,000 feet of steep forest into the drainage splitting the twin summits of Eagles Rest Peak.

Skiing towards the glacier above Waterfalls Canyon and Jackson Lake
Nick breaking trail up the glacier with the true summit of Eagles Rest Peak in the distance

First sights of the massive glacier were remarkable. The hunk looked like like a big brother of Teton Glacier on steroids, seemingly twice the size with a similar eloping nature. Low clouds burned off the higher we climbed, revealing a stunning and daring east face of Eagles Rest Peak. I could hardly hold back the impulse to climb an absolutely breathtaking northeast couloir, bisecting the face south-to-north in a brilliantly exposed, true Teton ski-mountaineering kind of way. Another nifty east facing couloir dove directly off the summit block, with approximately 500 feet of dead-end couloir skiing leading to a wildly exposed southerly traverse exit. Whew, I cannot wait until I make it back to this zone of inspiration. The east summit of Eagles Rest’s western face, on the other hand, looked like something Dave MacLeod might try to climb in a devilish dream. I’ll pass!

The east aspect of Eagles Rest Peak. The Northeast Couloir dominates the center-left of the frame 🌶
The East Couloir of Eagles Rest Peak. No, it does not “go”.

More Beta, Some Powder and A Tomahawk

We skied from the highest point on our glacier, approximately 10,600 feet, just below the col separating the twin summits of Eagles Rest Peak, but not before I climbed to the saddle via a thin and un-skiable snow ramp. Views from the col of Mount Moran’s north face and the many couloirs adorning the southeast face of Eagles Rest were impressive and worth the minor detour. Nick, sans axe, generously waited below.

Mount Moran’s north aspect and triple glaciers
The southeast couloirs of Eagles Rest Peak

Nick dropped first from the highest point, ripping high speed turns down the initial steeper pitch. I tried to follow suit, but tomahawked only a few seconds in. Though snow conditions were over-archingly stellar, a small pocket of wind buff caught me at warp speed, flipping my body and randonee’ skis for a somersault. Back in the day, antics like these used to fluff my ego’s feathers, but in low-consequence thirty degree terrain, who gives a hoot? Not I. Frankly, it’s humbling to take good digger every once in a while. In six winters of skiing in Grand Teton National Park, this may have been my grandest tumble yet. What followed was 1,500 feet of silky and milky low-angle shred, with the occasional shark’s tooth or wind crust to keep us honest. A 1,000 foot luge-like drainage that should’ve been ten times more fun threw the sole wrench into our descent. Right around 8,500 feet the snow went sun-crusty and isothermal, and our knees paid the price. With his snowboard Nick dispatched the mank better than I, but all in all we reached the canyon bottom unscathed.

Nick ripping the upper headwall of the glacier.
The only soft turn of the luge!

Egress & Summary

For lakeshore return we followed an old out-track on the north wall of Waterfalls Canyon, which dead ended in a heinous forest worthy of adult temper tantrums. In hindsight, I wish we would’ve traversed east at the toe of the glacier and attempted to contour several hundred feet above the canyon bottom. Perhaps such an exit isn’t even possible, but given the frustration of romping through isothermal drainages filled with nine million young pines for half an hour, next time I will try. Getting to the shores of Jackson Lake after a long north Teton tour is always a mind trick, since flat ground makes the day feel done until you realize the many miles of lake slog ahead. 3.5 miles later we hit the car, right around the eight hour mark. Not too shabby for fifteen some-odd mile trek!

All in all, Waterfalls Canyon and the twin summits of Eagles Rest Peak provided several inspiring lines worthy of further exploration. The northeast face of the east summit could be an excellent early season “Montana style” corn run, and the intrepid Northeast Couloir of Eagles Rest proper might even be a first descent? After refining my WI4 skills, Columbine Falls will be on my alpine adventure ice hit list. Mount Moran’s Triple Glaciers, especially the third glacier, would be an awesome addition to a Moran Canyon adventure, and of course I remain obsessed with skiing the crowning North Couloir of Eagles Rest Peak.

Will I cross Jackson Lake again this season? I don’t know. Will I ski with Nick again this season? Hopefully. Skiing with new friends has happened quite a bit in 2022. Perhaps I am breaking from my baseline hermit tendencies? Only time will tell.


As always, I would like to give a huge thank you to my supporters, Icelantic Skis and Chasing Paradise.

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DISCLAIMER
Mountains are dangerous. Skiing them is more dangerous. Can’t we just admire those beautiful peaks from the parking lot? With binoculars and a BOCA Burger? Hmm… Nevertheless, mountain conditions change regularly, and the information in this article is only accurate as it pertains to March 16, 2022. This article is written strictly for informational purposes only. Should you decide to attempt anything you read about in this article, you are doing so at your own risk!

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