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.


1 comment

  1. Looks awesome! I always loved the thrill of seeing a 100 mile long shadow cast from the thing you’re standing on.

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