Liberating the Grand

Cold Front

Wyoming boasts the first woman governor, the first all-women town council, and the first government to give women the vote, but when it comes to ski mountaineering in the Teton state, equality has been a long time coming. In the 32 years following Bill Briggs 1971 first descent of 13,770-foot Grand Teton, only one womanpro skier Kristen Ulmer in 1997 has repeated the feat. This, despite the fact that more than 150 men have taken the challenge. That all changed last June, however, when Jackson locals Carina à–stberg and Kit DesLauriers increased the number of womens descents on the 50-degree, couloir-striped Grand by 200 percent in just one week.

à–stberg, 27, was the first to succeed. Encountering a line only a ski-length wide in the uppermost Ford Couloir, she carved the pitchand most of the remaining routebelayed by her husband, Exum Mountain Guide Mark Newcomb. DesLauriers threw down the gauntlet a few days later, eschewing husband Robs offer to keep her on a rope through the chute. I didnt even think about skiing it on belay, says the 33-year-old stonemason. I just said, No, I can ski this, and I kept linking turns. From the Ford, both women rappelled through the Chevy and Stettner couloirs, then sliced perfect cream-cheese corn to the bottom of the Teepee Glacier.

à–stberg and DesLauriers were successful, but two other women, AJ Cargill and Ellie Pryor, launched ski bids last summer as well. That means nearly a third of the 15 attempts on the Grand last season were made by women. Nonetheless, they all insist that they werent motivated by womens lib bragging rights. I didnt even know I was only the second woman until we came down and Mark said, Oh, by the way says à–stberg. For me thats irrelevant. I did it because it was fun.