We had our sights set on the Grand, but our fear of the unknown, threatening weather, a pesimistic Park Ranger and my 40-pound backpack put a stop to that dream. We arrived in Teton Nat’l Park on Friday September 3rd. We were well-fed after a breakfast at The Bunnery, in Jackson and had our hiking shoes tied and water bottles filled. We went to the Ranger Station to get our camping permit. The campsite we wanted was taken, so we had to settle for the Moraine-which we hear is windy and rocky-impossible to get any rest. The Ranger (Ally was her name) told us of forecasts for snow that night which would turn the easiest route, the Owen-Spalding Route, into the hardest route; requiring cramp-ons, ice axes, and experience. She gave us our permit and told us we could go, “just keep in mind that you probably won’t make it to the top.” Well that completely let the air our of our sails.
So we talked it over on the side of the road, gazing up at the ominous Tetons. “We” being me, Pitt, my dad-Scott, and my brother-Mike. We all decided, thanks to Ally’s warnings, that we’d rather not commit to something so much larger and stronger than us at that moment. So we settled on 2 day hikes, first to Amphitheater Lake giving us amazing views of the mountains and valley below and the next day Teewinot. The Grand’s little sister; 12,325 feet about sea level. It’s the peak overlooking Jenny Lake.
The hike to the lake was very enjoyable and we flew up that trail. We saw a bear and lots of deer. Pitt jumped in the lake and we had fun exploring. We had burgers and fries for dinner in Jackson. We almost wanted to just go home that night, but our team leader, Pitt, had bigger plans for us and encouraged us to stay and hike Teewinot the next day.
Up at 5:30 am, on the trail by 6:30. Looking up at that big mountain, I really didn’t think we would make it that day. My knee was giving me terrible pain every step of the way and we weren’t feeling very motivated to start out. But shortly into the hike I think our group felt energized by our great surroundings. We had enjoyed a beautiful sunrise, hiked near a waterfall, spotted another large animal enjoying breakfast in the bushes-we assume it was a bear but never saw exactly what it was, and the weather was turning out to be perfect for a strenuous hike-not too hot, not too cold. I made sure we kept our pace leisurely and stopped frequently to snack and talk. The hike is only 2.5 miles, but increases 5,500 feet in elevation. Real climbers and alpinists use it as a training route, summiting in 3 hours. Thanks to our slow and steady pace, we hit the peak in 6 hours-haha. The trail was steep switchbacks until you got to a rock field where the trail disappeared and you just picked your own way up. It was nothing too technical, some rock climbing-type moves but mostly just scrambling up rocks for 2 hours above 10,000 feet. It was tiring! We wore helmets because of the jagged rocks and steep grade. If you missed a step, you were a-goner.
We were about 500 feet to the top and I was DONE, I wanted to quit and go home so bad! Well, if you’ve ever done anything with Pitt, you know that he won’t ever let you quit. He’s the best coach. He knows when to cheer me on and help out, and he knows when to back off and let me go my own pace. Mike and my dad said they didn’t want to go to the top without me, so they encouraged me to keep going. Dad told me just to go 3 more feet, so I did. Then 3 more feet, I did that too. And pretty soon, I/we were hollering and cheering from the top. It was awesome to be up in the air with the massive Teton peaks right next to us. The cliffs on either side of us were straight down and scary! It was great! The obsession with The Tetons continues. This was about my max, so I don’t know if I’ll ever lasso The Grand! We’ll have to wait for next year. I’m not going to tell you about coming down, because it was probably worse than going up. Dad said he felt like he was walking on noodles, I agreed, painful noodles with black and blue toenails!
(Click on the pictures to see them larger)