Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Grand 30th Birthday Present

If you’ve spent much time with me, you may know that Grand Teton National Park is one of my favorite places on earth. My parents got me hooked on a summer road-trip in 1994. I’ve climbed and hiked some in the Tetons, and I’ve always talked about wanting to climb “the Grand”. Without technical alpine climbing experience,  the Grand always felt a bit out of reach. The easiest route up the mountain is still a technical rock climb.

In April of this year, I turned thirty. I didn’t feel much different (I still mostly act like a kid), but Lauren decided turning thirty was special. She threw me a big fiesta birthday party. At the end of the night, after everyone left, she told me that she had arranged for me to climb the Grand Teton with my friend Kyle! If you didn’t know already, I have the best wife ever!

I immediately started planning. We landed on using Exum Guides to safely get us up the mountain on a four day trip (2 training, 2 climbing).  I thought July would never arrive, but finally it did. I’ll quickly break down each day:


Day 1 - We learned how to get the most out of our approach shoes (a hiking shoe specifically created for easier climbing). We learned/reviewed several climbing knots (figure 8 & bowline) and some rope management skills. By the end of the day, we were moving as a roped team up some easy terrain at Hidden Falls. The day ended with learning how to safely rappel.


Kyle & our guide Mark.

Day 2 – After day 1, our guide Mark suggested that Kyle and I do something a bit more challenging. Day two is typically more hands-on practice of day one’s skills. We were stoked when Mark suggested we do a route on the north end of Jenny Lake called Baxter’s Pinnacle. It was a moderate six pitch climb that ended with a very challenging 5.9 move at the beginning of the last pitch. Kyle and I agreed that this was almost as much fun as climbing the Grand.


Climbing Baxter’s Pinnacle with Jenny Lake in the background.


Climb Baxter’s Pinnacle with Teewinot and Middle Teton (I think) in the background.


Kyle on one of the last pitches of Baxter’s Pinnacle.


Cam & nut placed for protection on Baxter’s Pinnacle.

Day 3 - We met Mark, our guide, and the rest of our team to start the trek to the lower saddle, where we would camp before climbing the Grand. We had very warm/hot weather for the seven miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain. Mark kept a good pace, and we felt great the whole way up. After dinner, we bedded down with our closest twenty friends in the Exum hut. Between the old man that kept elbowing me, and some dude snoring, I got almost no sleep.


Hiking up Garnet Canyon approaching the Lower Saddle.


Relaxing after arriving at the Lower Saddle.


Outside our tent/hut at the Lower Saddle below the Grand.

Day 4 – At 2 AM, our alarms went off. After a quick breakfast, our team was off. Our team of 5 made great time up the mountain. Kyle and I pushed Suzzane & Pam really hard (50th birthday trip for them!), as we were determined to summit. Please forgive us. You guys were rock stars! By 6 AM, we had made it safely to the summit! The trip down was pretty laid back besides a section that is best rappelled. The rappel is in a dangerous rock-fall area, so it was important to move quickly through this section. After packing up camp and grabbing a bite to eat, we headed back down the trail. Once we were through the dangerous parts, Kyle and I broke off from the group and raced back. We had to be back to work the next day and had 8 hours in the car still ahead! Sheesh!


First sunlight hitting the Enclosure (a side peak of the Grand) and an awesome shadow of the Grand in the background.


Kyle working the traverse…definitely the most exposure of the route.


Our awesome team on the summit.


Kyle rappelling on the descent.


A nice view from the top!

The whole experience was really amazing! We learned a lot from the guides, and feel like we could easily enough do it on our own now. Thanks to our wives for letting us do this, and a big thanks to Kyle’s wife Stephanie for driving us home!

Fun Fact: Many people think the Grand Teton is the highest point in Wyoming. It’s not, but what mountain is?

P.S. Our wives had a lovely time exploring the park, the town of Jackson, and Jackson Hole ski resort, where we rented a condo.


Stephanie & Lauren in front of Hidden Falls.


Capitol Charmer

Capitol Peak is one of the most beautiful and challenging of Colorado’s Fourteeners. In September 2010, I blogged about my second and Lauren’s first failed attempt on the mountain. This summer was getting away from us, and we decided to give it “one” more try. The drive to the Capitol Peak trailhead is worth the trip alone.

