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Kent McBride Co-Guides Ski Descent of Mount Moran in the Tetons
Posted on June 30, 2011

By Kent McBride

Are we going to be rappelling and down climbing what we just cramponed up for the last four and a half hours? While sitting on the northeast ridge of Mount Moran, fellow mountain guide Doug Workman and I scratched our heads and wiggled ours toes. We had been sitting there for two and a half hours hoping for the exposed steeps to soften for easier edging on the +50 degree face, 3,000 feet above the Skilet Glacier. The corn rows of long, white cirrus clouds diluted the heat of the sun, leaving an icy and breakable surface from the past evening’s freeze.

Cameron Romero skis well over 100 days a year and was the first person to be ski guided down the Grand Teton by Doug Coombs and Mark Newcomb in 2004. This is when Cameron and Coombs came up with the idea of skiing the major 7 summits of the Tetons (Grand, Middle, South, Buck, Owen, Teewinot, and Moran) as a long-term goal.

When I was invited by Cameron to help complete his quest, I was psyched to help him out. Instead of just skiing the easiest routes on the 7 peaks—some he has already done on his own—he wanted to pick some different lines that he was drawn to. Mount Moran’s NE ridge is one such line and has only seen about 5 descents, using 3 different variations, and hadn’t ever been ski guided before.

I knew that even if conditions were perfect, skiing the NE ridge was still a tall order due to mountain hazards and the amount of ski belaying required to safely mitigate the ridge. When it comes to skiing big steep and exposed mountains with clients, I like to belay them to help to ensure a certain degree of safety. On these peaks, it is important to move fast primarily because of wet avalanches and rock fall along with many other hazards. In these situations, I like to team up to co-guide so we can leap frog down the slope and keep the client moving on the rope. Cameron agreed that by including my friend and guide Doug Workman, the odds of success would be greatly increased.

6:30 a.m. slowly turned to 9 a.m., and we decided to get moving because the lower elevations were getting warmer and more dangerous. The plan was to belay off the top until we felt good about everything. I belayed Doug so he could inspect the ski conditions and start building the next anchor and then belayed Cameron. Once at the belay, Doug and I would switch leads, again and again. The conditions were great! There was just enough warming to create a little corn over a very firm surface.

As we worked our way down the exposed ridge and the angle lessened, the rope was put away and we enjoyed turns high above Jackson Lake until we were stopped by a large rock blocking the ridge. We decided to continue on the ridge because the lower variation to the north that we ascended in the morning was covered with frozen avalanche scars. To get around the rock, I lowered Doug and Cameron down the shadowed steeps to a ledge where Doug built an anchor to hopefully protect me while I down-climbed with crampon and axes. Luckily, the climbing back up to the ridge was easy, and we found an exit couloir that led us right to our camp.

After skiing nearly 6,000 vertical feet, wading in the ice cold water to the speed boat felt as good as the whole adventure.

Author: - Thursday, June 30th, 2011

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