Grand Teton Post-Climb Review

After most of my summit climbs I do a quick review of any lessons learnt, and things to remember for next time. These are the things that immediately spring to mind for my Grand Teton climb.

Things I’d Do The Same Next Time

Exum Guides were awesome. They’re totally organised, and the five guides I spent time with were all first class both in terms of technical ability and teaching skills.

I took exactly the right clothing for the expected conditions. I had one spare layer for if it had got colder, but didn’t need it.

My new sun hoodie is awesome; this is the first trip I’ve done where I didn’t come back even slightly sunburnt.

Frozen burritos for dinner were a stroke of genius; tasty, no mess and easy to warm up. I’ll take them again on shorter overnight trips.

Things I’d Do Differently Next Time

I probably would have enjoyed the approach hike more if I’d taken a rest day between the training days and the main event.

I took a little too much food = excess weight.

My helmet is ugly and costs me a lot of style points.

I should have taken some moleskin. I got lucky and didn’t need it, but I should have had some just in case.

I forgot to get a summit photo with my mascot (Yes, it’s definitely a mascot, not a teddy bear).

Trip Highlights

The whole trip was pretty awesome, but the single biggest result was being able to climb and descend the whole route without any significant problem with the heights. It was “stimulating” for sure, but no more scary than driving in Paris. I’ve been on a mission to overcome my fear of heights for about 10 years and being able to climb the Grand Teton is a pretty significant step. If I can handle 5th class climbing with a couple of thousand feet of exposure, what else could I handle? [evil smiley]

Backcountry Transportation Review – Pendleton the Horse

Whilst we’re in Wyoming, we took some time out to review one of the local transportation options. The equine sports-tourer, more commonly known as the “Horse”, whilst far from a new concept, seems to be gaining popularity amongst purists and tourists alike, so we jumped at the chance to try a couple out for ourselves.

My single-seater test model known locally as “Pendleton” made an immediate impression with its blend of stylish good looks, effortless handling, class-leading road-holding and enviable efficiency. Powered by a modest 1HP motor, it can still reach speeds of 40mph although we didn’t get chance to validate this on our test route. Fuel consumption on our test run was about 10 mouthfuls of grass per kilometer. Emissions were considerably higher than expected though, particularly from Krista’s.

The automatic gearbox is a bit clunky, and the transition from first gear “walk” to second gear “trot” is akin to being punched repeatedly in the man-satchel, although this may improve as the driver gains experience in the saddle.

Steering, braking and reverse gear are operated via a novel twin-cable arrangement known as reins. Pull left to go left, right to go right, and back to brake. Continually pulling back engages reverse gear. The steering has no power assistance, yet feels light, responsive and completely intuitive. It’s almost like Pendelton knows where you want to go without needing to be told.

Standard equipment is very minimal, with only a single saddlebag for storage. No radio. No air conditioning. Heating,, if required, is by means of rather dated “blanket” technology. However the single drivers seat is high quality leather, and the elevated driving position gives excellent all-round visibility to the point that rear view mirrors aren’t even needed. In this age of electric-everything, the lightweight minimalist approach seems refreshing.

Overall, Pendleton, like other models in the “Horse” class, show a glimmer of hope for those who are looking for simple, classy, minimalist transportation.

Climbing the Grand Teton

Last Friday I sent the following text message to Krista from 13,770 feet up, at the top of the Grand Teton.

Summit. 7:01am, 20th July ’12. Great views, not too cold. BRILLIANT climbing on the way up. Not too hard, but enough exposure to make it exciting. On my way back to you now 🙂

The response I got back was not what I’d hope for.

Requested facility not implemented.

Gotta love cellular communications…

Climbing the Grand Teton via the Owen-Spalding or Upper Exum Ridge route isn’t especially hard in climbing terms (around 5.4 on the YDS scale), but you need to move quickly and efficiently in order to get up and down safely. Consequently, Exum Guides require that inexperienced climbers take 2 days of training in movement over rock, belaying on moderate terrain and rappelling prior to the climb, so they can take an active part in the climb. Although I’ve done a reasonable amount of climbing and rappelling before, the time was well spent and I picked up a lot of tips for covering easy ground quickly. Plus the Hidden Falls crag where the training is conducting is by far the prettiest “classroom” I’ve studied in.

On day 3, we hiked up to Exum Guides’ high camp at the Lower Saddle. As they have a semi-permanent camp at 11,300 feet you don’t need to lug any sleeping bags, pads, stoves or technical climbing gear – just food and clothing. It’s still a long approach from the 6,700 foot trailhead though, and it took us 5 hours 45. We got there about 4pm, so had plenty of time to study the route, chase marmots, eat dinner and enjoy the sunset over Idaho.

