Fast-forward to August. My partner, Ian, from that first day at Smith Rock in March called me up. He was trying to plan a trip to the Tetons to climb the Direct Exum route on the Grand Teton. I had never lead a trad route (although I had followed several) and he was suggesting we swing leads. I had basically never rock climbed outside of Smith either and this was very different rock at 13,000 ft elevation. I had also never climbed a route longer than three pitches and this one was 18 pitches. Was I interested? Absolutely. I was stoked!
On September 7th I picked up Ian at 4am and we drove 14 hours straight to Jackson, Wyoming. We stayed in a campground just outside Grand Teton National Park, cooked a light dinner and went to sleep for a few hours. We woke up at 2am and drove to the Lupine Meadows trailhead. We were walking by 3:15am.
Ian had been concerned about the minimal gear loops on my light-weight alpine harness and at his insistence I had taken his old harness instead. After some scrambling from the lower saddle we reached the bottom of the technical route. We broke out the gear and started preparing to climb when Ian realized he left his new harness in the car. We discussed options. I was against hiking out and trying again tomorrow so I gave Ian his old harness and made myself a makeshift harness with slings and a locking biner. So much for extra gear loops.
|comfortable harness and used women's puffy... you don't need fancy gear to climb a mountain (photo by Ian Garner)|
Traffic jams and route-finding difficulty ensued on the Lower Exum. Ian had some bowel issues (don't trust Nutella). I took most of the leads and we ended up half-way up the route by mid-afternoon. The Upper Exum is easier than the Lower so we stowed the rope, put on approach shoes and started racing upwards. We got off route a bit but made it to the summit fairly quickly. A few quick photos and two rappels put us in the upper saddle. We scrambled down to the lower saddle just as the sun set.
We had walked in in the dark and we would walk out in the dark, but with no moon this time. I wished that I could have seen Garnet Canyon in daylight--the shadowy bulk of rock faces suggested a spectacular location. Ian developed bad blisters. We slowly plodded back to the car, arriving at 12:30am, over 21 hours after we had left. We had been in constant motion almost the entire time, stopping only for a few minutes at a time to eat or drink.
The next day we slept in and ate a huge breakfast in Jackson. Then we drove into Yellowstone to act like goofy tourists with the rest of the crowds. Monday morning we drove 14 hours back to Bend. I said I was going to take two weeks off, but 4 days later I was back at Smith climbing and more motivated than ever to do more long alpine routes.
|Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo! This is a gramatically correct sentence.|
Despite everything I still felt like the Grand Teton had not pushed me to my limit. I wanted, want, very badly to have shit hit the fan. I want to be completely crushed by a mountain, to really get taken to my limit. Some people think I'm crazy, but to me I'm an athlete first and testing myself is why I'm here.
|The Grand from the NE|