Teton Trifecta: Skiing Grand, Middle and South Teton in a Day (S. to N. Variation)

Teton Trifecta: Skiing Grand, Middle and South Teton in a Day (S. to N. Variation)
Sunrise on Middle Teton | P.C. @connorburkesmith

April 10-11, 2024:

  • Skied South, Middle and Grand Teton in a single push, in that order (south to north), reversing the more typical north-to-south route. (Skipped climbing the North Ridge of the Middle and added its East Face descent.)
  • 13.5k' vertical / 17.5 miles over 18:45 hours (10:45pm Wed to 5:30pm Thu).
  • Descended the Northwest Couloir on South, East Face on Middle (our first time on its 50 Classic route) and Ford-Stettner on the Grand (third time).
  • Bailed on our first Trifecta attempt a week earlier when colder-than-expected temperatures led to early signs of frostbite on South Teton.
Check out the full Instagram story.

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Note: Background and planning below. Skip ahead to the trip report.

Background

Each season, I aim for at least one objective outside my comfort zone. In summer 2023, it was multi-pitch trad climbing (11 pitches of Pingora's 5.7 East Face) and an ultra (39 miles of Teton Crest Trail in a day). In winter 2022-23, it was ice climbing (Hyalite Canyon's Pinner / Twin Falls link-up) and no-fall zone skiing (Apocalypse and the Grand's Ford-Stettner).

The next step for winter 2023-24 could be expedition mountaineering (read Denali) or a burlier endurance challenge. Our group opted to kick Denali back to 2025, so Connor and I set our sights on Teton Trifecta: skiing Grand, Middle and South Teton in a single push.

Originally, I planned an LA move by the end of January 2024. I joked with Connor and Sebastian about bagging Trifecta after a Ford-Stettner lap just after New Year's. But (1) it was too early season and (2) a very sketchy persistent weak layer (PWL) developed after a December drought.

I (finally) packed up and drove south in early March, stopping in SLC to fly east for work, family visits and a wedding. Before departing, and once the snowpack stabilized in early March, we snuck a quick Skillet lap, long-awaited redemption for a failed attempt in 2022. I'd pick up my truck and continue to LA in April.

During the east coast trip, a few groups posted Trifecta recaps. It was too tempting, and after one call with Connor, I decided to drive back to Jackson for another week or two. Friends started to think I was never moving to LA.

Gaper Day, Trifecta and Closing Weekend in Jackson. Then, I'd road trip through the Pacific Northwest for volcano skiing, arriving in LA at the beginning of May.

The Route

Trifecta involves ~13k' vertical over ~17 miles, including the slow, cumbersome and technical ice climb / rappels in the Grand's Chevy Couloir. There are two main variations: north to south (standard) and south to north.

We brainstormed gear stashing opportunities to ditch the tools, crampons, ropes, harnesses, etc., required only for the Grand, but came up empty. (The only South / Grand rendezvous is the Meadows, too much elevation loss.)

North to South: Standard and most common route.

Pros: (1) More efficient / less mentally taxing with the Grand out of the way first. (2) Opportunity to ski better lines on South Teton than the NW Couloir.

Cons: (1) For the Middle's North Ridge, you'll want prior experience and / or a reliable GPX file + beta. It's the crux of the route, easy to lose your way and end up over your head. (2) Unable to ski the Middle's East Face, a 50-classic that was still on our list for winter 2023-24.

  1. Grand: The most common route (by far) follows the regular ascent and descent of Ford-Stettner starting at Taggart Lake trailhead. Then, continue down Stettner to the Black Dyke Traverse (also Gentleman's Exit, I believe), instead of traversing to Teepe. Ski from the Stettner to the Lower Saddle.
  2. Middle: From the Lower Saddle, ascend Pinocchio Couloir to the North Ridge, finishing in the NW Couloir. Summit and descend the SW Couloir (most common) or Chouinard (more elevation loss), aiming for the saddle linking Middle and South.
  3. South: Skin up the saddle, then bootpack South's NW Couloir. Descend via the SE Couloir or Amora Vida into Avalanche Canyon, or head back to Garnet Canyon via the NW Couloir (warning: very sharky).
  4. Variations: If you can dream it up, someone's probably done it. A late spring start from Lupine Meadows. Add some spice to Grand Teton via Owen Spalding. Bypass the Middle's North Ridge by descending back to the Meadows (though far less efficient than South to North).
Standard North-to-South approach from TetonAT

South to North: A less common alternative.

