We woke up at 2:45 a.m. and arrived at the Grand Teton trailhead at 4:00 a.m. sharp to start the hike. It is a long one. I am not a huge planner; I go with a trail and a basic idea of the route, approach, and direction, etc., and just plan to grind it out! I thought I had read it was a 12-mile round trip. After six miles, I realized it was a lot more.
We made it out of the woods and above the tree line after six miles a little after 5:30 a.m. We reached “The Meadows” at 6:20 a.m. (We made a wrong turn here that added another hour or so up to the Exum permanent camp site, then back down to the trail.) At 8:40 a.m., we made it to the “fixed lines.” It’s worth noting that there was a significant disruption around the area of the “fixed lines” later that evening. We got back to the car at 6:00 p.m., but at 5:00 p.m. it was reported that the Grand Teton was closed down, as some really big rocks fell off the mountain and landed in the area of the fixed lines which we had traversed earlier that day!
Back to that morning: We were at the lower saddle at 9:30 a.m. and reached the upper saddle at 11:15 a.m. (We made a wrong turn here that added another 40 minutes or so up and back down to the trail.) We made it around the “Belly Roll” at 11:40 a.m. Here is a link to an excellent site I found that explains and most clearly shows the area.
After the Belly Roll comes the crawl…but VERY unfortunately, that was the end of the climb for us. We decided to turn around. We did not have ropes, there was no one to “borrow” from, and the biggest problem was that “the Crack” was mostly filled with ice, preventing a safe traverse. The Belly Roll and the Crack involve extreme exposure. The climbing is not too difficult, but the exposure is life-threatening. If you fall, you die—there’s no way around it and that’s not an exaggeration to say. The drop is maybe a couple thousand feet, with no way to self-arrest.
So, as the Crack was filled and we lacked a solid way of anchoring in, we decided to turn back. There are a few things worth noting here. One, it has been a few years since I have done any technical rock climbing, and a few years more since I have done any without ropes. I admittedly was out of practice and more importantly didn’t have the exposure/altitude conditioning. It was nothing short of terrifying! Really, my hands are sweating just thinking of it. It was the right decision to turn around and try again another day. The next time we’ll come with ropes and hopefully have some more clear, dry rock to hold on to.
Don’t get me wrong—there are a lot of people who would be comfortable making that climb, but at this point in my life, with my lack of practice, I’m not one of them. I am not GREAT at a lot of things, but am proficient enough in many, and I set reasonable limits to ensure my self-preservation. So, I made it back down the mountain and worked my way home (with my tail between my legs in defeat!). I am generally good with it all. I am not looking forward to the return hike part of it, but am looking forward to the climb part—although you have to take the good with the bad. It was a LONG day: 19+ miles, 6,000’+ of ascent and descent, in just under 14 hours. But I only lost one toenail, so that’s good. After a few days of rest, I think I will be able to turn my “I got to” go back and reach the top of the Grand into a “I GET to”!