No shortage of untouched pow in the Teton Wilderness Thoroughfare. Ming T Poon.
Trekking into the Teton Wilderness Thoroughfare is not for the light-hearted. Nestled into the Southeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park and the Teton Wilderness is a swath of land considered to be one of the most remote places in the 48 contiguous states. 25 miles from any developed road, it demands a multi-day expedition in order to see what’s hidden underneath the surface. The long haul is worth the effort, though. Once within the Thoroughfare, the mark of human civilization is absent. Instead, travelers are immersed in 528,238 acres of untouched wilderness. And that’s only one piece of the puzzle. The area is also part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which encompasses over 20 million acres. Wildlife—bears, wolves, moose, and elk—roam freely. The mountains of the Absaroka Range, which extend from Livingston, Montana to Dubois, Wyoming, stretch far beyond the horizon. The area also sits on the Continental Divide, whose mountains have some additional magic here too. One particular stream, Two Ocean Creek, is the only creek in America that eventually flows into both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
This land has captured the imagination of humans for the last 10,000 years. The Shoshone, Lakota, Crow, and Northern Cheyenne tribes were the first to inhabit the region. As settlers ventured farther West, they were naturally allured by its wild mystique. Because of its close proximity to America’s first National Park—Yellowstone—it became the first parcel of wilderness to be permanently protected in 1891. In 1964, Congress took these protections a step further with the passage of the Wilderness Act. This monumental act preserved over 100 million acres of federal land in the hopes that “the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
There are only two ways into the Thoroughfare: walking or horseback. Or in the case of Bryan Iguchi, Travis Rice, and Jeremy Jones, their foot-powered approach was facilitated by splitboarding. Multi-day foot-powered snowboard expeditions have become Jones’ bread and butter. In fact, he’s pioneered much of them. It began three years ago with a six-day mission with Nick Russell, Danny Davis, Kevin Pearce, and Nick Schneider in the Sierra Nevada. That experience gave him the knowledge to push even farther two years later with Elena Hight on a 10-day expedition in the High Sierra, as seen in TGR’s 2018 film Ode to Muir. But this trip would be taking things a step further for Jones. Their team sought to spend 11 days in the backcountry. That’s the longest he’s ever been self-supported and he’d be sharing the experience with two of his closest peers and friends.
Jones and Iguchi have a little fun on the way back to camp. Ming T Poon.
The following is an excerpt from day six of Jeremy Jones' Journal in the Thoroughfare.
Walking back to camp, I thought about how we ended up here.
Guch the most unlikely born in the suburbs of LA, first touched snow at 15. Superstar by 21. An ascent I had a front seat for. 26 spit out of the fire, landing in Jackson. The 1st JH Pro. Sponsors didn't see it. Injuries led to cooking by 30 but always riding. The spotlight finding him again when he was 35 but now it's all about his turns.
Rice is more obvious. Born on the best mountain in the world. Exploded on the scene at 16. I really had a front seat seeing as we had the same sponsor. A fired-up kid ready to break barriers every day.
Despite their long friendship, Iguchi and Jones are rarely able to get out into the mountains together. Ming T Poon.
My internal clock squeaks.
I take my shovel for a walk.
Find some snow.
Not too hard and not too soft.
The tree and I have a talk
My step now has a hop.
Myself Cape Cod born. I showed up to my first race with no expectations and won. Won for two years straight until I turned pro at 16. Just good enough to feed myself and see the world. A passport to the world’s greatest ranges, but my true love has always been freeriding. Hit my stride by 25 and haven’t stopped.
Twenty years later, here we are. Years go by between communicating with Travis. Guch, and I run into without trying to do kids and family. Yes because we are friends but more because our love for snowboarding has waxed not waned.
Before this trip could even get off the ground it required getting Jones, Iguchi, and Rice all corralled in the same place. That’s much easier said than done. Every winter the three snowboarders are traversing the globe or pushing deeper into their home mountain ranges. It’s hard to keep them all in one place, but a long stretch of high pressure in the Teton Wilderness acted as the perfect bait.
This is the first time Jones, Iguchi, and Rice have teamed up for an expedition of this nature. Ming T Poon.
