Tuesday, August 13 –
This morning we drove around the Grand Tetons to take in the beautiful range from several different viewpoints. We passed the National Elk Refuge, home to an average of 7,500 elk each winter. Shortly afterwards, the Teton Range rose up dramatically from the valley floor in front of u.
For years, I have been a huge fan of this beautiful park. My Dad is obsessed with it and considers it the prettiest place on earth. The Teton Range is a sub-range of the Rocky Mountains. At 13,775 feet, Grand Teton abruptly rises more than 7,000 feet above Jackson Hole. The Cathedral Group, which are the central peaks, include Grand Teton; Mount Owen (12,928 feet), the second-highest summit in the range; the distinctive, but less pointy Mount Moran (12,605 feet); Teewinot (12,325 feet); Middle Teton (12,804 feet); and South Teton (12,514 feet).
The name “Tetons” – meaning teats – came from the vivid imagination of19th century French-Canadian trappers. They referred to the Grand, Mount Owen and Middle Teton as le trois tétons (the three teats).
Though in a state of recession, a dozen small glaciers persist at the higher elevations near the highest peaks in the range. Some of the rocks in the park are the oldest found in any U.S. National Park and have been dated at nearly 2.7 billion years.
We started the morning at a less visited corner on the park. Instead of going up Teton Park Road, we drove up Highway 191 to the Moran Junction entrance. We crossed the Snake River and then pulled off at the Oxbow Bend turnoff to admire the views. We continued to Jackson Lake lodge where we had lunch at the Mural room. The 15-mile-long Jackson Lake was stunning.
We drove south on Teton Park Road to Jenny Lake and admired the views. Then we visited the main park headquarters where we inquired about hiking opportunities the next day. I was in good triathlon shape, but frankly too ambitiously want to hike Grand Teton. A ranger didn’t exactly discourage me, but let me know they were some sections that were fairly technical and a 2,000-foot drop off.
Afterwards we headed down to Teton Village, home of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. I was absolutely shocked at how developed and glitzy Jackson Hole has become now. A Four Seasons hotel, mult-million dollar condos and swanky retail stores dominated the area.
That evening we drove back to Jackson Hole and went to dinner at one of our favorites, Bubba’s barbecue. We bought some more mugs to use at home.
During a team huddle, we had a discussion about tackling Grand Teton. I wanted to climb via the famous Owen-Spalding route which begins at the Lower Saddle (at 11,600 ft), a high mountain pass between the Grand and Middle Tetons. A ranger told me it would involve scrambling and sections of medium difficulty climbing to the Upper Saddle, sandwiched between a sub-peak known as The Enclosure (13,300 ft) to the west and the west wall of Grand Teton to the east. From the Upper Saddle, he told us most people novices use ropes to traverse an exposed 2,000 ft drop, but he said the section was generally considered non-technical. He said we would pass the “Belly Roll” and “The Crawl”, where we need to straddle a rock fin for several yards, before arriving at the Double Chimney. He said the chimneys, the most complex section of the climb and oftentimes icy, would lead to a steep scramble to the summit. The Ranger said the descent could be down-climbed or rappeled using a belays and anchors.
Thankfully, Jeff, Mom and Dad convinced me that climbing Grand Teton was a bad idea and I was out of my mind. We decided to do a strenuous hike, but one that was less technical, the next day.