Still my favourite spot
Tetons 2022

Click on images to see medium size or view as slideshow All images © CPBL 2022 unless otherwise stated
In 2002-2003, I lived for a while at the Teton Science School, nestled against the Gros Ventres in an inholding inside the Grand Teton National Park. This place and particularly the mountain range across the valley, seared itself into my heart. It keeps drawing us back.
What is it that is so special about the Tetons?!? We are not the only ones who make a lifetime habit of coming here.
This visit was a story of a car, of Cabin 6, and of Aleksa,
and, briefly, Michele and Shannon (and Craig) too!
In July 2022 we packed our clothes
and climbing gear
and upon hearing the words "Go to Grand Teton Climbers Ranch," our trusty magic-car plotted a 12-supercharger, 3500 km route to western Wyoming and it promptly took off for the first supercharger, in Kingston.
Arriving two and a half days later, I made a first, short acclimatization run above the town of Jackson,
which is nestled at the south end of the broad valley called Jackson Hole, carrying the Snake River and flanked by the Tetons to the west and the Gros Ventres to the East.
Amphitheatre Lake and the South Teton helped me complete my acclimatization sequence. If you avoid sunscreen, then you can swim in mountain lakes with less concern about contaminating them.
Some bits don't work like they used to, and some just need some re-initiation to footwear and intensive use.
Aleksandra and I warmed up our rock and rope work (and close bear encounter skills) ...
... on a variant of the East Ridge of Disappointment Peak, ... [Photo credit: thanks Evan Matthews!]
... joining the standard route for its delectable summit crack. [Photo credit: thanks Evan Matthews!]
The scenic East Ridge is a short four rope lengths, in two steps, and precedes a long scramble ...
... to the summit of Disappointment Peak.
Along the way we made some friends.
The descent offered a skinny dip in Amphitheatre Lake.
Later, Aleksa cooled her heels after ankle troubles got in the way of another climb.
Next, Bryan and I made a start in Cascade Canyon, but were less stubborn than the fog.
Many adventures start with the 1500 m climb up Garnet Canyon, ...
... usually in time for sunrise.
Aleksa is a new (adult-onset!) T1D patient and we've taken on the T1D-grit diet. So backcountry food has transformed. Here's an until-recently-pescaterian eating nothing but fried bacon for breakfast.
Our first overnight adventure turned out to become more than we bargained for.
We climbed a bit of snow to gain a ramp, and the start of the Petzoldt ...
... and the climbing was nice, ...
... but we soon realized we were on the Direct Petzoldt, and thereafter chose the double roof variation.
Things went rather well ...
though it meant we were doing 7 pitches up to 5.9 rather than 5 pitches up to 5.5.
Nice stance, Aleksa.
The top of the Petzoldt ridge is somewhat confusingly a minor bump dwarfed by higher ridges that continue up.
A quick rappel gave us our next choice: snow climb up the Ford Couloir rather than joining the Exum. Aleksandra led off quickly...
But a rope was ultimately in order for three pitches, ...
until we joined the rock again, ...
for a mix of scrambling ...
... and roped travel
to join the upper Exum,
which is a playground of impeccable rock leading to the Grand's summit.
Descending to the Upper Saddle, ...
... and to the Lower Saddle ...
... was all very well, but our extra adventures had not been well received by the clock. My partner was unimpressed with what lay ahead:
a long descent to Moraine camp, packing up, and a benighted, walk-sleeping march out, for a 23-hour climbing day.
(Can you explain the sunset shadow?)
A highlight on our way out was this Northern saw-whet, who seemed for a long minute quite unperturbed by us.
The running in the Tetons is world class,
and our next assignment was a run up Cascade Canyon
to Lake Solitude and
back via Paintbrush Divide.
On some mornings you can see the Wind River range from Garnet Canyon. Sunrise put Bryan and me near Open Book on Grunt Arête.
The Open Book is an obvious feature from the top of the maintained trail.
A fall on this climb gave us some pause about some of our other ambitions for this year.
But the climb is excellent and we had it to ourselves.
Soon we were back for more, ...
... this time up the endless Symmetry Couloir.
I had last climbed Symmetry Spire's SW ridge in 2002 with someone I didn't know. (Bad idea.) Luckily, this time I knew my partner like none other.
The top of Symmetry is lovely,
as is Hanging Canyon,
but not the gully descent to get to it.
In between climbs, and when not in town taking a work day at a co-work office, our home was the GTCR.
From our front porch, we could see a family of ospreys on its nest.
From the communal kitchen, we could watch sandhill cranes, moose, and elk on the slope above.
So far, I don't know anywhere else like this.
Mt Owen awaited us next, ...
... a new peak for Aleksa and one which Bryan and I hadn't visited since 2003.
Sunrise found us above Amphitheatre Lake,
where a sneaky descent drops to an improbably large terminal moraine ...
... and some large boulder navigation.
We apologized about the climate to the Teton Glacier ...
... did some token still-on-glacier erratic bouldering, ...
... and started up the snow-free Koven couloir.
This was much more friendly than we'd feared, ...
and no ropes were unfurled before gaining the half-way ledge.
We were pretty content with our progress.
Next followed some remnant snow,
in which we kicked steps
before continuing a scramble to the East ridge.
More scrambling on pleasant (when dry) terrain
led to another short snow climb,
(more steps, some chopped).
The weather forecast was anomalously secure for the day, with near zero chance of rain or lightning. But one must never become complacent when making good time early on.
The ropes came out ...
... for the "direct" start to the ridge, followed by a curious bold step-around lead.
After that, Aleksa just took off up the 5.6 slab pitch,
so we had to follow.
Next was Bryan's lead -- up an amazing summit pitch,
which starts with a fun step-across from this horn/flake. Behind Aleksa lies the North Face, which had been on Bryan and my agenda before the trip began.
Our beloved Teewinot looks both familar and different from above, ...
and the extraordinary terminal moraine of the remnant Teton Glacier now looks like another diminutive Schoolroom.
We coiled ropes on the summit. Well done, Aleksa!! But remember what I said about celebrating too early?
You too, Bryan.
And you, Chris.
On the summit the entire time we were there sat two canoodling ravens!
The catch was that we planned to take the West Ledges descent, a route requiring "both luck and skill."
Down the Koven chimney, along the ridge ... not too far, not too soon ...
Hours later, we were still in the vertical maze of descent, scouting for the next unlikely downclimb or rappel. Increasingly we were doomed to darkness. And when darkness strikes, everything slows down by a considerable multiple. The descent into Valhalla Canyon took us all afternoon and evening ...
and a bushwhack to Cascade Creek well into the night. Our final step to get to a maintained trail was fording the creek. But then 8 km of trail made for a 25-hour day of climbing.
Before scattering from the Hole, we had one more piece of business:
to have Jorge visit the summit of the Grand.
Two nights at the Lower Saddle, ...
... combined with a confined-to-tent storm made for some good socializing, ...
... as well as a leisurely schedule for navigating to the Upper Saddle,
bypassing the crowds on O-S,
... and a good-bye visit to the top of the range.
We made many amazing new friends at the Ranch ... and many in the wild, too: a variant of nearly-black marmots, ...
some enormous crickets, ...
endless flowers, including fireweed ...
and paintbrush, ...
so many berries!!, ...
Blue grouse, ...
moths, alone and light-coloured, but sometimes dark-coloured and in the millions, butterflies in the millions and being gorged on by ravens, bears, moose, elk, ... and so much else.
I'm certainly willing in principle to get satiated with this place and to go somewhere else for vacation. But for the moment, I would say: we'll be back again soon.
Thank you, Aleksa!