Matt and I have decided that once a year, no matter what, we will go on an adventure...just the two of us. This year we finally did something we have always wanted to do: Climb the Grand Teton.
I thought I was in good shape. I had been training for a marathon (although not as diligently as I should have been), but this mountain kicked my butt! Next time I do it, I know I need to do some real training.
We started our adventure at 7:00 in the morning to backpack up to our campsite or "the caves" as the rangers called it. It was about 5 miles in and the hike wasn't too bad except my pack was about 35 lbs. and Matt's was probably around 50 lbs. Climbing gear is really heavy!
We're almost to our campsite. It is in the trees above the waterfall. That peak is the Middle Teton.
After we reached our campsite, I went exploring. This is looking down on the trail and our campsite (in the trees).
The next morning we woke up at 3:00 am. Yes, 3:00 am. After we eat and geared up, we started on the trail about an hour later at 4:00. We left our tent and sleeping bags and brought just the supplies we needed for the climb to the peak which included a rope, cams, food, and clothing. The reason you have to leave so early is that you want to avoid the thunderstorms that always come in the afternoon.
We started hiking in the dark with our headlamps and things are going pretty well until we reach a huge boulder field and lose our way. We scrambled around and eventually find our way by following the lights on the mountain from climbers up ahead.
Finally we reached the saddle at 6:00 am. It took us two hours to hike just two miles, but it was very steep and very dark. Reaching the saddle is pretty much equivalent to reaching the peak of Timpanogos...and the hard part hasn't even began.
The tree line was back where we camped out and everything around us was just rock. Big boulders, little boulders, steep cliffs...but nothing like a trail or dirt. So we got lost a lot trying to find our way. There were many climbers along the way, but we mostly just tried to follow vague descriptions from the guide books.
The climbing was actually not very difficult. We climbed the Upper Exum which is 5.4 at hardest. Many people don't rope up most of the way and some free solo it the entire way. It is scary at some parts because of the extreme exposure: huge sheer cliffs that would lead to your death if you fell. It is also very steep. Imagine climbing stairs to the top of a mountain. It isn't technically difficult, but it uses a ton of muscle.
We made it most the way and get lost again, but this time it is scary because we are practically out of food, a storm is coming in, and there is snow all around which meant slippery and dangerous climbing. We meander and reread the guide book for a while. I had a moment of panic and then decided that panicking never helped any one so I pulled myself together and we said a prayer. Instantly, we knew which direction to go and we reached the peak.
My legs were shaking practically the whole way down from overexertion and lack of energy. I needed food and rest, but we weren't there yet. I needed to keep on going. Matt was fine, of course. He is in great shape and is strong. I had altitude sickness which really affected me near the peak which is about 14,000 ft.
We finally made it back to our campsite around 8:00 pm. That meant we had been hiking/climbing for 16 hours. I slept horribly that night in our little tent and woke up around 4:30 am, so we got another early start, but this time down the mountain. We painfully hiked the 5 miles out of the mountain to the campground. Overall the journey to the peak and back took us around 24 hours.
This is called "the eye of the needle." We were supposed to go through it on the way up, but we got lost and did it a completely different and more difficult way.
It was so flippin' hard and my body hurt so much, but it was worth it. The views were beautiful and the feeling of accomplishment was thrilling. We will definitely do it again.