Pros: (1) Ski the Middle's East Face, a 50-Classic descent. (2) Avoid ascending the Middle's North Ridge if not familiar.

Cons: (1) Less efficient and more mentally taxing, saving the Grand for last. More elevation loss between Middle and the Grand, even if you ascend Black Dyke Traverse or Owen Spalding. (2) Limited to skiing the NW Couloir on South Teton.

  1. South: Ascend South Teton via Garnet Canyon, then the saddle between Middle-South and finally the NW Couloir. Descend the NW Couloir to the midpoint of the saddle.
  2. Middle: Skin / bootpack up the saddle, then SW Couloir to the summit. Ski the East Face to the Glacier Route.
  3. Grand: Either (1) hug the east-facing cliffs, skin / bootpack up the Lower Saddle, then skin Black Dyke Traverse, or (2) descend to the base of Teepe Pillar and bootpack up the Moraine to rejoin the standard Ford-Stettner route. Second option loses ~300-400' of elevation. Once in Stettner (#1) or on Teepe (#2), follow the standard Ford-Stettner ascent / descent.
  4. Variations: Like North-to-South, plenty of variations. We considered Owen Spalding after Middle, potentially more efficient than Ford-Stettner and a fun winter first. A very ambitious group could descend Otter Body or ascend Exum Ridge. Efficient alternatives on Middle / South are more limited.
FatMap replay of our Trifecta route

Planning

After some debate and a beta call (with one friend who'd skied Trifecta with a couple guides in early March), we opted for South to North. Neither of us had skied the Middle's East Face (somehow...) or climbed its North Ridge. So why not tick off another 50-Classic and avoid sketchy, airy soloing.

We were both very familiar with Owen Spalding and tempted to tackle a winter ascent. Lacking recent beta, we opted for Black Dyke Traverse as Plan A (my preference) and base of Teepe Pillar as Plan B (Connor's preference). We'd make the final call from Middle Teton Glacier.

In late March, we spotted a viable high-pressure window after a storm cycle. We figured waiting one day post-storm would strike the best balance between (1) storm slabs settling and (2) minimal sun / wind affect.

Daytime temps reached the 50Fs in the Valley, so we opted for a 9-10pm departure to minimize wet slide exposure. Our biggest concern was skiing a bullet-proof East Face, one of the steeper, more exposed Teton lines.

April 2nd looked like our best window. We cut Gaper Day plans short.

Gear

Note: First attempt recap below. Skip ahead to the trip report.

First Attempt

April 1-2, 2024

Subzero Wind Chill and Heinous Skiing

April 1-2, 2024:

  • Trifecta attempt after Gaper Day, bailing after South Teton due to unexpected -10F temps and early signs of frostbite.
  • 9pm-5am, making it to the Virginian Restaurant before open.
Check out the Instagram story for attempt #1.

Gaper Day

I rolled into Jackson from SLC in the evening on March 31st. After a little unpacking and a hefty dinner, I fell into a 12-hour coma to stock up on sleep. Connor and I planned to skip Gaper Day skiing, but make a quick afterparty stop. (Gaper Day's an annual April 1st tradition at a ~dozen ski resorts. Neon tights, onesies, drunken snowball fights, Casper Beach, DJ sets, etc.)

After afternoon carbo-loading and packing, we arrived at the Ranch Lot at 5pm, just in time for DJ Scutty's set. Then we snuck into the Mangy Moose's afterparty at 7pm, carbo-loading a la Highpoint ciders. I almost drove to one more afterparty in Wilson. Connor redirected us to town before the wheels fell off the bus.

Albertsons for extra food, then north into the Park, last light fading behind the Tetons. Why party when you can skin into the cold, dark wilderness of Grand Teton National Park with a friend?

