Climbing the Tetons

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All I wanted when I signed us up for a climbing guide in the Tetons was a multi pitch climb in the Tetons. I didn’t expect a hard alpine approach of 7-8 miles round trip, over steep and rocky terrain still half covered in snow. Our guide Lisa brought along her ice axe, in case we had to do some ice ascent to our climbing route, but thankfully we didn’t need it. It was still slow going though, and we took 3 hours just to reach our route, when normally she estimated 2 hours. On the upside, the view was spectacular. While most tourists to the Tetons just snap pictures of the imposing range from afar, we got right up into the mountains. It was an inspiring experience, to scramble up and off the trail into a steep canyon through which a raging river roared down. The sight we could not shoot from the roads and which only the committed climbers and skiers would ever see.

The climbing, when we finally started, half exhausted already, was first rate. Our six-pitch route was right next to a waterfall and a still snow-covered gully where we saw a marmot scampering down. The climbing was technical, difficult for a mostly rated 5.7 climb, but super fun. The granite was solid and had positive holds, and the color variation and the shining mica was just beautiful to look at.

We breezed our way up the route, hitting the fourth pitch at 2:30, before our 3:00 agreed turnaround time, so we decided to push ahead with the last two pitches. We didn’t have the luxury of a big ledge to hang out on to celebrate the climb, so we just hurriedly snapped a selfie before rappelling back down.

Easy part done, we still had to gingerly pick our way back down the mountain, across Jenny Lake, to where our car was parked in String Lake. Our guide Lisa easily and sturdily made her way over the loose rock and snow, while we struggled and slipped along behind, sometimes on our hands and butts, sometimes with the aid of trekking poles. But we made it – almost 12 exhausting hours later.

I floated the idea of skipping camping and finding a room with a hot shower and warm bed in Jackson Hole instead, and Jeff immediately and readily agreed. We were much too tired and sore and yearned for a bit of creature comfort after what was both our most challenging hike after (the climbing itself was such a breeze in comparison). Heh. So much for staying out to take picture of the stars, on what looked like our first clear night after so many days.

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