A Grand Time

What’s up lambs?

About a week ago, Bryan and his two good pals Jeremy and Cody decided to make it their new tradition to go up the Grand Teton each 4th of July weekend. With the crazy amount of snow we got this winter (818 inches), they boys set out at 11 PM last Saturday night to climb the mountain on Sunday to avoid any avalanche dangers.

Elevation: 13,775 feet

Grand Teton is the high point of the Teton Range, and the second highest peak in the state of Wyoming. No big deal.

Climbers scale this mountain in various lengths of time, anywhere from 2 days to 3 hours and seven minutes (the newest record).  In order to attain such fast times, climbers actually run up the  mountain and free-climb (meaning no ropes) when the terrain gets technical.

Bryan’s PR? 5 hours, 55 minutes, car-to-car. UNREAL. Anything sub-six hours is considered expert.

Here is Bryan’s account of their climb, last Saturday. Enjoy kittens!

So this weekend we once again climbed the Upper Exum Ridge of the Grand Teton on the 4th of July weekend, a new tradition. We started off on a beautiful starry night/morning on Sunday, July 3rd. With the enormous amount of snow we received in Jackson Hole this winter we knew we were in for a long day of climbing on snow and ice but the temperature was perfect and before long we were watching the sunrise from the rocky, wind blown Lower Saddle. We filled water bottles, consumed energy bars, enjoyed the scenery, and prepared for the climb.

When we approached the Wall Street Ledge we noticed from the undisturbed snow that no one had climbed the Upper Exum anytime recently, perhaps not since last season. With the sun now warming our faces we began the climb.

My new La Sportiva Boulder X shoes made for great climbing on the grippy granite rock. The climbing was easy yet exhilarating as we made our way toward the summit. There was quite a bit of snow and ice but we were able to avoid most of it and stay on rock, sometimes doing fun split-like moves between the rock.

A few hours later we were on the summit ridge and eager to rest and take in the view.

At 1:00pm we had reached the summit, basking sunlight we were elated and marveled at our surroundings. The sky was indescribably clear and the snow-capped mountain ranges of Western Wyoming glistened in sunlight.

Before long we started to make our way back down the mountain, through the snow, to the Lower Saddle where we had stashed some beers in the snow earlier in the morning. We glissaded (slid on our butts) down the snow fields and were soon on dry ground at another location where yes, we had stashed a couple more beers. By 5 we were approaching the parking lot and looking forward to seeing our girlfriends and enjoying the warm early evening on the deck at Dornan’s. It was a long but deeply satisfying day with good friends on one of America’s most iconic peaks, The Grand Teton.

Enclosure Ice Coulior

We left the trailhead on Saturday at about 4:30pm and made it to the Lower Saddle by 9:00pm with our HEAVY packs. Not long after we settled into our campsite I quickly fell asleep and stirred little until my alarm went off at 4:00am. We were geared up and ready to go by 5:00 and were able to find the beginning of the (very tricky) Valhalla Traverse. The Valhalla Traverse follows a ledge system which curves around behind The Grand Teton and ends above Valhalla Canyon and on the NW side of The Enclosure and The Grand. However, it wasn’t until 6:00am that we were able to follow the very faint climbers trail and find the cairns marking the way along the traverse. It was by far the most interesting and intense “approach” to a climb I have ever done.

The Valhalla Traverse in and of itself is a mountaineering endeavor. Anywho, by the time we reached The Enclosure Ice Couloir we had long since come to the conclusion that it was too late to climb the Black Ice Couloir safely and this 900 vertical foot strip of ice would be a worthy consolation prize. The Enclosure Ice Couloir is a Grade 4 alpine climb (Emmons Glacier on Mt. Rainier is a Grade 2) involving a difficult approach, route finding, rock climbing, and (of course) significant ice climbing. It took us 3.5 hours to climb the full 5 pitches, about 1,000ft (the last 100 feet was compact snow).

 I lead the 1st, 3rd, and 5th pitch of the climb. We do a leap frog type of maneuver when doing these types of ice climbs for speed and efficiency. It was magnificent climbing and it felt great to be climbing ice again (it is a hard thing to explain but there’s just something about it that is SOOO much fun).

 Two long rappels and some down climbing got us back to the Valhalla Traverse where we walked back to our campsite on the Lower Saddle. Both Jeremy and I were elated about climbing one of “the classics” and celebrated in our usual fashion at Dornans in the shadow of the Tetons. All and all, just another incredible day in the mountains!