On summit day, the guides woke us up at 3am, and we were fed, watered, dressed and on the trail by 3:45am. The route starts with 20 mins of easy hiking, followed by an hour of scrambling. We knew the weather above us wasn’t great, and we got rained on a bit on the way up. I was prepared for the fact that we may have to bail once we got to the Upper Saddle if there was any sign on lightning, but as the sun came up it looked like it was just regular rainclouds rather than a thunderstorm. After a quick consultation between the guides, the decision was made to go for the top but quickly, no time-wasting, no mistakes. So off we went, roped up in a caterpillar-style team of 5, fast as we could. Being in a rush was probably a good thing, cos it gave me zero to time to think about the 2000 feet or so of fresh air beneath me as I traversed the belly crawl pitch and up the chimneys. Honestly, the climbing isn’t hard but trying to do it quickly and safely, with a pack on my back, in approach shoes, on wet rock did have me panting a bit.

The upper pitches were a blur of shouting, flailing limbs, flapping Goretex and tangled ropes, but at 7:01am we scrambled up onto the summit. 3 hours 16 from hut to summit is pretty good for a group of beginners. Cue high-fives all round, photos, phone calls, failed text messages etc.

And then back down. Fast. Before the weather loses its patience with us. On the way down I was struck my how incredibly easy it would be to get profoundly lost up here. I was leading, and our guide Silas had to direct me literally every 10 paces to keep me on route. Gladly the trickiest climbing can be bypassed on the way down with a single 110 foot rappel. Which is great, if you like rappelling. Which I don’t. Or at least I never have in the past. Today I had a bit of a breakthrough, and launched backwards off the ledge in complete control of my fear, and whistled down the rope pausing just once, a third of the way down, to take a good look around.

By 9:40am we were back at camp. Eat, drink, pack up, and then hike 4 1/2 hours back to the trailhead. Done. Time for bed…

Crossfit junkie hits up gym in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Having a few days to myself whilst Matt was out and about in mountain school, I decided to hit up a CrossFit gym in Jackson Wyoming. I emailed them asking to drop in and they welcomed me with open arms. My first day was pure olympic lifting. I gotta admit, I got hooked. It was a small class of 4 (only chick present!) and we spent an hour slowly working our way up on weights and technique on the power snatch. I can’t help but be a bit smug as i was lifting heavier than one dude.

The next day I hit up a proper CrossFit class. I won’t really get into what I dealt with.. Ill just post the workout.. it speaks for itself as does my aching muscles:

Warm up:

  • 400m run
  • 1 min at each station of:
  • Double unders
  • Wall squats
  • Kip Swings
  • Box Jumps
  • Sit ups
  • Skin the cat
Mobility warm up:
  • Runners lunges
  • plow
  • pass throughs
Tabata  – 8 rounds of:
  • Knees to elbows
  • Toes to bar (alternate between the two)
Weight lifting:
Snatch Balance – I got up to 35kg. Dumped it a few times but with working on my technique and encouragement and high fives I did it 🙂
Workout of the day: AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)
  • 200m run
  • 7 snatch blanaces
  • 7 hang snatch
Oh.. we’re not done 🙂 Cool down consisted of yet another 200m run and some stretching. Total time was 1hr 15min workout. I enjoyed the setup , the people were awesome, made some friends and left with a tshirt and aching muscles. Thank god for hot tubs.
If you are ever in the Jackson Wyoming area.. I strongly recommend this gym. Thomas (oly coach), Meg and Ryan (crossfit trainers) were awesome! I Didn’t manage to get photos of the gym itself, but you can hit it up www.crossfitjh.com  As such I will post a pic of myself working on my jerk split.. in a trailer park. BAD ASS!!!!

Arriving in Grand Teton National Park

When we set out from Toronto a week ago, the first goal was to get to the Grand Teton National Park in time for my birthday on July 15th. Hence we spent the last two days driving from Devils Tower in northeast Wyoming to Jackson in the southwest corner of Wyoming. And what a drive it was. Up and over the Bighorn Mountains yesterday, across the moon-like terrain of central Wyoming, up (or is it down) through the very confusing gravity-defying Wind River Gorge, to Riverton for an overnight stop. Then this morning we  hit the road early and drove through the Wind River Range for a couple of hours until we finally popped out into the Grand Teton National Forest and beyond it the jagged Teton mountains.

Along the way we had two mandatory stops to observe the wildlife. First a moose casually grazing at the side of the road, then later this afternoon a herd of over a hundred buffalo ambling across the fields just north of Jackson. I got some good photos of both of them whilst staying at a respectful (and hopefully fairly safe) distance. It was pretty clear that when it comes to common sense around large animals, not everyone is as clueful as you’d like. As a full-grown buffalo crossed the road between some parked cars, one chump actually reached out to the buffalo as if trying to touch it. As docile as they seem, they’re wild animals weighing upwards of 2000lbs and can run at 70kmh. If you want a closer look buy some binoculars, jerkwad.

