Story by: Elizabeth Koutrelakos
Photo Credit: Christian Beckwith
During last winter’s wave of the Ikon, hoards of people floated into Jackson. I heard local snow enthusiasts ranting about how everything in the Tetons is pegged, lit up, done, spent (you know the lingo the list goes on). However, my reliable and stealthy Cold Smoke Splitboard found an abundance of fresh turns, new places and comfortable faces.
A memorable highlight began on a snow-spattered day by Prospector, a massif on the south side of Death Canyon. Stretching 11,240 feet at most, the true summit is closed for sheep all winter, so the peak doesn’t attract too many baggers. Maybe it’s the longer approach or the semi-tricky navigation or the fact that it’s not a high peak, but the mountain is an adult playground of chutes and ladders.
Our group of three- myself, Christian Beckwith, and Elephant (a pseudonym to respect the privacy of this character) thought about a north facing line off Prospector. Given the on and off snowfall and exposed nature of this endeavor, we didn’t feel particularly attached to that specific way down. Christian is a father of one beautiful little girl, Elephant and I enjoy our lives, and continued existence with friends always remains my biggest priority when spending time in the mountains.
After a bit of skinning up the flanks and onto the ridges of Prospector, we looked down from the top of the Mayan Apocalpse. A mandatory rappel and a roped hanging snowfield traverse led to the start of the snow sliding part of the line. A couple of roped ski cuts later, we were in it.
A few turns in, the wisps of blizzard parted and we looked across the canyon. Gleaming in a stream of rare light glowed one of skinniest, most enticing subalpine couloirs we ever did see. We smiled and nodded, semi-agreeing that we would all do it together one day. When I think of “doing something one day” a time when the planet has warmed at least .2 degrees Celsius comes to mind. Christian’s ideas of the future is basically the next good day that he has off…. which happened to be a week later.
And so, the following Saturday, we skinned our way towards the newly spotted sliver of snow, starting up Wimpy’s Knob with a map and some photos, making our way into the seen unknown. The other members pushed to take the most circuitous way possible. Given they are avid members of Gym 22, a local gym for mountain enthusiasts, their toned legs broke trail for most of the way. From the top of Albright, we cruised down into No Woods Basin, up Buck Mountain Pass and meandered up and down until reaching top of the line.
From here, the pictures from the week before came in handy for navigation of the wide and narrow subalpine couloir. The whole experience was a bit of a slog with its ups and downs but worth it in the end, hence the name Birth Control. The tramp out began and splitskiing became so essential for me that even the skiers had to free their heel. Looking back, I’m not sure what was more enjoyable- snowboarding something new or enjoying the ebbs and flows of conversation with Christian and the Elephant.
One may wonder why even do a trip report about this beautiful and iconic place? I feel risks of a chance encounter is slim… Explicit directions are as follows: 1. Go down Mayan Apocalypse 2. ¼ of the way down, look across Death Canyon (take many good pictures here) 3. Choose your own adventure and let go of your goal. 4. Keep this quote in mind.