Mount Wister is not prominent from the valley floor. But hidden among the peaks of the central Teton Range, tucked away in a breathtaking canyon is a true treasure of alpine rock. Named for Owen Wister, author of "The Virginian" and frequent visitor to Jackson Hole in the late 1800's, this peak did not see an ascent until 1928. Lack of a maintained trail into Avalanche Canyon will keep Mount Wister free from the crowds seen on more popular Teton summits. The setting is spectacular and the solitude will give climbers a vastly different experience than what is found in adjacent Garnet and Death canyons.
Flying into Jackson Hole airport gives climbers a great opportunity to scan the peaks for routes. Other airports with relative proximity include Idaho Falls, ID, Rock Springs, WY and Bozeman, MT. In reality, none of these are close enough to mitigate any extra costs incurred with flying straight to Jackson. Lodging is generally full during the summer months, so plan accordingly, or come prepared to camp. There are many campsites within the National Park, as well as free camping in adjacent National Forest Land. The AAI Climber's Ranch on the Jenny Lake road has bunks for $8 per night and showers. You can also find partners and rides to most trailheads from the ranch. Once in the Park, get to the Taggart Lake Trailhead, a few miles South of Jenny Lake. Follow the Taggart Lake trail, taking the first right and crossing Taggart Creek. After about 1.1 miles, take the Bradley Lake trail (right fork again) for another quarter mile, then move cross country back toward Taggart Lake, regaining a maintained trail. Hike North toward the moraine separating Bradley and Taggart Lakes. On the open slope of the moraine, at about 6,960 feet and before the first switchback, find a faint trail to the left. This trail leads into Avalanche Canyon, and is easier to follow once around the lake. Stay as close to the bottom of the canyon as possible, while still avoiding numerous marshy spots. Keep a keen eye out for moose in this forest, there are quite a few. At the fork of Taggart Creek, just below Shoshoko Falls, follow the talus cone North of the falls until it is possible to traverse to Lake Taminah. From here Mount Wister will be looming above, just to the Southwest. There is camping at the lake and in a small grassy patch just beyond Taminah. Other sites are available higher, at Snowdrift Lake, and are reported to be some of the best sites in the Park.
Camping in Avalanche canyon requires a permit, available from the Jenny Lake Ranger station (307) 739-3343. Permits must be obtained in person no sooner than 48 hours before your departure. The NPS uses a quota system for camping in certain zones. With so few sites around Taminah, they can fill quickly. Get to the Ranger Station as early as possible (they open at 8 AM). You are not required to register as a climber. No fires, pets, firearms allowed in Grand Teton National Park. Be sure to bring a license plate number to the Rangers if you plan on leaving a car at the trailhead.
When To Climb
The Teton season is generally June through September. Snow can fly on any day and late afternoon thunderstorms are common during the summer months. Some of the snow routes to the summit may be in shape as early as May (usually) and the rock can still be clear into October (less likely). The approach in winter looks to be dangerous without solid snow conditions.
The National Park Service operates several campgrounds within the Park. The AAC Climbers Ranch located on the Jenny Lake (inner loop) road also has bunks and showers for about $8 a night. There are other places to camp for free outside of the Park. Ask around the area about these (and don't camp in my spot!).
For route conditions, the best source of current information is the Jenny Lake Ranger station (307-739-3343). They generally begin operation after Memorial Day and continue through September. Outside of those dates, the Moose Ranger Station will have permits, but not detailed climbing information.