Although the weather has been *really* kind to us for the whole trip so far, cloud obscured the very tops of the Teton mountains this afternoon. Maybe that’s a good thing, as it stopped me fixating too much on how big the Grand Teton is and what a stupid idea it would be to try and climb it. Which obviously I would never do. [cough]

Mount Rushmore

We took a Tourist Day today, and drove 20 miles or so to Mount Rushmore. You’ve probably heard about it or seen in in North By Northwest or maybe more likely in Team America. Rather than write a blog post about it, I’m going to be a lazy tourist and point you at an article by a chap called Sam Greenspan who wrote about it way more interestingly than I could, but basically had the same observations I did. His article is here.

Wall, South Dakota

On our way to Rapid City we stopped off for a break in a town called Wall, South Dakota. We’d been seeing signs for the Wall Drug store every half mile for about 200 miles so we had to see what all the fuss was about. It’s hard to explain, but if Walt Disney had grown up in the Wild West this is probably what Disney World would have ended up like. A sorta tacky but fun (and free) homage to western frontier life. With 5 cent coffee. And ice cream. And donuts.

Cowboy Country At Last

Day 5 of our road trip, and we’re nearly, almost, kinda into cowboy country. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. We’re actually still 350km east of the geographical centre of the US, so we’re not even in the western half of the country yet technically, but we’re just into the Mountain Time zone and the scenery is starting to feel “western”.

As we crossed the Missouri River this morning the never-ending flatlands smothered with cornfields suddenly gave way to rolling hills and uncultivated grasslands. The Christian billboards at the roadside are replaced by ads for steakhouses and gun clubs. Krista even noted that the bugs are bigger on the west side of the Missouri; there’s plenty of evidence on the windshield to back her up.

Now we’ve got the big slab of the driving done, we’re starting to plan some actual activities. Tomorrow we’re going to visit Mt Rushmore. Not quite sure what to expect, but we’re both intrigued to visit it. Then we’ll probably head through the Black Hills into Wyoming to visit Devil’s Tower, before heading on to Grand Teton National Park where we plan to park up somewhere comfy and hang out for a week or so.

The first few days of a road trip like this tend to be a bit… odd. Fun, but sorta unsettled as you haven’t quite got into a rhythm. I think we’ve find our stride today and I’m pretty excited for the next few days.

Sioux Falls – South Dakota.

Newton IA, Sioux Falls SD

Real quick.. long drive but went well. Spent the day enjoying the scenery and listening to mountaineering audio-books (iPod). We are currently shacked up in the red barn RV park where our next door neighbours put together have a full set of teeth. We took the last RV spot in the park so we are all snugged up for the night. Our friendly neigbours next door have mentioned how Tony lounges in the window and how their dog is excited about it.. emmm….. I’ve made sure the door is locked.

Food, a bit of wine and a movie which talked about d*cks wayy to much (verdict is out on this flick) was on the menu. Tomorrow – early rise and long day ahead as we head to Rapid City just outside of Mount Rushmore.

Hoping to see some rolling hills and less corn. This will be day 5 of driving.

Leave me posting at 11pm at night.. and you’re gunna get some creativity. I figured posting a pic of Mount Rushmore would be obvious. So I will sign off with the best picture I know. My brother and I creating pine cone christmas decorations with motha f*cking glue guns.

Totally random but this is my post people! 🙂

 

 

Day 2 is brought to you by the Tiger, Chicken and Star Wars.

Started the day with our first CrossFit workout of the trip. In a field. In full view of half a dozen overweight Americans. Despite limited equipment we managed to do some Snatch practice then hammer out something close to “Fight Gone Bad”. Then walked across the street to Tim Horton’s for coffee. #winning

Got on the road a little later as a result, but still ticked off 450ish leisurely kilometres on the way towards the magical hills of Wyoming. Road days can be dull if you just stare out the window all day, so you have to make the most of them whichever way you can. Highlights of today’s journey were passing the most awesome Star Wars-themed custom van ever (see pic), Tony using Krista’s head as a stepladder to get up to his favourite napping spot, and *almost* completing our Interstate Highway Bingo (the only thing we didn’t see was an airport).

Lowlights were getting excited about the prospect of dinner before realizing we’re now in Central Time and it’s only 5pm. :-/

Stats for the Day

  • Timbits consumed – 9 (apparently the local staff can’t count to ten).
  • Distance covered whilst arguing about Van Halen (specifically David Lee Roth versus Sammy Hagar) – 170km
  • States passed through – 3 (Michigan, Indiana, Illinois)
  • Fat motorcyclists doing 120kmh on I94 in Tshirt and no helmet – 8
  • Number of Lion’s Den Adult Superstores along I94 – approx 10