Sweating to Subzero

We reached Taggart Lake trailhead at ~8:45pm, gearing up to Two Chains radio on Spotify. Hit the spot after the Mangy Moose. We sweat dancing at the parking lot afterparty, so started in base layers and a sun hoody.

At 9pm, we hit the skinner. The moon wouldn't rise until ~4am. Without moonlight, and headlamps eroding night vision, we couldn't see beyond the immediate trail ahead. It was a slog into Garnet Canyon, ciders sloshing in our stomachs.

It snowed over the weekend, followed by one warm, sunny day. We hoped the sun / heat didn't fully bake snow down low. Either side of the skin track into Garnet featured thick sun crusts, more affected than we hoped. By tomorrow afternoon, the crusts should soften.

At 11pm, we reached Garnet Canyon, temps still mild. I continued in just a base layer and sun hoody. Connor added a fleece. We found unsettled snow and windboard above Garnet, breaking trail through deeper stretches near Cave Couloir. No other headlamps in sight, shocker.

No moonlight, we switched off headlamps to gauge location. We spotted big wet slides off Middle Teton, reinforcing overnight timing. I thought we'd never reach the saddle between Middle and South. False saddle, after false saddle. I only ascended South once before and blacked out its endless boulder field approach.

We weaved through exposed rocks. At 1am, wind picked up as we approached the saddle. At 11k', the wind shifted to the north, dialing up wind chill as we skinned toward the NW Couloir. We added all our layers and heavy gloves. My hands still went numb.

At 12:5oam, we ditched skis for the final bootpack. Straying too far to looker's left, we scrambled more than necessary. Wind gusts followed us to the final 100', then died down. At 1:25am, we reached the summit, lights of Jackson to the southeast and Driggs to the west. We made decent time, 1-1.5k' per hour.

After capturing a couple videos, we glissaded / scrambled back to our skis. After a quick transition, we attempted to ski. Connor's skis stuck to the snow on his first turn, prompting a front flip. Cold snow is grippy. We skipped a fresh wax, originally considered for a slushy exit, not cold snow. Connor rarely falls when he's not sending it, so I was spooked.

I couldn't initiate a turn without clipping surprise rocks. Halfway down South and 30+ rocks later, Connor shined his headlamp on my face.

Connor: "Bro your nose is totally white. Cover that up."

I zipped my puffer and tucked in my face. After another ~30 surprise rocks, we regrouped at the mid-point of the saddle to debate next steps.

We were nervous about:

  1. Sticky snow on the Middle's exposed East Face, which we'd need to ski in the dark (eta of three hours, but four until sunrise).
  2. Frostbite during the Middle's SW Couloir ascent. A friend recently suffered frostbite on his toes bootpacking up the Skillet, unnoticed for hours. We left boot gloves in the truck, thinking it'd be far too warm.

Connor and I each had bad gut feelings, a first for us on big tours. At 3am, we called it. I sipped some water, noticing crystals in my Nalgene. I filled it with warm water just a few hours earlier.

Biscuits and Gravy

We skied back to Garnet Canyon, dodging (and clipping) more rocks, between stretches of variable wind-board. At the base of Garnet, we passed a pair of skiers headed for Ford-Stettner. They should be more sheltered on the Teepe and then warmed by sunrise in the couloirs.

The true nightmare lied ahead. From Garnet to ~500' above Bradly Lake, we encountered the worst "snow" I've ever skied. Inches of breakable suncrust too stiff for turns. For over a thousand feet, we skied in a straight line, 180-degree turn, straight line, 180-degree turn, straight line, 180-degree turn, etc.

Just above Bradley, as I was about to snap, we reached unbreakable crust, relatively pleasant ice after the nonsense above. At 4:45am, we skinned out of Bradley Lake. A group of ~five passed as we transitioned. The moon rose over the Gros Ventre as we cleared the hills above Bradley – our highlight of the night.

After the skin, we enjoyed a fast, icy skate track back to the parking area. Far faster than our low-tide, early January Ford-Stettner lap. We passed two more groups on the skate track and one leaving the trailhead. We got odd looks from the other parties, heading in the the wrong direction at an ungodly hour.

By 5:15am, we loaded the truck and headed to town. I checked my toes, relieved to find the normal hue and sensations. For some reason, we craved biscuits and gravy. At 6am, our best bet was the Virginian Restaurant, opening in 30 minutes.

