Text and pictures © 2002-2020 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2018/10/17
"Personally, I would rather climb in the high mountains. I have always abhorred the tremendous heat, the dirt-filled cracks, the ant-covered foul-smelling trees and bushes which cover the cliffs, the filth and noise of Camp 4 (the climbers' campground), and worst of all, the multitudes of tourists which abound during the weekends and summer months." — Yvon Chouinard, 1961.
Unfortunately Jenny's knee wasn't in good enough condition to survive a trip up the Teton. Not that my own knee was that much better, but I found a worthy partner in the long known rec.climber MadDog who proved he can climb about as hard in real life as in his posts.
Left: MadDog off route
Right: Digestive bouldering at camp
We met at the climber's ranch at the base of the Teton range and after sorting out the gear went out to sleep. When I entered my bunk, a surprised mouse ran away to hide in the bathroom. Unfortunately it was also my destination, so for lack of a place to hide and after running around a few times the mouse settled in front of the door, looking straight at me while I was busy, waiting patiently until I opened it up. At which point the mouse disappeared in the darkness of the room and resumed doing what mice do in those parts: eating through backpacks and plastic bags to reach climbers' power bars.
What about the climbing ? It was raining when we reached the camp. The hike to the base of our first target route was wet, foggy and hard to find. As MadDog said: "My memory's good but my route finding sucks". We did only two pitches of an interesting climb before being hailed on, rappelling soaked and getting the traditional stuck wet rappel.
The next day we were more lucky on Cave Crack but still had a very windy and very cold morning. The overhanging 5.6 dihedral sure is sandbag. We warmed up by taking bets on how the beginners would fare on Irene's Arête, a little to our right. We got back to the caves, got rained on again and started hiking up to the saddle.
Left: 3rd pitch of Cave Crack
Right: Summit of Cave Crack
Left: MadDog on the full Exum ridge
Right: Dawn on middle Teton
On the trail to the saddle I found a nice flat rock to rest my butt and associated backpack. Upon looking between my leg I find a canister of film which I pick it up thinking about naked pictures. No such luck, the canister feels empty... Not quite. When I open it, it's full of thyme or something similar. Bah, we can always use it to spice up the freeze dry food in the evening...
Left: Me on the upper Exum
Right: Upper part of the Exum Ridge
We climbed the full Exum ridge, one of the classics of the classics, but all I remember is being frozen solid on the first five pitches, climbing with gloves and approach shoes and wishing for the sun to show up, getting off route and forcing MadDog to lead a mean looking offwidth ("Your lead !"). I seem to always find booty on routes, and this time it was a large hex on the 6th pitch, easy to pull out. MadDog's brain was so frozen by that time he didn't even try to get it out ! Bummer. It's a good route with good rock, good moves, good views... The Tetons is the closest thing to alpine climbing I've so far seen in the lower 48.
We reached a sunny and warm summit where MadDog decided to take some clothes off. I jumped on this historic moment to snap a picture for rec.climbing. He defended himself with this line: "Yeah, but you'll have to tell them that it was right after spending some quality time with 16 virgins". He'd barely finished his line when we hear a female voice say: "Here we are !" and 4 ladies arrive on the summit. Words, words, words...
Right: Reaching the summit of Grand Teton
As he had warned me, the hardest part of the day was the looong hike down. Or was it ? The 7 hour drive alone back to Colorado later that night was arguably worse: even with System of a Down and ATR at full blast on the car stereo I still have to slap myself regularly to try to stay awake. Certainly the most dangerous and unpleasant part of the day.
Left: How would you like to rappel off that licheny sling seen on the top of cave crack ? Maybe the lichen actually holds the sling together...
Right: The Exum ridge of Grand Teton as seen from the pass in the evening before the ascent.