I woke up at 2:00am in Lander and packed up my stuff as quietly as possible. I had decided the night before that I would forego cooking breakfast for a quicker departure. I stopped for gas at Maverick ($2.19 p/ gallon, PSYCHED!), and grabbed a healthy breakfast for the road–a Monster Energy drink and a maple bar donut, and a Snickers for when I started the hike. I then drove at roughly 90mph to Grand Teton National Park, directly to Lupine Meadows.
I got out of the car and stripped my pants off thinking nobody would be in the parking lot. Wrong. This gorgeous French woman approached me and asked me if I knew anywhere to camp for free in the park. She caught me with my pants down, and I didn’t even have an answer, so I asked her about bears. Awkward. I took an ice axe, mountain boots, two bars, 2.5 liters of water, a rain shell, and a puffy and started jogging up the Lupine Meadows trail towards Garnet Canyon. My goal: to link Middle Teton and South Teton.
I got up to the meadows and saw headlamps going up the North Fork, and while Middle Teton was right in front of me, I opted instead to chase down the headlamps towards the Grand. It was light out, but the sun had still not rose over the Wind River mountains to the east and I jaunted my way across Wallstreet to the Upper Exum Ridge. I stopped and considered putting on climbing shoes, but it just looked like an easy romp, so I free solo’d the Exum Ridge–onsight–in mountain boots. It took no longer than 10 minutes and I was on the summit with about 25 other people. I was slightly disgusted and down climbed the Owen Spalding route and found a nice snow patch to slide down.
I romped back down to the meadows, the sun out, and stopped for a drink of water. When I looked up at the Middle Teton I saw too small figures slogging their way up a pretty decent snow field, and behind them a beautiful black dike grabbed my eye. I read on Mountain Project about the Dike Route, and it said it was 3 pitches, so I just decided I would solo it to the top–it’s only 5.6.
What I didn’t realize was that it was like another 1,600 feet of climbing and route finding to the summit. That’s what I was doing when I found this poor little guy…
I topped out the Middle Teton around 1:00pm, and sat on the summit all by myself–unlike on the summit of the Grand. I took 10 minutes on the summit to snack, hydrate, and check in with myself. Besides stopping to snap the selfie with the goat carcass, it was pretty much the only time I stopped moving that day from the moment I left Lander at 2am.
My friend Ben had told me in Lander that I’d be psyched on the descent because it was possible to glacade all the way off of the Middle, and that’s exactly what I did. It took me about 10-15 minutes to get from the summit of the Middle to the col between the South. Right when I got down to the col the sky started to darken, and the clouds started to look nasty, but I was 1,000ft. away from completing the triple link up, so I just went for it.
I started scrambling up, and I was really starting to feel the fatigue set in and was climbing much slower and stopping for intermittent rests. I threw in my headphones to help pump me up for the final head wall, and with 40ft. of climbing left, probably about 5.5, a lightning bolt struck the summit and I nearly shit my pants.
So I down solo’d back to the snowfield that I had planned to escape on, but when I got to the snow field it had iced back up from the constant wind from the incoming storm, so I traversed back and down the entire South Teton while M&M sized hail rained down on my and thunder boomed above head–my ice axe sticking up behind my head like a lightning rod waiting to be struck.
When I made it down to the talus I was wrecked, and kinda spooked by the big storm. It was the first time I’ve ever bailed off a climb, and to bail in those conditions without a rope was a little hectic. My feet were super blistered at the heels from my mountain boots and the close to 20 miles of hiking and climbing I’d done thus far in the day, and they slipped and slid on the talus bringing me down to the ground once. I swore I’d throw them in the trash when I got to the trail head.
Finally the exposure and the storm had racked my nerves enough and I needed a break, and I fell back against this huge boulder to try and get some shelter to regroup when I heard someone yelling at me to get my attention. I turned and saw the two guys hunkered down in a rock cave, and I abandoned my ice axe and ran over to them and hunkered down with them.
After the storm passed we started glacading down the rest of the mountain to where their camp was set up and another thunderstorm rolled in. We parted ways at their camp and soon guess where I found myself? In another rock cave!
After the rain settled down slightly, I resumed my descent back to Lupine Meadows and to my car, which, with how the day turned out so far, I’d assumed had been ravaged by some hungry bear. But before I got down to the car the sky had cleared, and it was beautiful out again, and I had all but forgotten all that had transpired, and was again overtaken by suffer induced mania. Music helped too.
When I got back to the car I didn’t really know what to do. I don’t think that I really grasped what I’d just done, and what a remarkable first day in the Tetons I’d had. I did know I was hungry, and out of desperation and ignorance I got in my car and headed to Jackson, which was probably the last thing I should have done. Oh, and actually I forgot to mention, before I got to the car I took off my mountain boots and threw them in the trash.
I wrong Whoa at the Starbucks in Lander an hour or so after getting back to my car. and The Shadiest Place I’ve Ever Camped were the events that followed my leaving the Starbucks that evening.
I quoted Harry Potter at the end of that last post, and to finish this one all I will say is this: I’m not carrying a broom, and I didn’t fuckin’ come here to play Quidditch!
Be safe out there!!!