I fell asleep in the parking lot. Connor elbowed me when the staff unlocked the doors. Hot biscuits, gravy and decaf coffee never tasted so good.

A Successful Trifecta

April 10-11, 2024

Whiskey and Trench Foot

Lessons Learned

For at least 48 hours after the South Teton debacle, we didn't even consider another Trifecta attempt. Another storm rolled in that weekend. I figured I'd hang until the closing weekend in a week and a half, then drive west. In the meantime, Rendezvous Festival and a friend visiting from LA.

By Thursday, as the extended forecast settled, Connor and I started floating a round two. It'd snow on Sunday, maybe into Monday, then clear up. We let loose Friday night in the Square and Saturday in the Village, tentatively planning a Tuesday Trifecta push.

After two nights of catch-up sleep Sunday and Monday, we checked the Mountain Forecast, paired with Windy and NOAA. Subzero in the alpine, again. Wednesday night into Thursday looked warmer, no worse than single digits. Our only concern with a delay was additional warming and sun. Recent reports from friends suggested it stayed cold up high, even with warm afternoons. Middle's East Face shouldn't be bulletproof.

We organized extra gear to avoid another weather-related bail. Boot gloves, old socks to insulate Nalgene's, extra handwarmers, glove liners and an extra layer. I carbo-loaded on Wednesday, then settled down by 6pm, alarm set for 9pm. We planned to leave an ~hour later to ski Middle at sunrise.

Shots for Good Luck

I tossed and turned for three hours, even breaking into a cold sweat. Eyes closed, but not sure I got a wink of sleep. Connor picked me up at 9:30pm. Wendy's drive-through for a couple burgers, then we met a few friends at the Cowboy.

We joke about taking "last" shots before each alpine start, rarely leaving early enough to beat Cowboy last call. (We missed it by five minutes before our first Ford-Stettner lap last May, turned away by the bouncer.)

Whiskey for me and Will; tequila for Connor. Two of Will's friends rolled in as we chugged some water and headed for the exit. Why drink and play pool, when you can wander into the cold, dark woods?

By 10:30pm, we reached Taggart Lake trailhead. Connor shot a timelapse as I geared up. We hit the skin track at 10:45pm.

Taggart Lake trailhead | P.C. @connorburkesmith

Last week's pitch-black South Teton approach would be my last without an audiobook. Long, boring approaches are my kryptonite. Connor and I split my earbuds for the end of Skunk Works. Skinning across Bradley, we learned about Lockheed's Blackbird reconnaissance flights. Into Garnet Canyon, Ben Rich spilled the beans on Northrop's over-budget stealth bomber program.

Most of the way, we skinned bulletproof snow: refrozen corn from warm afternoons in the valley. Connor left ski crampons in the car. Out of solidarity, I skipped mine too. We moved slow in spots, but reached Garnet without any big slides. In Garnet, the snow was softer, a mix of sun crusts and windboard.

Our Least Favorite Summit

Making up for lost time on bulletproof, Connor stepped on the gas. I huffed and puffed to keep up. Boulder fields fresh in my memory, I checked any "false saddle" hopes. Billy-goating over the speed bumps (aka boulder tips that guarded our descent last week), I started to slow down.

By 2:30am, we switch-backed up the saddle between Middle and South. I felt a bit nauseous / fatigued and ate some Clif Bloks.

Realizing we'd retrace our steps back to the saddle, and desperate for a break, I suggested we ditch packs for the final summit push. Not much avalanche risk and quick descent in an emergency. We definitely didn't need ropes, ice tools, crampons, etc. I drank water, ate more Clif Bloks and added all my layers.

Packs behind us, we skinned up the saddle with grateful shoulders. Even after shedding 40lbs, my energy levels dropped. I paused every two-dozen strides to slow my heartrate. At least my hands weren't numb. Light winds swirled around South Teton, mild versus the sustained northerly gusts last week.

At 3:15am, we bootpacked up South, sticking to the gut of the NW Couloir, avoiding 4th-class scrambles in ski boots. My heartrate kept spiking. By 3:30am, I stumbled up the final summit ridge, sitting next to the marker to rest. We were ahead of schedule, averaging almost 1.5k' per hour.

