The Tetons offer some of the most spectacular alpine routs in the United States, as any one who has ever been in Tetons knows. August is normally the best time to climb in Western Wyoming because it is the driest month. That was not the case in early August of 2002. Storms drove us off the mountain on three of the four climbs Will and I attempted last year. On the fourth climb, one of us was "frozen off." If you plan to climb the Grand, even in August, it is a good idea to take your fleece thermals, a hat and gloves. Thirty mile per hour winds and 27 degrees can be very unpleasant. (Note) If you are climbing with a 205 lb. 18 year old that is still growing, it may not be wise to plan on camping for six straight nights. We carried at least 25 lbs. of food up the mountain. That is in addition to all our camping gear, climbing gear and two 11mm ropes. We came back with one package of dehydrated omelet, and about half a cup of granola, and that is not an exaggeration. The following is short outline of our week:
DAY ONE: We ate breakfast at the Chuck wagon in Moose, went back to the "Climbers Ranch," sorted our gear and headed up Garnet Canyon. Unfortunately no campsites were available in the Meadows so we had to camp at the Platforms (8,960 ft) for two nights. We set up camp and explored the area and did a little bouldering.
DAY TWO: We hiked up the north fork, past Spalding Falls, to the Lower Saddle at 11,600+ feet. After a short rest we headed for the North Ridge route up the Middle. At 5.6 we thought this would be a good warm up climb. Even as we were heading up the south end of the saddle to start the climb low dark clouds were moving in form Idaho. As anyone who climbs in the Tetons knows, sometimes, half the challenge is finding the route and sometimes staying on it. The north ridge was however straightforward and easy to follow with the guidebook. By the time we completed the second pitch or third pitch (counting each time we roped up) the weather was getting scary. We went a little further, took a couple of pictures and headed down. We dropped off our gear in one of the metal boxes provided by the park service on the saddle so we would not have to hall it back up tomorrow. With thunder in the distance we climbed down the cliff band below the saddle and literally ran down the trail through the moraine and the switchbacks by Spalding Falls. We were occasionally pelted by sleet and light rain while thunder continued in the distance but the storm never hit Garnet Canyon. We were a little tired that night.
Day Three: Of course, the most spectacular day we had while on the mountain was the day we moved camp form the Platforms to the saddle. The day was crystal clear, winds were calm and by midday it was HOT in the sun. We had camp set up by about 11 am. and Will crawled into the tent and fell asleep. It was too hot to stay in the tent so he came out, made a pallet outside and went back to sleep. About 2 PM I woke him and convinced him we needed to go climb part of the Lower Exum today because the weather was expected to deteriorate over the next few days. We hiker over to the traditional start of the climb at the steep ramp up to the start of the chimney pitch. We decided we would need to rope up on the ramp so we might as well do the direct approach from under the chimney. Here are a few pictures from the climb. Yes,we were as hot as we look!
The trail up Garnet Canyon as seen from the Platforms
Will bouldering above the Platforms
Camps in the Meadows with the Middle in the background.
Will on the Moraine with the Lower Saddle and the Cliff band in the background.
Middle Teton Glacier with the bergschrund and crevasses are clearly visible.
Will on the final traverse below the cliff band and saddle.
Will climbing the cliff band with a very heavy pack.
Looking down on the terminal moraine from the lower saddle. Note the tents in the enlarged picture for an indication of scale.
Will and I on the Middle just before retreating. Note the dark clouds moving in behind Will
Will and Me on the Lower Exum. We were about cooked. The temperature in the sun felt like 100.