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For many years, I have wanted to complete a trilogy of first ascents and descents in the South Fork Valley of Wyoming and that dream finally came true. I have done numerous first ascent ice climbs and two first descents in my kayak, but a first descent on a pair of skis seemed far fetched to say the least. The South Fork is well known as a high desert oasis of sage brush and cactus but that just happens to host some of the best ice climbing in the world.

Nate Winning and Matt Mcfadden approaching the couloir

Nate Winning and Matt Mcfadden approaching the couloir

The valley has seen an unimaginable amount of snow this season which has provided one of the best ice climbing seasons in 15 years. It has also made ice climbing a bit more dangerous and the approaches more difficult. Temps had been perfect in the valley for some climbs I had my eye on, so I went for a drive Friday evening. While I spotted some amazing looking climbs, after numerous calls to my ice climbing buddies, I couldn’t rally anyone for a mission. ¬†I also couldn’t stop thinking about this big slice of snow that I had spotted striking through one of the big walls in the valley. I knew some of my kayak buddies were planning to paddle but most of them also ski, so I decided to shoot them a pic of the couloir and just said simply, “Ski in the morning and kayak in the afternoon. It’s a win-win and a short approach.”

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Since it was early in the season for my kayak buddies, it had been months since they had been on a Mulkey mission. The memories of suffering during the summer were long forgotten and I was able to talk them into the mission pretty easily. Despite their grumbling about there being no snow on the South Fork, I had them loaded in the truck. I was even able to talk local skier, Justin Hawkins, into coming though he had never heard of anyone skiing in the South Fork.

Justin Hawkins making the 30 minute approach seem a little bit further

Justin Hawkins making the 30 minute approach seem a little bit further

I am often amazed by what I am able to talk people into doing, given how bad my idea often sounds at first. Thankfully, some people are just willing to sign up for an adventure and their curiosity gets the best of them. I went from worrying about finding a partner to having an entire crew psyched to get after it.

Our Crew. Left to right

The Crew. Left to right – Justin Hawkins, Nate Winning, Matt McFadden, Aaron Mulkey, Nathan Danforth

As soon we got out of the car, a few people instantly threw fits, as usual. “It’s farther than you said it was,” “This is stupid,” and ” I can’t believe I came up here.”

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As we got closer, the team’s attitude started to get better and the stoke began to rise.

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Justin leading the charge

Nola was not so psyched that she couldn't get fresh tracks from the top

Nola was not so psyched that she couldn’t get fresh tracks from the top

 

Starting to rise above the valley floor

Starting to rise above the valley floor

After a few steps into the couloir, the team was getting super psyched and a few even said “Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea.”

Matt was pretty happy that he was spending his birthday on a first descent in some amazing powder

Matt was pretty happy that he was spending his birthday on a first descent in some amazing powder

 

Nate realizing Mulkey Missions do pay off

Nate realizing Mulkey Missions do pay off

Justing digging a pit to check the avy concerns

Justing digging a pit to check the avy concerns

We dug a pit to check the avy concerns and everything checked out really good. We were a bit worried about the upper reaches of the couloir, but the snowpack seemed very stable. We measured the snowpack in the couloir at 114 inches, which is impressive given the elevation of about 7,000′.

Getting steeper and deeper

Getting steeper and deeper

Getting towards the top. One of the most amazing views.

Getting towards the top. One of the most amazing views.

 

You can see us by the red dot

You can see us by the red dot

Once at the top everyone was pretty excited to lay some treats down the massive deep couloir

Once at the top everyone was pretty excited to lay some treats down the massive deep couloir

We sat for a bit, took in the views and realized it could be many many years before the couloir is ever skied again.

Love these skis and steep powder

Love these skis and steep powder

 

Nate enjoying some of the first turns

Nate enjoying some of the first turns

This next section was by far the best. Nate with a big smile on his face

This next section was by far the best. Nate with a big smile on his face

 

Nate Winning getting his turn

Nate Winning getting his turn

This was by far the crux section of the couloir to navigate some house size boulders through the steepest section and most technical.

This was by far the crux section of the couloir to navigate–house size boulders through the steepest section and most the technical skiing. Justin working his way down this section¬†

Nate enjoying the tight section of the couloir

Nate enjoying the tight section of the couloir

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Nate taking in the views and psyched on the days adventure.

Nate taking in the views and psyched on the day’s adventure.

At the bottom, everyone was on a serious high and amazed by the great skiing in an amazing setting. As the group always says, every now and then I have a successful Mulkey Mission. I would like to say my success rate is higher than “Every now and then,” but I suppose as long as these guys keep signing up for missions, I’m not complaining. I think I got some extra credit to start the kayaking season so it’s time to come up with the next big idea.

A good crew and gorgeous day in the South Fork Valley, Wyoming

A good crew and gorgeous day in the South Fork Valley, Wyoming

Nate still stoked

Nate still stoked

 

Matt got a memorable birthday present.

Matt got a memorable birthday present.

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I am constantly amazed by this impressive valley. It never lets me down. I am stoked for what is next to come in this amazing arena.

 

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