Sunday, March 2, 2014

Climbing the Tetons - August 2014

It's been six months since our epic Teton 2014 trip, and I feel like a slacker for taking so long to post about it, but it's not for lack of desire.  Honestly, it's the third child.  Oh, she's a sweetie, but that third child put us over the edge and has seriously cut back on our blogging time.

Back to the story.  Amazing, amazing trip.  I'm never happier than I am when I'm in the Tetons, and this trip was no exception.  In fact, I was so giddy the whole time that I think I drove everyone else crazy with my constant singing and whistling.  Great family and friends for a few days in the Tetons--without cell phone reception--is about as close to heaven as you can get.

This trip was particularly special for me because I got to share it with my oldest sister Tammie.  In a family of die-hard Teton fans, Tammie's love for the Tetons is unsurpassed.  But she had never had the same opportunities as some of us to backpack and climb in the Tetons.  Until now.  And, as you'll see, I took it upon myself to document her maiden voyage.

This trip, we backpacked from the west up Teton Canyon to Alaska Basin, which served as our base camp for the day hikes and excursions that followed.  One day we set out to climb Battleship Mountain (the peak in the above picture, which has always been a goal of mine).  Unfortunately, none of us was able to summit because--and I'm not making this up--the rocks were so sharp and loose that we feared being severely lacerated if anyone slipped.  No, really.  I still want to climb that mountain (because I'm sure the views are spectacular), but I'll do it with thick pants and gloves.

But no failed summit could spoil this party.  For example, we made it to Hurricane Pass and enjoyed the below view of Schoolroom Glacier, Cascade Canyon, and (from left to right) the Grand Teton, the Middle Teton, and the South Teton.

Sisters Tammie and Holly enjoying the view.

We also discovered this really cool place that I didn't know existed that was covered with large rounded, rocky mounds.  Jason, the geologist, tried to convince us that these mounds were ancient corral beds that used to be under the water but were now on a ridge at about 9,500 feet above sea level in the Tetons.  He could be right, but I still think they're probably fossilized brontosaurus dung.

Oh, and did I mention it was absolutely gorgeous, and the company was unrivaled?

And the highlight of the trip was my papa's 60th birthday, which we celebrated by waking up at 3am and hiking from Alaska Basin to the top of the South Teton.  We hiked through the dark past Sunset Lake and raced up the steep talus slope (pictured below) to try to make it to that saddle/notch by sunrise.

And we made it.  And watching the sun rise behind the Tetons was one of those moments I'll never forget.  The peak on the right is the South Teton--our destination.

Tammie Sue enjoying the view.  And, I think, realizing how far away and big that mountain is that we're about to climb.

Two points for anyone who can find Tammie in the below picture.  I took this one from the "base" of the South Teton looking back toward the notch (on the far right) where we watched the sunrise.

And that's when the fun really began.  I had done this same route up the South on two previous occasions, but I had forgotten how steep and long it is.  It just goes up and up and up.

And up.

But we made it.

And here is my dad, reaching the summit of the South Teton (12,513') on his 60th birthday.  As you may recall, my dad and I climbed the Middle Teton on his 55th birthday.  There's a trend here, so I asked my dad what he wanted to do for his 65th birthday.  His answered that he wanted to stand on the top of Rendezvous Mountain--the Teton peak to the south of us, that has a tram to the top.  Of course, months later he's now forgotten the pain and he's already planning the next climb.

View of the Grand (the tall one) and the Middle (in front of the Grand) from the South Teton.

And this is my favorite picture from the whole trip (click to enlarge).  It's an amazing view, but even better is that it shows Tammie on top of the South Teton to the right.  It was her first major climb.  It had been her dream for a long time (decades of staring at it from the bottom).  She said it was the hardest thing she's ever done.  I'm sure there were times she wanted to quit, or doubted whether she would make it.  I'm sure there were times she wanted to kill me for bringing her on the trip with promises that she could do it.  But there she is.  I was so proud.

I love climbing mountains, but really I'm a guide at heart.  I get even more joy from sharing these experiences with other people.  Which makes me think of the second time I climbed the South Teton, in the summer of 2002, with Suzanne.  We were just dating at the time and I really wanted to share this with her.  But she had horrible blisters on her feet from backpacking in, so she had to wear her Teva sandals because she couldn't stand to have her hiking boots on.  But she told me she was OK and--I kid you not--she climbed that mountain in her sandals.  Looking back, I can't believe she continued to date me and eventually married me.  She should have known at least by then that I was crazy.  But, I sure do love that memory of sharing the South Teton with Suzy, too.

Here's the view from the top, looking south.  Snowdrift lake (center) is the most amazing color of blue. Pictures don't do it justice.

These are just such unique experiences, filled with beauty and adventure, and trial and pain, that they stick with you forever.  I still remember exactly how I felt when I took the below picture of my dad, sister and 12-year-old nephew:  I felt proud--proud to be part of a family that brings three generations together on a beautiful day to climb a serious, beautiful mountain.  

Unfortunately, we eventually had to leave.  But the memories are sweet.  And motivational--we're already planning our next few adventures.


Holly said...

Wow - that was really beautiful! I got a tear in my eye. It really was such an amazing trip. Looking forward to making some more memories this summer!!

Tammie Springer said...

That post was medicine for my soul! Just what I needed. I have a tear in my eye, too--but also a smile on my face. That was a wonderful adventure! And your support and encouragement were a HUGE part of why I was able to make it to the top! THANK YOU! It was one of the hardest things I've ever done--and also now, one of my favorite memories. Love you!

Derek Griggs said...

A friend and I are planning to a similar trip very soon. I've been unable to find any trail info for the South Peak via the Alaska Basin side. Everything is for the Jackson side. Also, what was the date on these? I'm wondering about snow levels. Hopefully you still monitor this and can get back to me asap.