Sunday, July 16, 2006

Grand Teton

My mountain climbing trip to Peru fell through this year, so I planned another trip back to the Tetons of Wyoming. This was my 5th trip to the Tetons and Marty's 4th trip in a 6 year span. We hooked up with Greg and Braden (Peter's friends) [sorry Pete, but you were in Spain] and we had our sites set on climbing the Grand Teton via the Petzoldt Ridge. Monday July 10th we left Midway after spending the night with my parents and drove to the Jackson Hole Valley. We made a stop in Star Valley in Wyoming to fuel the truck and get a snack. Someone in Star Valley can make a very good cinnamon roll! The hike from the Lupine Meadows trailhead up into Garnet Canyon was grueling and hot, but with each step upwards the temperature dropped and the air thinned. The Tetons still had a fair amount of snow on the peaks, but the lower forests were green and full of wildflowers. As we approached the Lower Saddle (a misnomer if ever there was one....The Lower Saddle is at 11,700 feet) the skies began to darken and the afternoon thunderstorms arrived. Marty and I scrambled up the last 500 feet in strong winds and a drenching rain. It was with some joy that we came up on the Ranger's Hut and found our friend Dave Bywater waiting for us. He quickly took us in to the hut and provided us with warm down jackets and hot chocolate. His partner (and fellow "Climbing Ranger") Helen let us wait out the storm and cook our dinner in the comfort of this shelter at the Lower Saddle. Somewhere out in the storm was Greg and Braden. We were concerned about them, but not enough to go looking for them. It turns out that they had hunkered down under a big rock and cooked dinner and waited out the storm. They arrived to the Lower Saddle dry and refreshed. We erected our tents. Dave provided us with the "Himalayan Hotel" a expedition-style tent that I could nearly stand up in. He also gave us large full thickness therma-rests and down sleeping bags to use during our 2 night stay at the Lower Saddle. This lightened our packs considerably and made the trip up the Grand a little more enjoyable. We turned into "bed" early, but did not get much sleep because the wind really howled all night long.
Our goal was to get up a 5 am and be on the trail 30 minutes later, but with the high winds and sleepless night, we got started an hour late. The skies were clear, but the wind chill made it seem near the freezing point and we were on the shady side of the mountain. Within another hour we were at the base of the Petzoldt ridge trying to figure out which crack system was the correct line for the climb. The first part of the ridge was vertical and looked much more difficult that the description in the guide book. I soon chose a "line" and began to scramble up the rock. Two hundred feet later we found ourselves on a sloping ledge and at the base of a difficult looking chimney. Here we encountered an old rusty piton with some weathered webbing. Did this mean we were on the right route or was it a "bail anchor"? We studied the rock above for some time, but we couldn't come to a consensus and it looked very committing and difficult. It was at this point in time that we decided to bail. If we went any higher it would be very difficult if not impossible to abandon the climb. Thirty minutes later we were all back to the base of the ridge. It was still cold and windy, but the sun was starting to make it's way around the mountain. I then suggested that we change our plans and attempt to climb the Grand via another route. Marty and I had previously climbed the Exum Ridge and I had much more confidence in finding this route to the summit. The Upper Exum Ridge also had a more reasonable rating (5.4) and was well within our ability.
A couple of hours later we were roped up again and climbing the Exum Ridge starting at "Wall Street" and famous ledge that gave us access to the exciting Upper Exum Ridge on the top 1500 feet of this mountain peak. As I lead across the exposed upper Wall Street ledge and onto the Exum Ridge the sun came out and the wind began to dye down. Life was good!
Over the next couple of hours we climbed the ridge to the peak. I lead some of the pitches and Greg lead some, but for the most part Marty and I climbed simultaneously while being tied in together on the same rope. We enjoyed several minutes on the summit and took some photos and looked around at the rest of the Teton Range and valleys below. The descent, as expected, only took a couple of hours and did involve 2 rappells. The afternoon nap in our tents was refreshing. However, the afternoon thunderstorm this day was particularly fierce and lasted well into the evening. We just hunkered down in the tent and cooked our dinners and rested. Marty brought his ipod and we enjoyed watching a few films and music videos while we passed the time during the storm.
The next morning we packed up and hiked out. I was considering climbing another ridge in Garnet Canyon...but no one else in the group wanted to join me. I must admit that it would have been physically demanding to attempt another climb, especially one that was considerably more difficult. It was just as well that we finished our climb on a good note and arrived back to the Teton Valley in good time with some physical reserve. We had dinner at a restaurant in Jackson Hole that evening with several of the climbing rangers. Dave put us up in his cabin for the night. Except for the mice waking me up a couple of times during the night we had a good night's rest. Marty and I then departed for Southern Idaho early the next morning. We were headed for City of Rocks, another great climbing destination.
City of Rocks was fun and we got in some great climbing on the granite walls and domes. Most of the climbs were 120 feet in height or less. We camped out again, but had only clear skies and perfect temperatures. Before leaving the area, Mart and I showered up and ate at the local Merc in the very small town of Almo. We stopped in at Uncle Dale's house in Farr West on the way home, but didn't find anyone there. Now that Marty can drive, it is much more tolerable to drive long distances. He is getting more experience with each trip that we take. I was glad to have Mart along once again, but he has given me notice that he may not agree to join me on every climbing trip in the future. I had a great time and I think Marty did too.