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Welcome to the Tetons
Trip Report

Welcome to the Tetons

 
Welcome to the Tetons

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Wyoming, United States, North America

Object Title: Welcome to the Tetons

Date Climbed/Hiked: Jul 19, 2001

Activities: Hiking

Season: Summer

 

Page By: Bob Sihler

Created/Edited: Nov 15, 2006 / Sep 27, 2007

Object ID: 244289

Hits: 5122 

Page Score: 79.78%  - 11 Votes 

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A Change of Mind and Heart

I was tired of the Tetons before I'd even visited them. How many times would I have to see the same old picture from the Snake River Overlook or from Oxbow Bend? How many calendars, car ads, and other media products would just keep beating those images to death? By the time I got to the Tetons for the first time, in July 1997, I wanted to do little more than drive through and get somewhere else. The crowded overlooks and pullouts, the slow and inattentive drivers, the commercialism, the pretentiousness of Jackson--- they all made me want to get far away as quickly as I could. When I visited again the following summer, I felt mostly the same way.

In late March of 1999, though, things began to change. I found a Grand Teton National Park that was quiet and buried in snow; coyote tracks in the drifts were the only signs that someone else was out there, too. Although the bitterly cold winds kept me in my car most of the time, the majesty of the mountains, clad in white from crown to toe, made an indelible impression.

Cascade-Paintbrush Loop


July 2001 came along, and I figured I had to suck it up and endure the crowds so that I could experience the backcountry of these mountains and get a taste of what they were really about. On July 18, I took the eye-opening and exhilarating loop through Cascade and Paintbrush Canyons, and I had most of the good stuff, even Lake Solitude, to myself thanks to a dawn start. That hike alone convinced me that the Tetons were easily among America's most spectacular mountains.

I had planned only to hike up to where Cascade Canyon splits into its north and south forks; first, I was early in my trip and didn’t feel ready for an epic high-altitude day hike yet, and, second, I expected amply rewarding scenery along my intended route. At the fork, however, I felt incredibly strong (I think I’d “hiked myself into shape” two days earlier in the Bridger Wilderness) and unsatisfied; the canyon was not high and open enough, and I felt hemmed in. I chose to go the extra 2.7 miles to Lake Solitude, knowing spectacular scenery lay that way. At the lake, where I did, surprisingly, find solitude for about fifteen minutes, I still felt great, and the touted Paintbrush Divide was just two miles and 1600’ (up) away. There was no debate.

This 23-mile trek through unbelievably gorgeous high country was one of the best hikes and decisions I have ever made. The views west on the way up to the divide were, in my opinion, even better than those from the wind-blasted apex above. There was measurable satisfaction in seeing Mount Moran from a vantage point so different from that in all the calendars and guides one finds. It was almost like discovering a secret. Upper Paintbrush Canyon is also one of the most spectacular alpine environments one can find.

The hike was worth the exhaustion, and my dinner and cold beer later were the perfect reward for it.
Mount Fryxell
A view south from Paintbrush Divide
Micah Lake
Micah Lake from the trail between Lake Solitude and Paintbrush Divide

Static Peak


But I got my first summit, albeit an easy one, the next day. Starting at dawn once again, I hiked through a quiet Death Canyon--- only a solitary moose was out there with me--- and up to Static Peak Divide, a trip of eight miles and 4000' gained that took about three hours. The views of the mountains and off-trail places like Saddlerock Lake as the trail climbed to the divide were spectacular. The views from the divide itself were better.

Studying my map, I decided I had to see Timberline Lake, and the only way to do so was to hike up to the summit of Static Peak, a steep but short effort. Up there, where the wind is more than a gentle, refreshing breeze, I saw the partially icebound lake and sweeping 360-degree views that included, from a perspective I'd never seen before, the Grand itself.

I also met my first human company of the day up there. A German hiker had taken a detour from his group in Alaska Basin to head up Static Peak, and we talked a bit and took each other's picture. And I made an incredible blunder--- unfamiliar with that view of the Grand, I read my map incorrectly and told him the Grand was the South Teton. Closer studying later on revealed my error, but I still think of that guy and hope he ultimately got some better information than what I gave him.

Back down and out I went, and this time it took less than three hours, but what a changed setting! Down in Death Canyon near the ranger cabin, literally dozens of people splashed and swam in the creek, and the place seemed more like a water park or community pool in a suburban area than a lovely canyon in a great national park. I had to hold my nose as I edged by and through all those people, but they could not take away what I'd found above, what few of them would ever bother to try and what even fewer could actually do.

So call me a convert. I have been back several times, and I hope to return. I will inveigh against the crowds in this park, but I also know how to avoid them for the most part. Don't make the mistake I did--- letting your disdain for crowds, commercialization, and popular taste keep you away from these incredible mountains. Just go early, hike far, and climb high. I can almost guarantee you won't be disappointed.
The Grand from Static Peak
The Grand Teton from Static Peak
Buck Mountain from Static Peak Divide
Buck Mountain from Static Peak Divide

Timberline Lake
Timberline Lake and a small glacier from Static Peak

Images

The Grand from Static PeakBuck Mountain from Static Peak DivideTimberline LakeMount FryxellMicah Lake

Comments


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Dottie Little TentCool

Dottie Little Tent

Voted 10/10

I think I will take your advice and pretend like Jackson Hole isn't there and give them another try sometime. Nice images, I never made it that far up Cascade Canyon, I got sidetracked following a half tame bear around.
Posted Dec 4, 2006 4:33 am

Bob SihlerRe: Cool

Bob Sihler

Hasn't voted

If you do, I think you won't be disappointed. If you want any ideas of when and where to go, just ask. But I'd definitely recommend South Fork Cascade Canyon over the busier North Fork-Paintbrush loop. Near the upper end of South Fork, there is a short trail to Avalanche Divide, my vote for the best trail-accessible spot in the park, and from there the South Teton is an easy Class 3 climb of about 2000'. You can also avoid Jackson entirely by approaching from the west side and going up Table Mountain or into Alaska Basin, both of which are popular areas but which are nothing like the Jackson-side crowds. The west side has many remote areas, too, but the ones I mentioned are very accessible and give an incredible payoff.

On my Yellowstone Ecosystem page, there's a shot in the Teton Range section of the South Teton from Avalance Divide. I'd make a link for you here, but I don't know how to in the comments section.
Posted Dec 5, 2006 1:41 am

Dottie Little TentRe: Cool

Dottie Little Tent

Voted 10/10

Thanx, the scramble part really interests me since I'm not realy a technical climber. We would have stopped by the Tetons this last trip but it would have meant a ton of driving out of the way with the winter road closures.
Posted Dec 5, 2006 3:14 am

Viewing: 1-3 of 3