Grand Teton

cover photo
Aug 29, 2019 - Sep 02, 2019

Grand Teton camp & climb

Arrived in Salt Lake city late Thursday for the labor day holiday weekend. Andre chose the destination as a climb he had wanted to do for a long time. Drove rental car from SLC to campground outside of town. Next morning had breakfast at rustic Utah diner filled with old farmers then drove through Idaho and into Wyoming along scenic Snake River, arriving in Jackson at lunchtime. Got a good meal in the town square with all the other posh tourists then headed into the Grand Teton National Park to inquire about permits for the Grand Teton climb. Despite busy weekend we got a permit for campsite near base of the climb (the Morraine) for the following night. Got good beta on the climbing route and approach from the rangers. Had time to kill so found a campground outside the park (huge - had 300+ spots!) then drove north to Yellowstone Park. Only about 1.5 hours drive north, entered Yellowstone and went to the Old Faithful geyser. Nothing too impressive but waited about 1 hour for the geyser to do its thing then headed back to camp. Arrived after dark and setup camp. Sat morning knew we had plenty of time for the approach hike so took our time getting ready. Drove into Jackson for breakfast & coffee & last minute gear at the mountain shop. Drove into the parking lot at trailhead and surpised to find it almost completely full. Spotted a lot of climbers getting ready so figured we would have plenty of company on the climb - a good thing when you don't know the route. With very heavy packs, we started the hike to the campsite from ~ 6300 ft. Nice sunny day and lots of picturesque scenery to look at on the hike up. Made it to camp in just under 6 hours at ~ 11,000 ft.

From our camp at the Morraine we could see a bit of the Grand Teton above. Fortunately this time of year the route was snow and ice-free, making it considerably easier. Unfortunately the combination of wind and my tent's shitty rainfly construction made for unending noise that prevented me from getting any sleep that night. By the time I was seeing headlamps pass our tent, I knew it was time to give up on sleep and get ready for the day's climb.

We got ready at about 4:30 am but didn't leave camp until 5:30 due to logistics of preparing in darkness. With headlamps on helmets we joined the procession of lights tracing the path up the Morraine to the Lower Saddle. After some rock scrambling we reached a headwall fitted with knotted ropes to aid the climb. From the headwall we reached the Lower Saddle with NW & SE views. There were a few semi-permanent camps setup there for the guide services. By dawn we were approaching the first part of the Grand Teton that requred some class 4 scrambling. The large groups were thinning as each went on different routes to the summit. Our chosen route was the Owen-Spalding route, technically the easiest (when not icey) route at 5.4 which ascends from the West face of the Grand Teton (or towards the West, whatever). Followed an older couple who looked like they knew the route. Made a traverse across exposed but easy slab for the 1st technical move. Once above the slab ascended gullies filled with loose rock to the Upper Saddle where the roped climbing begins.

There was a line to the climbing route and it was very windy at our elevation so everyone hunkered down in their parkas and waited for their turn, trying to keep warm. I switched to my climbing shoes but kept the hiking socks on! Once it was our turn, we roped up and I belayed Andre as he quickly disappeared around the face on the 1st pitch traverse. I followed and saw the first move was called a "belly roll" as you start crawling between overhanging rock then rolling your feet over & down and making your way across the exposed face (with good handholds). Didn't feel as scary as the route description anyways. Next pitch was another traverse named the "belly crawl" I think b/c you just saueeze yourself between rock without much room on either side. Short & easy. Followed by a more difficult move into a chimney which I struggled with for some time. After that chimney it was more or less easy climbing - some were doing it without rope (!) and some were roped together (simul-climb?) We just took it easy and made our way up a few snort pitches at a time until we got to a section where scrambling made more sense - which we did until reaching the peak. The peak itself was not big and we had to share it with 4 - 5 other groups. The views were OK nothing spectacular but it was nice to feel the sun's warmth and be able to rest for a few. We downclimbed to a rappel anchor, rap'd that then Andre scouted around for the tne next rap station, which took some time. Once found we got ready for the big rappel with ended with 60 ft of free hanging, meaning there was nothing for feet to put weight on, you are hanging and lowering yourself, which is quite a weird feeling at first. Andre got a good gopro video of me doing it. This rappel left us at the beginning of the climb where I had left my hiking boots. Swapped out climbing shoes for boots and we made our way down the gullies. By then the urge to poo had become considerable and I was activley looking for spots to relieve myself - unfortunately there were a few groups with us and the route was not exactly conducive to exploring. We found a rappel station above the tricky slab and were able to make 2 raps down to the beginning of the scramble. From there I quickly found a spot and used the cool wag bag given to me by the ranger. Feeling much better, but day was getting late & we didn't make it back to camp until after 6 so decided to stay at our camp and leave early Monday morning. We didn't have a permit for 2 nights but figured we could just say were too exhausted to leave that day :) Unfortunately my water filter had stopped working and we were relying on my water purifier tablets which I had lost somehow during the climb. Without a means to safe drinking water, we almost considered breaking camp and hiking out that night, but I was too tired to attempt it and thought we could boil enough drinking water to make it. Spent an hour boiling water then decided to try the water filter one last time. Lo & behold it started working like a charm ??! So we dumped the questionable boiled water and filled up on nice cold water. This time I didn't care about the wind b/c there was no way I was not going to get sleep after 2 days of arduous physical activity. I managed to get some good zs in and we got to breaking camp around 6:30.

Broke camp and descended the 6K+ feet to reach the car before noon. Found a shower facility in Jackson and got cleaned up which felt pretty great. Back to town for a nice lunch + beer then to the car for the long drive back to SLC.

Got to airport in time to relax in the Delta sky lounge thanks to Andre's access. LAX was the usual zoo at 10pm and it took over an hour to get a taxi and get out of the airport.

Distance~7 miles
Highest ElevationGrand Teton (13700 ft)
JurisdictionGrand Teton National Park
TrailheadLupine Meadows