Monday, July 23, 2012

Climbing the Grand Teton with Exum

Challenge accepted and concurred!

One small step at a time, I hiked, scrambled and climbed to 13,770 feet up the side of the Grand Teton.  My endurance, patience, mind and sanity were all tested.  My body beaten, bruised, burnt and scratched was constantly defying everything my mind was telling me not to do.  A sore body and two days with very little rest due to my anxieties was all worth finally reaching my goal of getting to the top of the Grand Teton.
We spent two days on this beautiful mountain.  It was hard and fun, but like I said after finishing my first half marathon, I am not sure I want to do it again anytime soon.

Day 1
The first day started with nice hike up and through Garnet Canyon and the Meadows. 

Although, as we were warned, we saw bears!  We came across a Momma bear and her 2 cubs.  These were black bears, not grizzlies.

We started topping the tree line where we did a little scrambling over rocks in the Moraine area before reaching the Exum camp at the Lower Saddle. 

You can clearly see where the Moraine area starts and the meadows end.

We had such great views on this hike of the Middle Teton.  The large black line on the Middle Teton is caused by magma deep in the earth that has moved up the rock and hardened.

We stopped between the Meadows and the Moraine to enjoy a beautiful view the canyon and fill up on fresh mountain water.

Reaching the Lower Saddle was such a joy!  The views were great of Idaho and Wyoming.  You can see for miles. 

 The mountain looks less intimidating from this point and you can see most of the areas where we will be climbing early on day 2. See this link for a view of our climb.

This is what the huts we slept in looked like.

After getting situated, I helped myself to so much needed yoga.  I went through sun salutations and moving asanas.

As the sun set, there is an absolutely stunning view with shadows cast in the valley of the mountain range. 


Day 2
Waking up at 3am wasn’t very hard for me since I didn’t sleep a wink!  I got into the hut at about 9:30 and had to get up to pee 4 times due to a ‘Sleepy Time’ tea we consumed around 9.  I highly recommend eating food you are used to and not over hydrating.  As the Exum website states, dehydrated meals are not so great if you are not used to them.  My stomach was cramping and hurting some after eating a Pad Tai dehydrated meal.  If I were to do it again, I would bring pasta or a burrito in two ziplocks, that way you can put boiling water in the outside ziplock to heat the meal.

We started climbing in the dark at about 4am with our headlamps on and stomach churning.

View once the sun started to cast the shadow of the Grand Teton onto the mountains in Idaho

We went to the Black Dike and the Chockstone Chimney and then off to the Owen Spalding route.  Even though some of the group was cleared to climb the slightly longer Exum Ridge route, we all decided to go together on the shorter, yet still challenging, Owen-Spalding route. The climbing wasn’t bad at about a 5.4, just don't look down!

The sun was just coming up as we started to reach the peak of the Grand Teton.

This is a great picture of the route-see in lime green where we ascended and descended
This is an even more detailed picture of the route we took- see dotted in lime green.  My favorite part of the climb was Owen's Chimney!  I found that I really enjoyed this part becuase I did a lot of stemming while climbing Owen's Chimney.
The view from the top was absolutely stunning! 


While looking north towards Yellowstone, we even saw Old Faithful erupting! Do you see the white in the distance?

The Teton Mountain Range

A Glacial Lake

Solitude Lake from the top of the Grand Teton

After our 15 minutes of peace at the top, other climbers arrived.  We gathered our packs and began our descent.  We spent the next 10 hours down climbing, rappelling, enjoying a lunch at the lower saddle, and hiking back to the trail head.  This was indeed the hardest part.  My body ached and my sanity waned as we trekked over 7,000 feet back down the mountain.  Neal averaged this out to be about 770 flights of stairs.  Yikes!  Talk about your knees killing you!

At 6pm, we were back at Exum.  We got certificates and cooled our aching feet off in the nearby waters of Jenny Lake. 
 Neal and Greg cooling off after our expedition!
Afterwards, we each enjoyed a cold beverage and pizza at my favorite place near Jackson Hole at the Moose entrance into GTNP, Dornans!

If I were to do this again:
  • Wear my own hiking boots up to the Lower Saddle and back to the trail head post the Lower Saddle.  The La Sportiva approach shoes provided through Exum are not comfortable hiking boots, but they are great for climbing.
  • Bring food I am more used to eating for dinner rather than a dehydrated meal.
  • Wear ear plugs while sleeping at the Exum hut on the Lower Saddle.  The loud snoring from other people was an evil taunt that kept me up. 
  • Don’t over hydrate right before bed.  No Sleepy Time tea! (My family now calls this our Pee-Pee Time tea.)
  • Do more yoga for training prior to the climb. The balance postures, strengthening poses and stretching can help when going over boulders and climbing.
Most of all, I would trust myself more.  I will not second guess my own abilities.  I am stronger than I think. 

Related Posts:

I am still excited about the climb of my life!  Now challenge yourself to something 'Grand'!


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Doug! If you haven't been out to Jackson Hole, I highly reccomend a visit :) And if you are adventurous, hook up with Exum and Climb the Grand!