Today I had the pleasure of skiing the Moonwalk Couloir with Reed Finlay and Brian Ladd. Instead of a full beta bomb, this will be a quickie with a few photos, mostly for a conditions update. For a deep dive into the Moonwalk Couloir, click here.
Wow, April just won’t quit! About four feet of snow has fallen above 10,000 feet the past week, and Friday could be teeing up another dump. Given high winds and volatile temperatures the past few days, Reed Finlay, Brian Ladd and I aimed our sights low – a scenic loop tour from the south fork to north fork of Avalanche Canyon by way of Veiled Peak’s Northwest Bowls and 25 Short’s Moonwalk Couloir. Faced with unpleasantly high winds, drifting snow and grim visibility we pulled the plug about a mile from the base of Veiled, but still enjoyed a mostly pleasurable descent in the Moonwalk.
I had skied the Moonwalk once before, and both Brian and Reed weren’t new to the party. It’s been a while since I’ve skied a repeat line – frankly, it’s kind of refreshing. I knew exactly what I was getting into, so instead of churning my mind for the entire approach I was able to kick back, relax and enjoy good company. We made great time to the top of 25 Short and were greeted with a few inches of fresh snow adorning a stout breakable crust. Having skied Chute The Moon only four days earlier, I hoped we’d find the same lovely knee deep powder. Alas, dreams don’t always come true.
We elected to ski from the summit ridge, scoring 50 feet of precarious wind-buffed jump turns before unclipping for a short down-climb. As a whole the Moonwalk skied well, but sadly the worst snow was in the choke. A three inch wind skin atop boot deep powder kept things sporty through the 50 degree closet-width constriction. That said, each of us was able to karate our way through in commendable style. The lower couloir skied exceptionally, protected from the southwesterly winds and generously loaded with fresh sugar. I am finally learning how to drive my new Scarpa F1 LT’s, and though I’m still not convinced a “sub-kilo class” boot is meant for mid-wintery alpine gnar, skiing the Moonwalk confidently in a breakable crust is a step in the right direction.
Ultimately, the Moonwalk Couloir provided what it always does, a short, sweet but very real alpine experience for little cost of admission. Brian called this zone the “edge of the alpine”, a place to find engaging lines and glean insight to conditions of the beyond. What insight did we achieve? Well, let’s just say the wind and warm Monday temperatures have taken their toll on the Tetons. Below the Moonwalk, bulletproof wind-hammered trash was widespread in all but the tightest trees. Strong down-canyon westerly winds seemed to have scraped nearly every inch of exposed snow to Kelly. That said, we saw no signs of significant slab development on north facing terrain below 10,000 feet. It’s difficult to tell whether the breakable crust was a product of wind or extremely warm temperatures, but either way the upper three inch layer seemed stubborn – un-reactive beyond small pockets. High elevation north facing trees, or the most of the most protected couloirs of likewise elevation, seem to be the name of the game for now. Perhaps we’ll get a refresh Friday?
I hope you enjoyed this article. As always, I would like to give a huge thank you to my supporters, Icelantic Skis and Chasing Paradise. Need some new sticks capable of climbing and skiing anything your wild little mind can imagine? Head on over to icelanticskis.com and check out the Natural 101, my tried and true ski mountaineering katana.
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Mountains are dangerous. Skiing them is more dangerous. Can’t we just admire those beautiful peaks from the parking lot? With binoculars and a lime Lacroix? Hmm… Nevertheless, mountain conditions change regularly, and the information in this article is only accurate as it pertains to the titled date. 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!