Heartrate down, I followed Connor's descent. By 3:50am, our heels were locked and pins loaded. We linked a few ski turns expecting the worst, but this time found smooth snow and no surprise rocks. Even descending, my energy kept slipping. I needed calories and water, both in my pack.

Before long, we kicked ourselves for not strapping extra headlamps on our packs. Light wind kicked up snow crystals. Our headlamps only extended 50-100'. All the boulders looked the same. After a few hundred feet, we realized we dropped too low. I tried to retrace our GPX on my Coros. Connor searched for the skin track, quickly refilling from swirling wind.

We stopped to bootpack up our now faint skin track. I felt more nauseous and asked Connor if he could handle skiing with both packs. I found a boulder and huddled behind it. Nauseous on the move and shivering at rest. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, I figured mild cold response bested further depleting blood sugar. I hoped Connor would be down soon.

15 minutes later, I peered over my shoulder. A headlight zig-zagged down the saddle. I brushed off the shivers and stood up. Pack in hand (thanks Connor!), I drank water and forced a few Goldfish down. Still nauseous and dehydrated, Goldfish were the most I could handle with a side of cotton mouth.

In the moment, if Connor gave me an out, I'd have taken it. I couldn't imagine an ascent of Middle in that state, let alone the Grand. Instead, he slowly skinned up the saddle toward Middle.

South Teton on the way to Middle | P.C. @connorburkesmith

Further than Last Time

At 5:30am, we approached steeper switchbacks on the north side of the saddle. Between missing packs and my calorie / hydration screw-up, we lost at least 45 minutes, maybe an hour. I kept a Ziplock of Goldfish in my shell pocket, swallowing a handful each time I paused.

By 6:15am, we reached the bootpack up Middle's SW Couloir. South Teton emerged behind us in first light. We spotted our 4am ski tracks, a few hundred feet looker's left of the skin track. (Hence the pack debacle.)

Energy level slowly rising, we pushed through the final 700' to the summit. The bootpack was firm, set by other groups over preceding days, an upside to mountaineering in the Tetons.

At 6:50am, we reached the summit block as the sun cleared the horizon. It was my first time summiting the Middle. Grand Teton's East Face glowed orange.

Sunrise from the Middle summit | P.C. @connorburkesmith

I posed for pictures on the ridge leading north from the USGS marker. Sunrise on Middle Teton might be my most scenic mountain memory. Almost worth losing our packs and delaying the summit. (Such an epic scene, we're expecting one of Connor's photos to be featured in American Alpine Journal 2024.)

Clock ticking, I scouted our descent. It was also Connor's first time skiing Middle. 20-30' down the ridge leading north from the marker, we found the traverse to the notch. I took lead route-finding, beta from a few friends fresh in memory (and attempting to repay Connor for his moral leadership that morning).

The snow was soft and unsettled around the summit. I traversed the no-fall zone (giant cliffs below) to the infamous notch. I skied as low as possible, then dropped the few feet into a flat landing zone. I butt-checked on a rock-hard landing. Connor stayed on his feet.

Another group paved a side-slip from the notch to the proper East Face. Unfortunately, their skis were 5-10cm shorter than ours. The sun hadn't yet softened the refrozen snow. The East Face was more sun-affected than the summit. Tips and tails scraping. I widened the path with my poles.

Below the side-slip, I linked a couple hop turns, finding variable, refrozen sun-crusts. Hoping to see a few more birthdays, I side-slipped and hop-turned through the chokes to softer slopes below. After a few more hours of sunlight and softening, we'd have scored decent turns down the full East Face.

After the top face and lower chokes, the route skied beautifully: wind-sheltered, so faster to soften in the morning sun. We linked clean turns to the top of the Glacier. Waiting for Connor, I spotted a group bootpacking up Ford Couloir on the Grand.

Now: Plan A vs. Plan B up the Grand? (A) I wanted to hug the east-facing cliffs, ski toward the Lower Saddle, gain the Saddle to the Black Dyke Traverse and follow it into Stettner. (B) Connor preferred descending a few hundred feet to the base of Teepe Pillar, then booting to the base of Teepe Glacier.

