Every year Jackson Hole hosts “Powder Week”. A week where media and ski companies come together to test product, hang out, party, and network during the winter. Last year, MJ was on the chairlift when she got an offer from Brenton who works with Exum Mountain Guides. The offer was to climb the Grand Teton in Grand Teton National Park.
Taking Brenton up on his offer, myself and 6 other co-workers from K2 headed to Wyoming. The Grand Teton is one of the most picturesque mountains in North America. Topping out at 13,775 ft, the summit towers above the Jackson, Wyoming valley floor.
We arrived on Sunday, a day before the climb, for a crash course in mountaineering from the pros at Exum. In one day we did our best to learn how to climb, belay, rappel, tie various knots, put on crampons, and more. A bit of a overload but super cool.
The next day our alarms sounded at 4 am. Groggy-eyed but anxious, we got the adventure underway at 5am with headlamps leading the way. The sunrise on the hike up was unreal and made the initial climb seem “easy”. We arrived to the Exum base camp in just under 4 hours and after a brief discussion decided to make our push for the summit as soon as possible. Initially we had planed to summit the following day but after quick discussion with our guides, Breton, Mike, and Nat, we decided to push for the summit the same day.
Group moral was high and the weather was holding out. After a bite to eat and water refill we left base camp around 10am. Up until this point it was a beautiful hike without any technical sections. However, about 20 minutes outside of base camp things got real. Harnesses on we made our way through a large boulder field with some technical sections to “Wall Street”, a rock ledge with maximum exposure. To get from “Wall Street” to the Exum ridge you have to make one move where there is nothing below you but the mountain air and a “mellow” thousand plus foot drop. After making this move and getting off “Wall Street” we were on the Exum ridge. This would be the pitch that took us to the top of the Grand. The next 3 hours were some of the most incredible moments of my life. The entire time you were gripped and fully focused on what was ahead, below, and around you.
Only a few hundred feet to the summit, clouds started to build to the west and all our guides quickly switched from fun and playful to extremely serious. As we continued to climb, the clouds got darker and much closer. Nat guided myself and Drew to the top at a pace so fast we didn’t even have time to understand what was going on and before we knew it we were at the summit!
After 4 hours of intense climbing we’d summited the Grand Teton! Excited and relived, Nat let us take it in for all of 30 seconds before he was yelling, “get those crampons on and let’s go!” Crampons on we left the summit behind and began our decent. About 10 minutes later it began to snow. As we descended the “Owen Spalding” route we got to a spot where we rappelled 35 meters and then down climbed back to camp.
Back at base camp we exchanged numerous high fives, lets out some yelps and relished in the fact that we just conquered the Grand Teton. After some rest Mike and I decided that we wanted to conquer it in one day so we continued to down climb with Brenton. The decent from base camp was rapid and quick. About an hour after leaving base camp we put our headlamps back on and continued towards the trailhead.
After 15 hours, over 7,000ft in elevation, 18.6 miles, 50,000+ steps, sunshine and snow, we’d completed the Grand Teton.
I think I’m still coming off a “Grand high” because it’s truly hard to put this experience into words (as you can tell by this jumbled, poorly written and horribly documented summary haha). I am truly blessed to get opportunities like this and experience it with a group like MJ, Alyssa, Mike, Drew, Zach, and Todd. HUGE thanks to MJ for coordinating the trip and Exum Guides (I can’t say enough about the guides and their service. They were unreal. If you ever want a mountain adventure, get in touch with Exum!) for giving us a once in a lifetime experience.
Now, for the next adventure! I can’t wait.