Dani Deruyter Becomes First Woman to Snowboard the Grand Teton | UNITED STATES, WYOMING | 03/17/2010, by WarPigSinFin
WarpigSinFin is a skiingthebackcountry.com ambassador who accompanied Dani on her ascent and descent.
On March 11th, 2010 I got to help make a little piece of history here in Jackson Hole when my partner Dani and I summited theand dropped in off the summit. Dani was the first woman to snowboard the peak, a very impressive accomplishment, especially since only a handful of distinguished female ski mountaineers have ridden it previously.
Fewer than 100 men have skied or snowboarded the Grand Teton since 1971 when pioneer Bill Briggs made the first ski descent. His life story is a truly impressive one, and you can read all about it at WildSnow.com. There you'll find the following quote from Briggs:
"I found I couldn't kill myself -- I didn't have the courage. Since I had to live, I decided to make the most of life; to simply go with what I found most pleasurable: climbing, skiing, and music."
I first got the bug to ski the Grand when I saw a news clipping of Briggs' tracks on the wall in the Stage Coach Bar while aprésing after a day of backcountry skiing on. The picture offered a certain terrifying allure.
Dani got her stoke after working as assistant to Stephen Koch, renowned snowboarder of the Seven Summits and Teton Legend. Among many other first descents, he made the first snowboard descent of the Grand in 1989.
Both sufficiently stoked, we spent the winter training with backcountry tours of lesser peaks, analyzing the snowpack, and watching the weather in hopes of finding the right opportunity to give the Grand a go. Avalanche and weather forecasting in theonly holds to an altitude of 10,500' while the Grand Teton tops out at 13,770'. As such, and since the summit is rarely visited in winter, a lot of guesswork goes into predicting conditions up there. Sometimes it's a sheet of ice. Sometimes the snow is waist deep sugar. Occassionally, huge avalanches pour off the summit snowfields. Hopefully this article can shed a little light on what's going on up there these days.
I'd been up there mid-winter a few years ago and knew that even with perfect conditions, we were in for quite the adventure. Guesswork considered, I was expecting variable to shitty conditions but a reasonably safe snowpack. But you never really know until you go, so we went to have a look...
At 2 a.m. on Tueday the 9th we made an attempt but got turned around at 12,000 feet by a rapidly warming snowpack and exhaustion. After three hours of skinning, we'd been postholing through steep boot to knee deep sugar snow under a breakable suncrust for another three hours and were faced with at least three more hours of the same before reaching the summit.
It became apparent we couldn't make it up and back down again before the danger of rockfall and avalanches became unreasonable. We stashed 25 pounds of climbing gear near 12,000' and vowed to return the next favorable day. Perfect spring skiing brought us back the the Valley floor where we destroyed a Hawaiian Pizza from Cafe Ponza.
FYI, Ponza is the perfect place to stop en route during midnight forays to the Tetons. They're open until three a.m. and Chef Bear will get you fed in under five minutes. Order by phone and you'll be in and out in literal seconds... with enough delicious calories to keep you going whatever the mission. You can even pick up a few pre-game or celebratory beers. Cash only... but I digress.
We spent the 10th watching webcams and weather gauges and though still a little beat, decided to wake well before the dawn on the 11th. We left the trailhead at 2 a.m. under a starry, windless sky. It felt colder than expected, which relieved my fears of falling objects but worried me the crust wouldn't soften that day. Crazy Frazee joined us and his positive vibes made the predawn slog a treat. It also didn't hurt that we'd already set the bootpack and deposited a bunch of heavy gear 5500' above the valley floor.
With packs only slightly heavier than needed for a typicalwe cruised casually back to our previous high point. A dusting of fresh made the crusty skin track doable. We booted the steeper sections down low to save time and effort. Our two-day-old booter made the slopes from the Meadows to Stettner Couloir easy.
Starry skies turned bluebird and a low layer of cloud blanketed the valley floor already a mile below.
As we ascended we bore witness to one of the most impressive Teton sunrises I've had the priviledge to experience.
The surreal lighting made an otherwise grueling experience surreal.
Unfortunately, Frazee ate something that gave him the shits and had to turn around at 12,000'. Dani and I continued onward together.
technical climbing in the Stettner and Chevy Couloirs offered mostly
firm snow. Only two vertical ice bulges presented real hazards. The
first went easily. The second was a little tricky but offered easy
protection. We dug out and improved many of the existing rappel anchors
during our ascent. Some of them were in terrible shape. Some of them
Technical climbing completed, the Ford Couloir and Summit Snowfield offered boot to knee deep sugar under a thin crust with a few inches of fresh on top. Fortunately we were feeling strong and suffered through the painful last 1000'. We saw no evidence of slides in the area although we did notice sketchily windloaded pockets on some WSW aspects.
At the summit we found gusty West winds, clouds far below us, and nothing but wispy blue above.
Skiing a peak like the Grand reminds me of jumping off bridges into the Mississippi River as a kid. The longer you stand up top looking down, the more nervous you get. As such, we switched over quickly and got down to business.
Dani dropped in from the summit and even made some turns on the sketchy rock knob above the SSE Face.
Ski conditions? Summit to Chevy: 2"fresh on breakable crust. Chevy to TeePee: five rappels and good windbuff. TeePee to 8000': Powder in perma-shade, dust on crust elsewhere. 8000' to Floor: death cookies and shit crust.
Here are the requisite rapping shots...
The bottom 1500' offered the worst skiing I've done in years. Rock-solid, knee-jarring garbage. It had melted slightly that day but by the time we got down it was back in the shade and ridiculously hard. Combine that with exhaustion and it was, arguably, the most dangerous part of the day. The two rolling miles back to civilization went quickly and soon we were in the car and headed back to reality.
We were too exhausted to stop for the customary celebratory beer at Dornan's Pizza in Moose. Every seat at the bar there faces a huge window offering a panoramic view of the Teton Range. Front and center is the gorgeous Queen of the range, the Grand Teton. Neither of us will ever look at it the same again.