We skied to the base of the east-facing cliffs for a closer look. I didn't see tracks on the Lower Saddle, so all route-finding would fall on us. From CalTopo, we'd lose 200-300' from the base of Fixed Rope to the bottom of Teepe Pillar. Plan A probably would've worked, but after our pack mishap on South Teton, we opted to play it safe. Plan B, the approach we knew.

A few more fun turns to the bottom of Teepe Pillar, then we transitioned for a 500-600' bootpack to the base of Teepe Glacier.

Traffic Jam

By 8:15am, I followed Connor up the north-facing slope looker's right of the Pillar, alternating between snow and rock scrambles. At 8:45am, we reached the usual resting place before Teepe Glacier. We transitioned to skins, applied sunscreen and downed calories / water. For the first time since ~3am, I ditched layers: puffer, shell and heavy gloves first, eventually the fleece hoodie too.

The skin track extended all the way up Teepe Glacier, a reprieve from its typical bootpack. I was still slow, but better than Middle Teton. Sun helped.

At 10am, we reached boulders between Teepe Pillar and the Grand, transitioning for the techy stuff. I expected the group we spotted in the Ford to pass soon. We spotted a few gear caches around the boulders, so at least three groups must be on the route, a busy day.

We paused for 30 minutes to add harnesses, crampons and ice tools; ditch extra gear like beacons, probes, shovels, skins, empty bottles, etc. (no surviving an avalanche on Ford-Stettner); and eat / drink. At 10:30am, we traversed into Stettner. Finally re-energized, I kept pace with Connor.

We soloed a small ice bulge in the Stettner, wind pelting us with sluff and small snow chunks. By 11:10am, we reached the first anchor in the Chevy. Lower anchor covered with snow, we soloed to an anchor just below the crux bulge. No sign of other groups. It'd been five hours since we spotted a group in the Ford. Maybe they descended already and other groups snuck up while we skied the Middle?

A rope dropped. Clipped to the anchor, we waited for rappelers. A snowboarder passed us. He said 15+ people were on the Grand. We were shocked.

A second pair of ropes dropped, rappelling in tandem with the first group. The second party was an Exum-guided group, stopping at our anchor. The first party continued to an anchor in the Stettner.

The first party bailed at the Ford, concerned about warming and congestion. (It didn't seem too warm.) Turns out, the Exum group was the party we saw in the Ford at 6am. The guide wondered who'd descend the East Face at daybreak, a Trifecta attempt clearing that up. He told us they skied the Grand's East Face and side-slipped Workman-Starr, the Ford still frozen.

The last member of group one rappelled above us, strapped into their snowboard, kicking sluff and crusts down the couloir. Ropes crossed. Five people clipped into our anchor, extended by slings. Despite good intentions all around, it was a mess. Too many people in the Chevy and no spacing. We should've rolled the dice on Owen Spalding. Upside, the Ford bootpack should be a staircase.

More groups about to rappel, a shitshow building, we couldn't wait. We roped up, ditching our original solo plan. With limited real estate, Connor and I transitioned to lead and belay, respectively.

At 11:45am, Connor scrambled over the other groups' ropes and lanyards. We'd been stuck for ~45 minutes and our hands were going numb in the shaded Chevy. By 12pm, we cleared the crux bulge and clipped into an anchor to shoulder ropes. We'd solo the rest of the Chevy, only one small bulge ahead.

Another rappeler passed. He said one more group was ascending, now at Workman-Starr, a common bootpack to looker's right of the Ford. As we reached the base of the Ford, we spotted another group rappelling from its lower anchor. One more transitioned at the upper cache / anchor.

By 12:20pm, we ditched ropes in the cache and traversed to Workman-Starr, hoping to close the gap with the group ahead.

I felt a second wind and took lead. I played our elk night (stay tuned for recipes) playlist from my phone, and a bit delusional, whipped my ice tool over my head like a lasso. I was stoked to finish our final ascent of the day.

At ~1:25pm, we reached the cache below the summit. The other group descended from the summit and transitioned to ski. They planned to test out the Ford, then likely descend the East Face like other groups.

