The Grand Teton, Wyoming

Three Climbs of The Grand Teton between 2010 & 2012

A failed attempt to climb the Grand Teton (13,776’) in 2003 that was thwarted by terrible blisters for both me and my climbing partner, led to a return many years later in September of 2010 with climbing partners, Mark & Craig. Unfortunately, Mother Nature intervened this time and dumped 3’ of fresh snow on the area the day before our arrival. After attempting to reach the saddle to camp proved fruitless due to all of the buried boulders and subsequent “elephant holes” that your leg punches through and can lead to a broken ankle, we took a detour and spent a day in Yellowstone national park, where elk, bison and Old Faithful helped us pass the time.

Undeterred, Craig and I returned a year later to climb The Grand in September of 2011. This time the conditions were much more amenable and allowed us to proceed with our climb.

We chose the famous and technically challenging Complete Exum Ridge route, which is considered to be one of the 50 classic climbs in North America. The Complete Exum route is roughly 20 pitches of technical rock climbing, rated up to a difficulty level of 5.7, while covering ~2,500’ of vertical, exposed rock. It is a beautiful, sustained, exposed and challenging climb that was also a lot of fun.

Perhaps the most memorable part of the climb for me came on the most challenging pitch, the 5.7 rated Black Face pitch. Here, at well over 12,000’ where climbing a 5.7 pitch is exponentially harder than at normal elevations, Craig, who had only completed a few technical rock climbs prior to this trip, developed incessant thumb cramps from the cold of the rock and over-gripping his holds at times.

Watching this mountain of a man, gripping the wall with one hand, while trying to get his other hand to stop cramping by placing his thumb against his upper teeth and stretching it out, before quickly switching and trying with the other hand, was a sight to behold. Nonetheless, cursing mightily into the significant winds that day, Craig powered through and soon thereafter we sat on the summit enjoying the views with the thumb cramps already a fading memory.

The climb is so much fun that I returned to do it again in September of 2012 with good friend and climbing partner, Ben Focht. However, due to ice on the lower portion of the route’s rock-face, we could only do the Upper Exum part of the route. It was still a really enjoyable climb to the summit and the The Grand remains one of my favorite peaks to climb to this day.