bthere and I had originally decided to try Thor Peak, but the rangers told us that due to snow, or more appropriately, lack of snow, that reaching the Hidden Couloir (our intended route) would be a nightmare of wet runout slabs to a potentially empty couloir. We wisely chose to change our objective.
Mt. Moran was bandied about as an alternative, but we both agreed that the only way to climb Moran is in the winter, when we can ski the Skillet Glacier (huck the 'schrund!!) back to our camp. So we shelved that idea too.
We finally decided that Mt. Wister would give us what we were looking for; a distinct Teton Peak that neither of us had climbed, with committing rock, beautiful camping, and the solitude lacking from Garnet and Cascade Canyons. We packed up the car and headed out, intent on getting to the campsite before too late in the day.
We arrived in the park just in time to stop by the ranger cabin and get our permit for camping in Avalance Canyon before going to the trailhead. The rangers, always a source of help, gladly provided us with the beta on the route and descent, letting us leaf through their book of photos and generally offering good wishes.
We had decided that since the approach was a mere 4 miles, we would be to camp in no time. So we loaded up and took off, as the afternoon sun dipped low and shadows stretched across the valley floor.
The first two miles or so were quite mellow; we had followed the directions in Ortenburger's book to a "T" and managed to get completely around Taggart lake on a nice trail, despite warnings of bushwacking and overgrown forast. But once we were moving up into Avalanche Canyon proper, we managed to lose the trail on a steep scree-and-tree slope, which we climbed until we hit the base of the cliff on the north side of the canyon.
That's when the real fun began. We had indeed found the bushwacking, although we found out later that we had just taken a wrong turn. Nevertheless, we contoured around the base of the cliffs on the north side of Avalanche Canyon, slashing our shins on the ruthless underbrush and hiking over, around, and under countless rocky outcrops, waiting and waiting to get back on the trail. After traversing some sketchy slabs with hideous runouts, we finally came around a corner and much to our relief saw that we were nearing Shoshoko Falls and the established trail.
We hit the trail and motored up to Taminah Lake, traversing high on the north side until we were able to drop down to our campsite just past the lake. The hour was growing late, and we were glad to be able to drop our packs, set up camp, and eat dinner.
Of course, Mt. Wister had been clearly visible the entire time from the falls, and our thoughts turned to the Northwest Arete as we settled into our bags, hoping that the pikas would not eat our food during the night.
We woke up the next morning, not really a true "alpine" start, but early enough to watch the sun rise as we ate our breakfast and drank coffee. Within 45 minutes of leaving camp, we were negotiating the snow slope at the base of the route. Again, hideous runouts, so with the ever-popular nut tool ice axe we kick-stepped our way to the starting ledge.
We started climbing at about 7:30am. The first pitch is the technical crux, consisting of an interesting, slightly overhanging corner on superb rock with good protection. I got that pitch, climbing to a great ledge with excellent views to the north of Taminah Arete and the peaks of the south ridge of Garnet Canyon. B took pitch two, a long chimney affair with sparse protection. We swung leads all day, on great rock with excellent exposure. One of the most interesting pitches was the fourth, which led into and through a large 5.6 chimney that separated a huge gendarme from the main rock of Wister. Nothing like slotting through a keyhole and onto a ledge!
As we neared the top of the route, after 8 or so pitches of belayed climbing, we started simul climbing until we came to the col between Wister and Veiled peak. The views of the North face of Buck Mtn. were superb, and we planned our winter couloir ascents as we ate our long-neglected lunch. With crappy weather threatening, we decided to descend.
On the way down, we found some great snowfields for "extreme" glissading, which was nothing more than jumping off wind lips and yelling as we rode the firm snow to the bottom of the slope. Still, it was an excellent finish to a beautiful day.
Unfortunately, as we hiked back to the tent we were without water as our iodine had been left in camp, a fact we managed to overlook until we were streamside and panting with thirst. We suffered through (that's not the first time we'd gone without H2O climbing in the Tetons) and finally refilled our bottles at camp.
We arrived in camp to find it overrun with pikas. For the next 4 hours, we defended our turf from the maurading rodents with small rocks and wicked aim. Fortunately they hadn't gotten into our food stores, or they would have found their numbers lessend by at least one. (We were curious about the flavor of roasted pika, but we never had an opportunity to find out...)
Despite our "conditioning efforts" those evil rodents managed to run off with our coffee filter! We found it hidden under a huge boulder, just in time to save us from caffeine-deprivation tremors on Sunday morning. When we were packed up and ready to go, we followed our trail back to the top of Shoshoko falls and the climber's trail down into Avalance Canyon. Several squishy miles later we were back at the car, with Wister under our belts and smiles on our faces.
"No matter how big a guy might be, Nicky would take him on. You beat Nicky with fists, he comes back with a bat. You beat him with a knife, he comes back with a gun. And you beat him with a gun, you better kill him, because he’ll keep coming back and back until one of you is dead."