We ditched our packs and scrambled to the summit. Middle and South Teton loomed in the distance, our early morning ski tracks barely visible. After a few summit photos, we downclimbed and transitioned to ski. It was a clear morning and afternoon. The sun now overhead for a few hours, we hoped the Ford should be soft enough.

A finger for each summit: South, Middle and Grand | P.C. @connorburkesmith

At 1:45pm, I led the first stretch, finding variable but sun-softened snow to skier's right, untracked despite all the traffic. All signs positive, Connor took lead in the gut of Ford Couloir. Other groups set the bootpack and we got untracked, unheard of on high-traffic days.

We caught the other group in the cache, grabbed our ropes and leapfrogged ahead via the lower Ford anchor.

Trench Foot

By 2:15pm, we strapped skis to packs, dropped ropes and readied our ATCs. I led the rappels, repaying my debt to Connor for leading the ascents.

We paired his 60m and my 50m double ropes (mine snagged on our first Ford-Stettner descent in 2023, losing 10m). Rappels shorter than usual, I downclimbed some ice / snow in the Chevy to reach an anchor above the crux, pulling out one ice tool (no crampons). Connor followed suit, then we pulled ropes.

Due to the downclimb, we forgot to untie the knot in my shorter rope. Luckily the group above bailed us out as they passed the knot on rappel. Lazy flaking led to some untangling, otherwise we rappelled efficiently. We reached the base of the Stettner by 3:30pm after a couple more short downclimbs. Note: 60m rappels recommended for efficiency, though as short as 45m should work.

We packed our ropes and clicked into skis next to Glencoe Col, then traversed to our gear cache next to Teepe Pillar. We loaded avy gear, skins and extra bottles, then descended Teepe Glacier. With shaky legs, I struggled to ski refrozen crusts, Glacier firmly shaded by Teepe Pillar. Connor sped down.

By 4:30pm, we reached the base of Garnet Canyon and (finally) corn snow. Much easier than variable, we cruised to Bradley Lake by 4:45pm. (Night and day versus the thick, breakable sun crust a week earlier.)

After 18 hours in boots, our feet were tender. Painful blisters rubbed on each turn. As we transitioned to skin up Bradley's south bank, our friends from the Grand caught up, pausing for a scenic lunch.

By 5pm, Connor and I skinned across Bradley and up the rolling hills guarding its south bank. By 5:20pm, we transitioned to ski the final exit track, hoping the slush wouldn't be too sticky. Throats sore, feet tender, legs shaky and Nalgene's empty, the car couldn't come soon enough.

We skied, side-stepped and skated, reaching the cars at 5:40pm, 18:45 hours from our departure. We aimed for 17 hours or less, but accounting for lost packs, my energy crash and congestion on the Grand, I was happy with 19 hours.

Spoiler: Unencumbered by me and following the more efficient North-to-South route, speedy Connor skied Trifecta in 14.5 hours on May 28th.

We tossed gear in Connor's whip, lacking energy to organize. Usually we drive my truck to the trailhead, sparing us from smelly boots and socks. Not so lucky today.

I winced prying boots off my feet, each as tender they've ever been. I need to start swapping socks mid-way through big tours, but (1) it's uncomfortable in winter conditions and (2) the feet usually don't hurt until it's too late.

I downed back-up water and snacks in the car as we drove to town. We parked in the Square and shuffled to Five & Dime for Gatorades. My mongolian beef at Teton Tiger burned my lips, chafed from wind / sun, so I boxed leftovers. Our friends from the Grand stumbled in, barely recognizing us without gear.

After dinner, we stumbled back to where it began: the Cowboy. We ordered another round of whiskey and tequila shots to complete the circle. Connor took off after shots. I hung around for some ciders and pool, hobbling around on my heels, the least tender part of my foot.

I made it home with the leftovers, nudging them past tender lips, and passed out. I woke 12 hours later to (mostly) normal feet, only light blistering. I hopped on a very poorly timed Zoom call, eyes still red.

A few days later, I realized my boots – socks still stuffed inside – were at Connor's. By then, a bacteria colony flourished. Three washes finally cleared the smell. A small price to pay for Trifecta?