Capitol Peak in Numbers

  • 3 attempts
  • 51 miles hiked
  • 12,000 ft of elevation gained
  • ∞ days of rain in the Elk Mountains
  • 14,130 feet tall

We arrived at the trailhead in the afternoon the start the six-mile backpack to our camp. We were greeted by one of the loudest thunder claps we’ve ever heard…a warning sign? The weather quickly cleared up and we hiked in. After setting up camp, it was deja vu. It started raining and raining. Luckily we got a quick break and were able to eat dinner and get ready for bed. It rained steadily through the night. When the alarm went off at 4ish, it wasn’t raining and we decided to go for it. Quickly, we were greeted by the moon and stars, and then a lovely sunrise.

Northeast Ridge

The climb took us around nine hours round trip. Capitol’s northeast ridge is ranked Class 4, which is right below technical climbing (needing ropes). Lauren and I were both thankful for our rock climbing backgrounds as we felt comfortable most of the time. There is one section of the climb called the “Knife Edge”, which has a lot of exposure (big drops on either side). This part usually bothers people the most, but I actually thought the east side of the route after coming over the saddle between Mt. Daly and Capitol was the scariest part. The “cairned” trail was hard for us to follow, and there was a good bit of loose scary terrain.

On the summit!

The third time was the charm! This trip was another good reminder that the mountain will always be there, so be safe and don’t push your luck when weather is bad. Capitol Peak was a lot of fun, and I’m so happy that Lauren was willing to try it again. After a good night’s rest, Lauren and I packed up and headed back to the car. On the way out, we talked to a couple who recommended a restaurant in Glenwood Springs called The Pullman. Definitely check it out next time you’re in the area.

Happy Campers!

Lima, Peru – Part 2

Finally, this post concludes our wonderful trip to South America!

We spent our last few days in the non-touristy but interesting capital of Peru: Lima. First things first…it was HOT there! I had to go to the store to buy shorts and a tank top (remember this is January). Second, since Lima is not a big tourist destination, we stood out, especially Joel. Some kids openly gawked at big blond Joel with his huge beard!

We took a highly-recommended private tour of the city, where we stopped at San Martin Square in the historic City Center.

In the middle of the plaza is the monument to San Martin, the liberator of Peru.

This is the front of the monument. Our guide told us a funny story: When the monument was being constructed, the sculptor was told to add a “llama” or flame to the top of the lady’s  head. The sculptor thought they meant llama, like the animal (which is very important in Peru), so he put the animal on her head (look closely). I’m glad they kept it.

We  saw the Lima Cathedral:

We toured the church of San Francisco and its catacombs, but you can’t take pictures inside:

This is Love Park in Miraflores, where there are lovely mosaic benches, reminiscent of Park Guell in Barcelona. The sculpture behind us (“The Kiss”) was done by Victor Delfin, the owner of the bed and breakfast where we stayed. Also right after we took this picture, some guys jumped out of a van, ran up and painted some white paint on the black part of the sculpture then ran away. We had no idea what that was about…unfortunately it seemed like vandalism.

Lima is not known for its beaches by any means, but we spent a little time at the one down below where we were staying (upper left corner). At one point, we started counting the unbelievable number of items vendors tried to sell us while we sat there. It was quite the variety.

Joel took some time and did a little mountain biking (kind of funny since we live in CO, but he loved it). Side note: Notice that Joel has no beard in this picture. He couldn’t handle the beard in the heat, so we bought clippers at a store, and he shaved it. At least we own clippers now.

We visited the Larco Museum, where we saw a large collection of Pre-Colombian art and had a lovely lunch at their cafe.

On our last night, we ventured to the very popular, almost locals-only Magic Water Circuit. This is an extremely cheap activity where you see maybe 20 large fountains lit up with different lights.  This was a fun night – a couple of girls asked to have their picture taken with us (you know, the gringos), and then later when we were looking at different areas, I found another girl getting her picture made with Joel. So funny…we figure we’re on someone’s facebook.

And thus concludes the amazing South American adventure. Special thanks to American Airlines for the free (plus taxes) flights and to Trip Advisor and random peoples’ blogs for helping us research. :)

Lima, Peru – Part 1

After spending New Years’ Eve in Cusco, we headed back to Lima for the duration of our trip. We stayed at a bed and breakfast called Second Home Peru. Lima is neither beautiful nor touristy, and one of our taxi drivers told us this was the best place to stay in Lima. The back of the home is on the cliff overlooking the ocean, so it was lovely to sit out on the deck or in the yard to see the sunset.

Second Home is the former home of artist Victor Delfin, so the home is full of paintings and sculptures by Delfin. It is run by his daughters, but I believe his quarters are adjacent to the b&b. Following are many pictures of the home, inside and out.

And finally, the view from the beach back up at the house (center):