First Ski Descent of North Face of the Grand Teton

Brendan O'Neill partway down Third Ledge on the Grand Teton's north face, during the first ski descent

Brendan O'Neill partway down Third Ledge on the Grand Teton's north face, during the first ski descent. Photo by Greg Collins

Teton guides Greg Collins and Brendan O'Neill have completed the first ski descent of the north face of the Grand Teton, one of the Lower 48's steepest and biggest alpine walls. On March 31, the two skied the large majority of the nearly 3,000-foot face, linking narrow ramps and snow-covered ledges.

"We both had individually climbed and guided the Direct North Face several times, and I had climbed it in winter and did a new route, The Golden Pillar," Collins said. "We realized there was potential for good skiing on it."

Greg Collins contemplates the next step on the north face.

Greg Collins contemplates the next step on the north face. Photo by Brendan O'Neill

The two climbed the 13,770-foot peak's "normal" ski mountaineering route on the south side, linking the Tepee Glacier and the Stettner, Chevy, and Ford couloirs, in about seven hours from the road. Collins said they climbed unroped with one tool each, finding foot-deep snow above the Ford Couloir. From the top, they downclimbed windswept bare rock and icy snow to the top of the "V" on the north face, then rappelled over the standard route's crux Pendulum Pitch to reach Third Ledge. They started skiing on an exposed "5.5 slab," following Third Ledge to Second Ledge (both narrow, ca. 40-degree ramps) "on very steep, very exposed, soft snow."

The north face of the Grand, with the descent route marked

The north face of the Grand, with the descent route marked. Photo by Tom Turiano /

At the bottom of Second Ledge, they rappelled near-vertical rock to First Ledge and skied 1,000 feet down this ramp to the top of the "Guano Chimney." Out of skiable terrain, they cramponed back up the ramp, and then rappelled to the Grandstand, the large buttress below the Grand Teton's north ridge. From here, they skied down the very steep Grandstand and Teton Glacier, and then out crusty snow to the car. The total descent to the valley floor was more than 7,000 vertical feet.

"We needed and had a warm, calm day," Collins said. "All the surrounding sunlit snow was avalanching in thunderous wet slabs, but in the shade of the face the snow was mostly soft and stable."

Greg Collins on the lower face.

Greg Collins on the lower face. Photo by Brendan O'Neill

The two men did a total of 10 rappels with one rope, but said they probably could have limited the raps to six or seven with a longer rope. They did not belay any of the skiing. O'Neill told the Jackson Hole News & Guide that the Direct North Face was as "technical a ski descent as there probably is."

From car to car, the day took 15 hours. "It was difficult, we were worked," Collins said. "Brendan is a beast."

Date of descent: March 31, 2013

Sources: Greg Collins, Jackson Hole News & Guide, Tom Turiano / Teton Skiing


Skiing the Grandstand

The Grandstand formation, below the north face, is very steep but has more space and better coverage for skiing. Mt. Owens is on the right. Photo by Brendan O'Neill


Previous Comments

Way to go Greg and Brendan! super sick line, you guys are killing it, and you are super-heros in the ski world! so stoked!

O.G. Bobby Pinwheel - 04/18/2013 1:21:16

aweome gentlemen!! in the true spirit of bill briggs!! great job...

Ben - 04/18/2013 1:14:59


aLL COLLINA - 04/16/2013 1:38:13

You've got to be kidding me with all these nonsense comments. There's a good chance if one of these haters tried it they would wind up dead or crying for a helicopter.

laidbacklemon - 04/16/2013 11:18:42

@MarkyMark. The point is, there's already been action.. not merely side-slipping a series of ramps between rappels. YMMV.

Samuel F - 04/13/2013 12:24:17

What a cool line! Way to get after it!

Lee - 04/12/2013 9:54:00

to all; side slipping is not really skiing

ingemar stenmark - 04/12/2013 3:10:31

A.) SaWEEEET Line. B.) Screw the Mags and the Papers. Do it cause you love it not because you want to brag about it. C.) I wish I was there with ya.

Sammy Swan - 04/12/2013 2:01:07

For the record, these skiers did not contact Climbing. We reached out to them for the story after seeing a newspaper report about the descent.

Climbing Staff - 04/12/2013 1:36:15

Cascadians, no one said you werent badd ass. Quit cryin' about you or your buddies not getting in the mags. Send an email. Dial your phone. If you are so tough, repeat this sketch-fest, and send some video, they will post it. Little less talk, little more action.

Marky Mark - 04/12/2013 12:40:02

Impressive ski line, requiring some serious mountain skills.

Andy Traslin - 04/12/2013 10:05:52

Damn too bad a bunch of moldy emos sulking in the rain need to try to steal the heat of your flame - nice work boys! It's interesting how easily the 15 hour timeline gets lost in the mission...aren't you too old for this kinda shit? I think it's time for ya'll to go longboarding in ol' Mex!

Toby - 04/11/2013 9:39:13

Nice work fellas, very impressive! As to the rest of the comments, perhaps one day props will just be given, rather than seeking in a bit of personal spray. Maybe that is just dreaming?

AT - 04/11/2013 9:04:26

Hats off for skiing exposure, but at what point to we call it too contrived to be newsworthy? I agree with Bob, there are lots of ski descents in the Cascades that go unnoticed that aren't contrived (N Face of Big Four, American Border Peak, Lincoln Peak - X-Couloir, NW Face of Black Peak, E Face of Graybeard, etc).

Samuel F - 04/11/2013 8:27:49

Mike, N. Face of Shuksan = totally newsworthy. Why didn't you immediately email all the mags? You could've been famous!!! ;-)

Colin - 04/11/2013 5:51:12

Robert, The North Face of Mt Shuksan, first skied in 1981, is not a newsworthy ski descent. It was descended by at least 12 skiers (including me) the same week this was skied on the Grand.

Mike Dahlquist - 04/11/2013 4:12:34

What an incredible descent! Too bad Climbing, after all these years, did not employed journalistic standards. There were several news worthy ski descents in The North Cascades this year as well, which of course go unreported. Personally I think skiing down a Triple Couloir on Dragontail, North Face of Shuksan or North Face of Big Four all should get some press time. It would be advisable to visit some web sites for such info, instead just base your "journalism" on what people send you. A great descent nevertheless!!

Robert Rogoz (aka Polishbob) - 04/11/2013 12:55:50


Ben - 04/11/2013 11:30:24