WORDS: Sarah Ward
A typical mom, my mother always had orange slices, gummy snacks, juice packs, and a minivan waiting after every soccer game. However, she did not coach my soccer practice, then go set a record for the first female solo climb and ski of 13,775-foot Grand Teton, all the while getting back in time to pick me up from school. No this feat goes to distinguished ski mountaineer Kit Deslauriers.
On Thursday, June 6, Deslauriers became the first female to ski mountaineer the Grand Teton solo, adding to her remarkable achievement as the first person to ski all seven summits. The Jackson, Wyoming, resident makes an effort to ski the Grand every year. This year, though, she scheduled her Grand mission between coaching soccer practice and picking the kids up from school. Her record day went something like this:
Wednesday, June 5
5:30 p.m.: Coach kids soccer team
7:30 p.m.: Arrive at trailhead and hike to snow line
10:00 p.m.: Go to bed in tent
Thursday, June 6
2:00 a.m.: Wake up
2:30 a.m.: Hike through punchy snow
5:30 a.m.: Reach the bottom of the technical climb up Stettner and Chevy Couloirs
6:30 a.m.: Top out at Chevy, began climb up Ford Couloir
7:45 a.m.: Top out at Ford Couloir, take in the view
8:45 a.m.: Ski down Ford (half of which hasn’t softened up yet). Do four double rope rappels done Chevy and Stettner. And ski TeePee Glacier slush, dodging all the wet slides.
2:00 p.m.: Arrive back at the car.
3:00 p.m.: Pick the kids up from school.
Having done this climb and descent four other times, she elected to do the fifth attempt solo. Breaking and making records seem to be an afterthought for Deslauriers, though.
“Jimmy Chin has solo climbed and skied the Grand, the Middle, and the South [Teton] in one day… So to think I did anything rad yesterday is kind of silly, the bar has been set so high,” said Deslauriers via phone on Friday. “I’m just doing what I love to do within my limits.”
Yet Chin believes Deslauriers’ climb was, in fact, different. “What Kit did certainly raises the bar for women and ski mountaineering in the Tetons,” says Chin, who climbed and skied Mount Everest with The North Face teammates Deslauriers and her husband, Rob, in 2006. “Skiing the Grand is committing, but going up there solo requires so much more psychologically because you have to free solo sections of steep ice. No chance for mistakes there.”
Former Jackson Hole Mountain Resort alpine guide Eric Henderson agrees. “In my professional and personal opinion, no other female ski mountaineering athlete deserves this more than Kit.”
Since moving to Jackson in 2000, Deslauriers has been fascinated by the Teton triumvirate. “Looking up at the Grand, at that beautiful Ford Couloir… It compels me. I want to know what it feels like to be up in it, turned around facing out and skiing.”
For Deslauriers, the timing was on, the conditions just right, and kids in school long enough to make history.