There’s nothing wrong with parachuting into an area, skiing a renowned peak, and then heading home, but that’s not why Kim Havell came to Wyoming. No, she moved to Jackson a year ago specifically to immerse herself in the ste...
There’s nothing wrong with parachuting into an area, skiing a renowned peak, and then heading home, but that’s not why Kim Havell came to Wyoming. No, she moved to Jackson a year ago specifically to immerse herself in the steep wild playground that is the Tetons, and the list of her descents after just one season in the range is impressive. It includes the Grand, Middle, and South Tetons, village classic Once is Enough, and dozens more. All of which is context for what she did last week: become the first woman to ski the Otter Body route on the Grand.
It was her third attempt. The first was shut down because snowboarder Jeremy Jones was doing the route and it wouldn’t have been cool to tackle it, too. The second was skunked by unexpected weather. But the third try was perfect: a night spent at 11,000 feet led to a 3 a.m. start up the Ford-Stettner route, followed by first turns at 9 a.m.
The Otter Body was first skied by Doug Coombs and Mark Newcomb in June 1996. Coombs had been eyeing it for about five years — Jackson local, Steve Shea, told him, “In the perfect year, at the perfect time, during the perfect hour, skiing the Otter Body is possible. It’s the most aesthetic, direct ski route off the Grand Teton.”
Since then, the Otter Body has seen numerous tracks, but it’s nevertheless a burly, exposed route. When Havel, Brian Warren, and Pete Gaston first dropped onto the East Face, the snow was still a bit firm, though the forecast was for considerable warming. They waited 15 minutes to let it soften, then skied perfect corn on a slope in excess of 50 degrees to the first rappel. In that short span, the mercury was already climbing, ice was melting, and rocks were starting to fall, so they didn’t waste time scooting through the rap and to the Otter Body. Other than a few dodgy anchors and some extremely wet rappels in waterfall conditions, it all went smoothly.
Compared to the more common Ford-Stettner route,in the Otter Body “you’re a lot more exposed,” Havell says. “You’re committed 100 percent. I don’t think you feel the exposure in Ford-Stettner as much. There are pullouts, areas of safety. But once you commit to the Otter Body, you’re committed to the dance. There’s no place to hide or change your mind.”
Being the first woman to ski the Otter Body “was sort of a bonus. First females are tough. I definitely take credit for them because they’re part of our careers in the sport. They bring up the level in the sport, and you try to be on as even ground as you can. But it’s not the reason why I do things.”