Grand Teton

I am sitting in a cafe in Jackson, drinking lots of coffee and eating my body weight in sticky baked goods. I don't know whether it was the altitude, the sunshine, dehydration, or just the long day but it's been a long time since I've felt this broken. Perhaps this is the way you're supposed to feel at the end of your first 'big' mountain?  Grand Teton, sitting at 4200m, is three times the height of Ben Nevis, though I should add that you're not climbing it from sea level and there's a 2000m head start.  All the same, 2000m up and down, a 13hr day, some scrambling and climbing, the inability to get more water high up and, most of all, the relentless sun overhead combined to make it a tough day. The altitude didn't affect me as much as I thought it would. I've never been anywhere near that height so actually had very little idea. I was a wee bit breathless and lost my appetite (unheard of for me) but otherwise we must have acclimatised a bit already.  

We started out at 6am, just as the sun was rising. Most parties seem to opt to go up the day before, lugging up tents and sleeping bags, but that seemed to us like far harder work, particularly in the heat of the afternoon. In any case, the early start meant we were treated to glimpses of wildlife, including a deer family, ptarmigans and marmottes. I had the bear spray handy and we did a lot of talking on the way up. A lot less on the way down, by which point I was so tired I decided a bear could just have me as it would save me the walk out. 

We arrived at the lower saddle after 4hr, had a bite to eat, then started the scramble up the Owen Spalding route on the South ridge of Grand Teton.  Eventually this changed into some actual roped climbing, where Neil-the-mountain-goat scampered up and then I tried to follow as best I could. It was interesting and mainly easy climbing for me, with just a few tricky moves.  We did it all in trainers, which I was pretty pleased about. My climbing shoes only fit me in cold Scotland and not when my feet swell in the heat!  It took us 3.5hr from the lower saddle to reach the summit of my highest mountain ever, rewarded with great views over Idaho and Wyoming.  

Then the long descent down.  I really couldn't wait for this bit to finish and also to get to the river part way down and refill our empty water bottles.  My lips were cracked and my head ached by this point so even the taste of chlorine from the purification tablets didn't spoil the joy of a good slurp of water.  Finally, after 13hr, we made it back to our van, feeling like I couldn't have taken another step.

I managed to stay awake long enough to eat dinner in Teton village (supplemented by a giant bag of crisps and about 2 litres of water), before crawling into my sleeping bag at 9pm and staying pretty much unconscious for 10hr. A good day but a tough one. 

Our first view of the Tetons, absolutely breathtaking

Early morning walk-in sunrise

Summit photo

Marmotte friend at the belay ledge


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