In many backcountry skier’s imaginations, there lurk ideas that they would like to pull off one day, if possible. These ideas are diverse. Some examples include: skiing Wyoming’s Grand Teton, skiing the Himalayan Mount Everest, jumping 250+ feet into powder on the back side of Grand Targhee, or even skiing off a large cliff into a wingsuited flight then landing via parachute. Sometimes the vision is huge, comprised of linking up many different peaks, and sometimes smaller. One thing I’ve had in my imagination since shortly after moving to SLC a few years ago was to ski the Northwest Couloir of the Pfiefferhorn ropeless.
Since there is usually a cliff that’s anywhere from 70 feet high in very low snow conditions, to 20-30 feet tall in later season once it’s filled in a bit, I sort of expected there to be some mandatory air involved in the process. As it turns out, all that’s required is the right loading pattern in a huge snow year, or even a few large avalanches. Following an early season visit to the Pfiefferhorn which my partner and I handled with 2 rappels, I didn’t think this was the year. However, that was then. The Pfiefferhorn’s famed Northwest Couloir is presently filled to the gills. Having been in the area several times on recent outings to Upwop Peak, I knew it was filled in, but that’s not really where I was headed today.
Adventure happens to those who just go with the flow, however. And today, with a completely different sort of day envisioned at the outset, I ended up skiing the NW without a rope. Without a helmet, even, as I’d planned on a pretty chill, but lengthy, day.
As I skinned up the track from White Pine to Red Pine, I saw two guys in front of me. Chatting briefly as I passed by, I then continued on, realizing that the 3 guys I could now see in front of me were breaking trail. I stepped it up, happy to lend a hand to the trailbreaking effort. To my surprise, the guy breaking trail was none other than the Trailbreaking Machine and occasional ski partner, Jason Dorais, accompanied by CJ and Hasen.
Following introductions and exchanges of the day’s objectives, I tagged along for the ropeless descent option. With recent, large snowfall amounts, I wouldn’t have skied the NW on the Pfieff solo today, but with partners comes … less concern for one’s safety? Maybe, maybe not. Anyway, a 700 inch snow year is all it takes to get this particular item checked off the to-do list. There’s still plenty on the list – more than a lifetime’s worth – but I was pretty stoked to get this one done. In fine conditions, even!