A Teton Bar Crawl: From Jackson’s Mangy Moose to Targhee’s Trap Bar, It’s a Long, Hard Walk

Whorls of snow blast through camp, sending accumulation sliding down our wind-rattled tents. An airborne pine needle hurls itself into my rapidly cooling, dehydrated-egg-in-bag breakfast, and, hunkered into our hoods, we glumly survey the scene. Then Adam cracks a mischievous smile and pulls a flask from his pack. It’s our third day traversing the Tetons and an early-morning shot sounds like a great idea. We’re in the middle of a bar crawl of sorts, after all.

A few grimaced rounds later, the flask is weightless and our crew—Adam Glos, photographer John Slaughter and I—grin with the ridiculousness.

Totally loaded, Adam Glos and Brigid Mander near Death Canyon Shelf below the Grand, Middle and South Tetons. [Photo] John Slaughter

Totally loaded, Adam Glos and Brigid Mander near Death Canyon Shelf below the Grand, Middle and South Tetons. [Photo] John Slaughter

Two days ago, in Jackson Hole’s Mangy Moose, we mulled over our current plan with morning beers: originally, a week to camp, climb and ski some of the Tetons’ hidden lines, but that window of clear skies never arrived. Having grown impatient, with three days of forecasted sun, we decided on the minimum: a plain traverse across the 27-mile expanse of no-man’s land pocked with ski lines between Jackson and Grand Targhee.

Without planning to drop into said epic ski lines, we replaced that goal with the next best option—a barhop, aiming for Targhee’s famed Trap Bar. Polishing off our beers, we grabbed packs and headed for the tram when a text from our bartender friend, Timmy, alerted us that he had a travel-ready bottle of a special whisky drink at the base area’s Osteria bar. I quickly made room in my pack.

After skipping the first 4,000 feet of climbing on the tram, we slipped out the upper Rock Springs gate, climbed Cody Peak and dropped off the seldom-skied west face under deep blue skies. We skinned west, bar-hop jokes flying, and reconnoitered lines until we made camp where a frozen lake marks the back of Granite Canyon. Hot dinner and the Osteria cocktail sent us crawling happily into tents.

On day two, we covered some 14 miles, gawking at lines the whole way. After eating lunch under a slew of couloirs, we stared back across a chasm we had earlier skirted. A distinctive peak jutted upward at an improbable angle, silhouetted by deep slivers of light and space. Of the two visible faces, one was a sheer, granite cliff, and the other, a steep, white, skiable face. To my traverse-bound eyes, it was practically sporting a golden halo.

“That’s gotta be the Wedge,” John said, breaking the silence. “There’d be no screwing up on that, man.” Butterflies of anticipation and terror flooded my being as I imagined dropping into the line. As we continued our traverse, I felt relieved to be off the hook.

The more we saw, the more exotic the peaks seemed. So much terrain is so easily accessed in the Tetons, and it’s easy to forget that, just a little deeper, is another world of big peaks, couloirs and mini-golf terrain. The feeling of discovering something new, just under our noses, kept me skinning.

Adam puts away his flask and, as the whisky burns my throat, I snap back to the quickly worsening weather. We break camp and hit the traverse again, picking our way up and down cliffed faces and through passes that howl with hurricane-force winds. I skin with my head down, envisioning a warm return to civilization with a celebratory cheeseburger and beers.

The author daydreaming of cheeseburgers beyond Battleship Mountain. [Photo] John Slaughter

The author daydreaming of cheeseburgers beyond Battleship Mountain. [Photo] John Slaughter

It’s after noon when we’re booting the shoulder of Table Mountain in tearing winds, and we arrive at the top to dismal visibility. We wander around the unfamiliar peak, looking for the last descent on the route when the steep backside of Targhee appears across the drainage. By the time we realize we’re far past the correct descent route and are above a steep avalanche zone, it’s late afternoon, too late to drop into the sketchy route and descend Targhee in the dark.

So we choose a mellow option, relishing the longest continual descent of the last three days with creamy powder up high that leads to widely spaced aspens. I carry speed over rolling benches as the snow turns to corn among old-growth pines. The pitch goes on and on for more than 3,000 feet. We skate out the last few flat miles—detouring only to get around an angry mother moose that traps Adam behind a tree for 20 minutes.

We reach pavement by dusk and even the carless road can’t dim our enthusiasm. We won’t be climbing Targhee on skis, but we’re determined to hitch to the Trap.

So we wait…for 45 minutes until a Chevy sedan slows to make a U-turn in the pullout we occupy. John runs over, waving, and explains our request. The driver idles, smiling silently and nodding, but won’t answer him. “Entiendes?” I finally ask. “Si, si…un poco,” he admits with a sheepish grin.

I re-explain in rusty Spanish that we want to go to the ski resort, and he hops out, pops the trunk and shoves his massive subwoofers aside, which makes room for about one pack and maybe our ski poles.

But we stuff the trunk in a flash. Adam and I cram in the back with two packs and three pairs of skis sticking out the rear passenger window. John belts himself up front before the driver can change his mind.

The Lumina groans uphill, and at the resort, we pile out like clowns from a circus car. A warm glow shines from within the Trap, and we pull on the door. It doesn’t open.

Tour planning and hydration at the Mangy Moose. [Photo] John Slaughter

Tour planning and hydration at the Mangy Moose. [Photo] John Slaughter

Five or six people sit at the bar, so we knock, confused. At a glacial pace, the bartender ambles over and opens the door. “We’re closed,” he says firmly.

“But, aren’t you suppose to be open until 10?” Slaughter asks, horrified. “We just want one beer,” I beg. “We came from Jackson for it!” says Adam, collapsed against the exterior wall.

Unable to resist the bizarre scene, the bartender steps aside, and we flow in—three dirty, tired and sunburnt skiers. He pours three Grand Teton ales from his just-polished taps, and, hiding a smile, tells us we may stay until he finishes cleaning and cashing out.

The beer tastes better than I dreamed, but the kitchen is long closed. Our increasingly sympathetic bartender plunks a basket of tater tots in front of us. “Those are from my dinner,” he says. “You should eat them.”

With the cold tots, he brings another round of pints that we clink together with satisfaction—to safety and good company. Our backyard traverse was far from our original plan, but a trip doesn’t always need to be far from home to be an adventure. And it doesn’t even need to go right to be perfect.

From March 7-8, join the editors of Backcountry Magazine at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort for the GORE-TEX Backcountry Basecamp Tour, presented by Voilé, Marmot and AIARE. All weekend, Backcountry Magazine staff will showcase the newest backcountry equipment, AIARE educators will conduct demos and classes, and Jackson Hole Guides will take visitors on complimentary backcountry tours. For more on the event, including the party and raffle to benefit Teton County Search and Rescue, visit backcountrymagazine.com/basecamp.

Comments

  1. Awesome idea and TR, you three!

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