Last weekend I successfully climbed and skied North America’s famous ski line on Mt. Moran, the skillet. It was truly the hardest thing I’ve done in my adult life. I say adult because burring my pet gerbil when I was seven was nearly impossible.
Let me set the stage: Three male co-workers asked if I wanted to go with them to climb and ski Mt. Moran. This has been one of my goals since I moved to Jackson two and a half years ago. The skillet stares me in the face everyday from my desk at the Jackson Lake Lodge and has been constantly on my mind. I knew I’d regret it if I said no, so I said yes.
The plan was to leave Saturday, skin across the lake, camp overnight, start the ascent early Sunday morning and then skin back across the lake Sunday afternoon. The weather was looking promising along with the snow and avalanche report. We were a little nervous about how much snow was up high but knew we wouldn’t be able to get a full assessment until we were actually up there. So it was a green light.
Saturday morning we all congregated at my friend Cameron’s house, the boys were bro-ing out hard on their gear, and all I really wanted to tell them was how much chocolate I brought.
We started skinning across the lake around 11:45am. It was about 6 miles from Colter Bay to the base of Moran, this took us 2.5 hours. We found a flat area to dig out some snow for our two tents, and made a kitchen area. When we had camp set up we cooked dinner, drank a little whiskey and bota box and talked about the adventure the next day. It was cold, I feel like I have to say that, it was real cold. I went to bed at 7:30pm, there is nothing to do when the sun goes out, and the -20 sleeping bag I brought was a little slice of heaven.
3:00am rolled around way to quickly, there was condensation inside our camp and it was cold, real cold. Luckily there was no new snow that fell which we saw as a good sign. We cooked breakfast and by 4:30am we were on our way to climb 6,000 vertical feet. An hour into the skin, I felt great. Although sweaty I felt strong and my breathing was regulated. Two hours into the skin, I felt cold, so very cold. The first hour of sweating had chilled me to the bone and this was the first time I thought,” I might not make it.” I let my teammate know how cold I really was and if it continued like this I was going to have to turn around.
Once the sun came out I found new life. We drank some tea and ate some calories; I was instantly warmer and happier. Crazy what a little sunshine can do! The snow was consistently smooth as we skinned up the main gut and I felt more energetic again.
Kickturns and Switchbacks are not my specialty, I stink at them. We must have done 100 of them. With 179cm skis, Lang racing boots, and being 5’4” I teared up a couple times as those turns became my worst enemy (don’t worry, I put my big girl pants on and chocked it down.) I was focusing all my energy on making those switchbacks without falling. The first 20 were the worst, but with everyone I was getting better and better. We skinned all the way to the top of the glacier. We then transitioned and made the final bootpack to the top. 20 minutes later, we had reached the summit!
I quickly hugged my teammates and then focused on the next important task: getting down. The top part of the skillet was about 55 degrees, steep, but very do-able. I dropped in second and the snow was very heavy. I took three hop turns and had to catch my breath. I was more concerned about making it safely down the mountain than slaying the line, so I didn’t mind taking my time. After the top part of the couloir the skillet opened up and it was SO MUCH FUN. There was so much snow, I let myself make fast arching turns down 6,000 vertical feet of powder. I could not stop smiling. We did it, we f’n did it!
It was 4:30pm when we reached our camp and knew we had to move fast. It was getting dark and we still had to pack up and travel six miles across the lake. This is where I almost broke down, 20 minutes into the skin I was exhausted, cold, uncomfortable, hungry, and thirsty. I had a mini pity party, but knew everyone was in this boat. The sun disappeared and the temps dropped. What was supposed to take us 2.5 hours to get across the lake took us 4.5 hours. We got a little lost trying to find Colter Bay, but ultimately I think we were just moving very slowly. My body was working I just had to stay in a positive mindset and I knew I would make it.
I’ve never been so happy to see the lights of Colter bay. We pulled in at 10:30pm.
Looking back on this experience I am so incredibly proud and impressed with myself. My body performed better than I could ask for and I 100% attribute this to being strong from consistently working out at Wright Training. My recovery time was minimal and, if I didn’t get frostbite, I would have been back in the mountains two days later. I was a strong member of the all-male team and proved to myself that I belonged out there.
In all, I caught the bug. I want to explore larger lines in the Tetons and want to get stronger with my climbing skills. People who know me know I work out a lot at Wright Training, some people think I’m a little nutty, but I truly believe that I would not have performed the way that I did if my workouts didn’t make me strong and durable.
*PS – I did receive 2nd Degree frostbite on both my feet. I learned a lot being out there.