Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Death Canyon Recon

The first 2 days of summer have been absolutely gorgeous in Jackson, after what seems like weeks of constant rainy days. Okay, not quite that bad, but still it was a pleasant change to see 2 days of weather forecast and no mention of the R-word. Mostly sunny and 70+ degrees, bring it on! Unfortunately, both Jill and I are recovering from some sort of viral bug that laid us low for a day or so; we were only ready for a low-key hike.

We headed for the Rockefeller Preserve in Teton Park, thinking we would do a Phelps Lake loop and check out the avalanche debris at the foot of Death Canyon; Katie, Eric, and I saw this last week hiking the Valley Trail from LSR to Teton Village. The parking lot at LSR Preserve was full, no big surprise, with perhaps a 15-minute wait. No thanks! Instead, we bounced our way into the Whitegrass Trailhead for Death Canyon. The road isn't any worse than last year, but certainly not any better either. We hiked to Phelps Lake overlook, and then decided to go up Death Canyon as far as we could (or wanted to) instead of doing a lake loop.

The avalanche footprint was impressive, and extended further than I would have guessed; it ran all the way to the creek. Considering that the couloir runs all the way up to the south face of Albright Peak (10,552') I guess a full track avalanche would make a mess. Here's the view from the trail coming down from Phelps Lake Overlook.

The sign at the trail junction definitely had a bad day then, and was propped upright.

After switchback #2, the next straightaway came to this slide path just below 7200'. The snow had softened enough that people were kicking steps in it and crossing (in tennis shoes, no less -- yikes). We didn't have ice axes along, and I didn't like the looks of the potential 100-foot runout into a boulder field, so we turned around here.

On the trail down from the overlook, Jill called my name softly; expecting a bear or a moose, I turned around to see her pointing at this mule deer buck about 15' off the trail. I had walked right past him; I was looking the other way and he was totally unconcerned about us.

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