“The mountains are calling and I must go.” -John Muir

Our plane suddenly descended and banked sharply as we prepared to land in Jackson Hole Airport.  I looked out my window on the right side of the plane and our journey suddenly felt much more real than it had seconds ago.  Out that windows, towering above her sister mountains, was Grand Teton.   Holy shit, it looked huge.       I was almost overwhelmed with emotion as it drifted out of my view.  We were really here.

It all seemed like a fantasy back in December when Dave, Matt and I started talking about coming out to Jackson, WI to climb the 13,770ft Grand Teton.   We had just finished a weekend of multi-pitch climbing and camping at Seneca Rocks, WV and we had bigger peaks on our brains.   We all agreed we should do a trip the next year somewhere more ambitious than West Virginia.

We established some basic criteria for our next adventure.  It had to be in the US, it had to be out west and it had to be something none of us had done before.  We thought about doing Rainer or Whitney, but Matt had already done both of those.  We looked and some of the 14’ers in Colorado, but a lot of those, didn’t involve a lot of roped up climbing that we desired.

Then someone mentioned Grand Teton.  Almost 14,000ft, requires class 5 climbing to summit and it’s got a great little airport and fun town right at the base of it.   Sounded like we had a winner.  Plus just looking at pictures of it, it was just begging to be climbed.  So after a few months of research we finally got our permit and booked our flights for Jackson, WY.

Being from the east coast and living a relatively sheltered first 30 years of my life I’d never been on anything higher than 7000ft.  The prospect of climbing a real mountain was making me wild with excitement.   The whole concept of alpine mountaineering was only something I read and dreamt about.   The altitude, the snow covered slopes in July, standing on top of the clouds… it was all going to be a reality.


The plane touched down and after waiting nervously for our checked bags full of our climbing and camping gear, we managed to find our way to the car rental place. We had about 8 hours before Matt would be flying in from San Fran, so we had a little time to kill.

Downtown Jackson is a weird amalgamation of a town.  In one block you’ll find cheesy souvenir shops that sell trashy t-shirts, a trendy restaurant and a store that sells cowboy boots.  It’s a lot to take in, but it’s got a lot of western charm and the surrounding peaks provide a stunning backdrop.

Dave and I settled in for a lunch at a restaurant we were referred to by a couple of locals called Sweetwater Tavern.  There we enjoyed buffalo sloppy joes and elk melts, along with a couple of nice local IPAs to wash it all down.

Once we were done we crammed ourselves back into the rental Corolla and drove about 30 minutes outside of town to the Jenny Lake Ranger Station to pick up permit and check in at the climber ranch where we’d be staying at that night.


“If you blow it here, you’re gonna take a ride all the way down the Idaho Express.  Don’t blow it man. ”    The bearded climbing ranger was going over the route with us and was warning us of the dangers of making a mistake on the mountain.  He was referring to a particularly exposed part of the climb and a 3000ft cliff that drops almost completely straight down the mountain into neighboring Idaho.   With his sun bleached hair and wild looking beard, he looked like he could just as easily been working at a surf shop as he could be a climbing ranger in a national park.

“Some 19 year old kid blew it at this spot last year.  He was clipped into the accessory loop in his harness.  He didn’t make it”.

The Idaho Express.

3000ft drop.

Don’t blow it.

Hard to forget any of that, right?   We finished reviewing the route with the ranger, he gave us our permit and we were on our way.   I stopped for a moment to look up at the mountain before we jumped back in the car to head back to Jackson.  I looked over at Dave who probably looked as wide eyed as I did.

“Dave, let’s not blow it up there..”

“Yeah, no shit man.”





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