Climbing The Southwest Couloir

Climbing The Southwest Couloir

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Aug 23, 2003
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Summer


High Rock Vista SignHigh Rock Vista, PA. USA.
Homesick!.. I missed my mountains, and back in time the only thing I could remember was staring at the huge skyscrapers of Philadelphia, a jungle of concrete but one of the most beautiful cities in the United States as well.

Marathons and crosscountry races kept my body and mind busy and in constant activity. Being just an hour away from Trevose where I lived, Tylor State Park, High Rock Vista or Ralph Stover State Park in Pennsylvania were places I used to visit often. I spent the whole day running, biking, rock climbing or just bouldering around. But I still felt anxious to go higher as I used to in the past.

On the way to the Tetons

So, Kelly (USA) and I planned a trip to the US Midwest. I wanted to visit this place I saw a couple weeks ago in a Exum Mountain Guides brochure. The pictures were striking, tall peaks towering 2,100 meters (7,000 ft) above the valley of Jackson Hole. The Teton Range rose abruptly from the east, with no foothills between the valley and the mountains. I couldn't wait any longer, loaded my car up with my camping gear and drove west without hesitation.
Middle Teton, Wyoming.Middle Teton as seen from the Meadows

It took us 3 days to get to the Grand Teton National Park. We stopped on the way several times, visited the Bad Lands in South Dakota and Devil's Tower in Wyoming. It felt great to leave the east coast and to get to know those new places that I only saw in magazines and books.

Kelly and I got to the town of Jackson and drove around for a while. Visited the Exum Mountain Guides office and then continued driving north. Got to Dornan's and bought a book at an outdoor shop and some groceries at a convenience store. Then we visited the Moose Visitor Center, passed through the National Park's entrance station and drove all the way to Jenny Lake campgroung by a super-scenic road. It was hard to keep my eyes on the road while driving, the range views kept my attention out of the rode most of the time.

Once at Jenny Lake campgroung we set our tent up. This time I spent the whole afternoon stareing at the range. Teewinot Mountain looked huge from my camping site. I wanted to start climbing all those peaks right away.

The climb

I had a good relaxing night. Left the tent at 9 am and drove up to Garnet Canyon. Kelly and I started hiking up by Garnet Canyon trail to the Meadows. This was the first time I hiked through a thick pine forest. I felt like in those Yoggie bear's movies and so lucky of being there. The trail narrowed at times, but then it got wider as soon as we got to timberline.
Middle Teton, Wyoming.Approaching to the summit.
Middle Teton (3,903 m/12,804 ft). WY. USAMiddle Teton summit with the Grand Teton in the background.

The day was just perfect, clear blue sky, sunny and windy. But it changed in a matter of minutes. We could hear thunder striking up near the Grand Teton summit. Suddenly the thunderstom calmed down and everything was like before, nice and clear. We saw a helicopter flying above us until it disappeared behing the Gran Teton. We saw it flying again minutes later, but this time with a load hanging from a rope which was spinning in the air. I though it was freight being carried out from the Exum's refuge, but later we knew it was the body of a young girl who was being evacuated from the mountain. She got hit by lightning during the thunderstorm. A sad experience!

We crossed a stream by a wooden bridge and continued up to a huge boulder field. We spent most part of the time traversing this boulder field. We had to sorround the boulders and to find our way through them. Finally Kelly and I got to a small snow field, we crossed it up and kept hiking up to the saddle between the South and Middle Tetons.

From there, we traversed north for a while until we reached the bottom of a couloir that ends up at the north summit of the Middle Teton. We scrambled up the gully until we got just 30 meters below the summit. Kelly and I traversed north. Now we were at just meters from the Middle Teton's true summit. It was a moment a waited for so long. A few more scrambles and we got it!, Kelly and I were standing on the second highest point of the whole Teton Range, the summit of the Middle Teton (3,902 m / 12, 804 ft).

We stayed on the top for a while. The view from up there was incredible.. I could see the Grand Teton to the north and not too far from where we were standing at. We could even see the Teton Range shadow casting over the Jackson Hole valley, far below in the east as well as Iceflow Lake to the western plains.

Kelly and I got back down to the trailhead the same way we got up there. Got to the car at 7 pm. It took us exactly 9 hours RT to climb the Middle Teton. Once again in the tent we couldn't believed we climbed it, we felt so lucky of being there but it was time for us to leave, we still had a lot to explore ahead.

Kelly and I drove north to Yellowstone National Park by next day, and as always staring at the Teton Range in my car's rear view mirror while driving.

Since then, I haven't returned to the east coast, I made of the Rockies my home while living in the United States. I still look forward for the day when I can see the Tetons again, rising up in the horizon after a long driving day. Can't wait to climb them again!


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