Jones has known Iguchi since he was 16. Their now 30-year-long friendship was an unlikely one. When they first met, Iguchi was the punk rocker of snowboarding, and Jones a quiet racer just getting his footing in the industry. Despite their differences, they got along naturally and regularly crashed on each other’s couches. And as their friendship grew, their careers began to mirror each other. Iguchi also moved to Jackson, Wyoming at a young age and quickly ditched the competition style of riding to dive deeper into freeriding. “It’s funny. I’ve snowboarded with so many different people and gone through so many different riding partners—many of which who have moved on from snowboarding. But Guch just keeps being there at the base of the mountain,” Jones reflected.
With Rice, Jones has been quietly watching his progression since he was a 14-year-old grom ripping around Jackson Hole. Rice’s riding left quickly left an impression on Jones. He could tell that this kid was going places. That big break came at Mammoth Mountain’s Superpark contest in 2001. The 18-year-old floored the crowd with a backside rodeo across a 117-foot gap. From there, Rice’s trajectory was aimed at the moon. Since Jones shared the same sponsor as him, he watched the progression happen in real-time. “I got to watch it all unfold in front of my eyes. He was just this innocent kid from Jackson that became an instant star,” Jones explained. From there, the two frequented each other’s films and rode burly spines together in Alaska.
Iguchi drops in above camp. Ming T Poon Photo.
Collectively, they’ve broken boundaries in the sport and did so by carving their own path, never compromising along the way. “We’ve always been on defined but different paths, but we keep being intertwined because snowboarding remains a huge part of our life. We share this common love of the sport,” Jones said, and it’s why they can constantly pick up where they left off. No matter how far apart they get, snowboarding always brings them back together.
My feet drying by the fire. Liners and boots next to me. Tracks above camp to my right, left, and behind me. The last three days have been nonstop riding culminating in yesterday's dark to dark. The riding has been a steady escalation since the start. We took the high pressure to every end, no wasted steps, and used everything we had. The sunset run was the exclamation point on a day I will never forget.
I dropped in first, hitting speeds normally found in Alaska. A power hack, a few lip airs and more power hacks
Travis does what he always does and took it to the next level with the “best turn of my season” followed by a hundred-foot ollie to a straight run.
Both of us reducing a 2,000-foot face to a handful of turns and airs.
Once they figured out the terrain and its nuances, it was some all time snowboarding. Ming T Poon Photo.
Pure stoke and joy at the bottom. We were getting ready to move toward the camp when Guch informed us that he was on top and dropping.
He dropped into a pink wall and in classic style on sited the perfect line. By the time he reached the valley, the sun was off his line.
We all embraced in disbelief at our good fortune. Total bliss, total stoke.
This day of nirvana that Jones described didn’t come readily to their team. With zero information about the snowpack, the team treaded lightly until they could understand the intricacies of the new zone. At times that lack of information felt paralyzing. They couldn’t strap into their boards until they felt at ease, and for the first three days, the signs were troubling. “We felt like strangers in a strange land. We just needed to have our eyes adjust to the new terrain,” Jones emphasized and it kept them walking to the point that they set up five different basecamps. That precaution was valid. Throughout their walk, they spotted huge natural avalanches in unusual mid-elevation spots. Getting caught in an event like that would be undoubtedly fatal. The second day, while walking on a massive plateau a giant womp emanated from the ground beneath them. If they were in avalanche terrain the resulting slide would have been catastrophic. It forced them to slow down and be strategic with their decision making. They dug pits and tested the snowpack on small inconsequential slopes. The aha moment came when they decided to keep to west-facing slopes. The eastern slopes had been reactive, so they ditched them altogether.
Jones, Iguchi, and director Jon Klaczkiewicz reflect on their adventure in the Teton Wilderness. Ming T Poon Photo.
Once they focused their attention on western aspects, which overall had a deeper snowpack, things instantly felt reassuring. “Once we figured it out, we got to do a lot of fun snowboarding,” Jones explained. “We were following well-worn paths that were originally put in place by the Native Americans. One of our camps was at the head of a valley, which fed into multiple rivers, and it felt like people had been walking through this land for thousands of years.” Following their predecessor's footsteps, they did as those who came before them: not seeking to tame what they found, but tread lightly and learn what they could from the Teton Wilderness Thoroughfare.
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