The east face of the Grand Teton (13,770′), Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, in summer. Julia Niles and Lisa Van Sciver teamed up to climb and ski the Grand on March 7, becoming the first all-female descent party. The white splotches near the summit mark part of the large upper snowfield; from there Niles and Van Sciver headed into the shadows on the left (southeast) to reach the Stettner, Ford and Chevy couloirs. [Photo] Rachel Stevens
On March 7 Julia Niles and Lisa Van Sciver made the first all-female ski descent of the Grand Teton (13,770′), Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, via the Ford and Stettner couloirs. The descent involves icy, 50-degree slopes and “fall-you-die cliffs.” A handful of other women have skied the Grand (including high-profile skiers Kristen Ulmer, Kit DesLauriers, Geneva Chong, A.J. Cargill and Jessica Baker), accompanied by men, but most have skied it in the spring. Until their winter-season descent in March, neither Niles nor Van Sciver had climbed the route or skied the peak.
The pair began the ascent at 4 a.m., reaching the Stettner Couloir by 9:30. Variable conditions–soft and crusty snow–made breaking trail difficult, Niles said. Their descent followed a similar line to Bill Brigg’s first ski descent of the Grand in 1971. From the summit they skied the 1,000-vertical-foot upper snowfield on the east face to the Chevy Couloir, where they rappelled through the Chevy and most of the Stettner. From there they continued skiing on the Tepee Glacier in the shade, where they found the best snow. They returned to the parking lot at 6 p.m.
Niles a stronger climber, Van Sciver a stronger skier, the two “complemented each other so well,” Niles said. “On the way up, I was a little bit more comfortable and on the way down, Lisa was more comfortable.” In August Niles also free soloed, in a day, the ten-peak Grand Traverse, which travels between Teewinot (12,325′) and Nez Perce (11,901′).