Trip Report: The Skillet on Mt. Moran
I got a call from my friend Alex saying that he was heading to the Tetons and that conditions could be good for skiing something big. I took a look at the weather, chatted with a few people in Jackson that I know, and decided that it probably would be a good plan to head north for the two-days of sun forecasted. I also called up my friend Justin M, whom I skied Mt. Superior with the season prior. About twenty-four hours later, we were falling asleep in our cars in Victor, ID. It was a fairly rapid planning period.
The next day, while talking about what was going to happen, Alex decided to opt out in order to spend his vacation time with his girlfriend. That left Justin and myself packing up our backpacks and heading out across Jackson Lake.
The frozen lake proved to be fairly enjoyable to walk across. Six miles of flat, easy walking in the sun while staring The Skillet in the face only increased the stoke factor. We kept saying to each other “look at that, we’re planning on skiing that tomorrow” and smiling. After we decided on a suitable campsite near the base of the mountain, we ate dinner and went to bed. Justin whipped out his camera and took some pretty pictures of the stars and illuminated tent.
Here’s Justin’s take on getting there
We arrived at Jackson Lake with Ben’s “stoke” CD blaring classics like “Juke Box Hero” and other songs from Shane McConkey segments. We soaked up the sunshine while packing up our gear and at 2:30 PM we set off across the frozen lake; six miles of the flattest ground you’ll ever find. Mount Moran continued to grow the closer we got. With the weight of my camping and skiing gear on my back, I thought to myself, “what the hell am I getting myself into?”
Three hours later we reached a clearing in the trees at the base of Moran. We set up camp for the night as the mountain loomed above us. We just couldn’t stop smiling in anticipation of the adventure ahead.
With warm temperatures forecasted and wet slides posing a threat, we wanted to get an early start. Our 2:30 alarm rang loud and clear, we clambered out of the tent, put on our frozen boots and scarfed down breakfast. Shortly after, we were skinning towards the dark outline of Moran.
It’s hard to remember exactly which sunrises are better than others, but the one that we witnessed from about halfway up was mind blowing. We both agreed that it was probably the best one we’ve ever seen. The clouds were just right, we were high above the lake, facing directly east, and the sun lit things up far redder than I thought was possible. Not long after we witnessed this, one of us said “I don’t necessarily subscribe to any church or religion, and there’s an exact science behind why things happen, but it’s being in places like this at times like this that make me feel that there is a higher power”
A little while later, we switched from skinning to booting and finished out the couloir. After toping out, we looked and saw that the summit was very close, so ditched our packs and took the five-minute walk to 12605’. After a few failed attempts at taking a self-timed summit photo, we finally got one. Our cameras both kept freezing and shutting off, but we finally got what we wanted. We descended back to the top of the couloir and saw the guided party top out. Justin won the man points for the day by breaking out the vast majority of the bootpack, and the guides and clients thanked both of us. After our fairly uneventful climb, we asked the guides how steep they had measured the top (47º for those wondering), clicked into our skis, and dropped in. One of the most fun ski descents I’ve ever had began.
The 2:30 AM wakeup to avoid the daytime heating proved to be unnecessary, as the clouds that were lit on fire by the sunrise also proved to keep temperatures cool. The snow that we skied was overall incredible. Conditions at the very top in what appears to be a sliver of a couloir were variable, which kept us on our toes. This opened up to the main couloir, which had sheltered, wind deposited goods on the skier’s right side. We played in this fantastic snow for about 5500 feet, and then it got too exposed to the sun and too low. The warmer snow was sticker than what we had above us. The rest of our descent to the lake was through trees and following other tracks. Once we skied out onto the snow-covered shore, we both collapsed in smiles.
We skinned our way back to our campsite, packed up, ate a big snack, and began the walk back across the lake. Seeing the weather build on the mountains with the sun setting behind them was quite distracting. Looking over our shoulders constantly at what we had just skied proved to be far more enjoyable than walking away from the source of such fun. This is when waking up at 2:30 was a great idea. After getting slightly lost while wandering through the trees, breaking trail for 5800 vertical feet, skiing an incredible line, packing up camp reluctantly, and walking back across Jackson Lake, we arrived at our cars at 8:30 PM. Seventeen and a half hours in ski boots set both of our personal records, and put big smiles on our faces. For Justin, it was a little more than just a fun run. Here are his thoughts:
Last January, I hitched a ride with some friends headed to Salt Lake for the weekend and met Ben White through a mutual friend, Jackson, at 3:30 AM as we set out to ski Mount Superior. A dawn patrol up Superior followed by an afternoon skiing Snowbird was the perfect start to what was projected to be a great trip to Utah. The following day, I dropped a cliff in the Amphitheatre at Snowbird and came down square on a rock. Right there my season ended. Lesson learned: check your landings… I ruptured my Achilles tendon in half and returned to Bozeman for surgery. Over the past year, Ben and I stayed in touch after our successful Superior mission.
Last week I got back from a spring break trip to Cooke City Wednesday night and got a message from Ben the following morning. Ben proposed a trip to the Tetons to ski the Skillet, a 5800’ vertical line on Mount Moran featured in TGR’s Ablaze. 5 hours later, I was headed South hoping to tackle the biggest excursion since surgery. After successfully completing such a mission after being out for a good portion of the previous season with an injury as well as spending a long time recovering, skiing Moran cemented the fact that I was back. I was 110% back.
Sometime later, we showed up at a friend’s family cabin where we stayed the night. I pulled out the 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America book and Justin and I drew the line we had skied on the page that The Skillet was on and signed our names. Justin’s second and my ninth classic ski descent were in the book.
-If camping, get camping permits for somewhere near Moran Bay at ranger station in Moose
-We had the road closed. If the road is closed, park at the end of the road near Signal Mountain
-If the lake is frozen, walk down the boat ramp
-Stare at Mt. Moran for however long it takes you to cross approximately 6 miles of lake
-If camping, find a nice camping spot and enjoy
-Begin day 2 early enough to get in 5900 vertical feet of the most fun skiing you may ever do on the most aesthetic line you may ever ski
-Either camp again if planning on it, or walk out after skiing
KÜHL Winter Clothing
M’S WAXED MTN JACKET
W’S STRETCH VOYAGR JACKET
W’S THERMIK™ JEAN