In the summer of 2016 I took the family up to Garnet Canyon, with a plan to scramble up the Middle Teton via the southwest couloir. Although the summit attempt was unsuccessful due to a fierce thunderstorm that blew in early in the morning (full report here
), we enjoyed our time in Tetons, and resolved to return the following year. Our return to Garnet Canyon and the Middle Teton would be important not only for getting essential time in the spectacular alpine terrain, but also to conquer some demons we were left with after being literally chased off the saddle during the first attempt.
This time we repeated the same itinerary that included a couple nights in Garnet Meadow. The hike from the Lupine Meadows trailhead was busy with many hikers and climbers, as well as a black bear cub just off the trail where it joins the moraine.
Black bear cub on the trail from Lupine Meadows
The boys (ages 12 and 14) trekked well, and we soon found ourselves contouring into Garnet Canyon with the now familiar sight of the Middle Teton perched majestically above.
Entering Garnet Canyon
We pitched our tent amidst ample summer snow left from an epic winter, and spent the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the scenery. A few quick-hitting afternoon storms passed through, as well as some more wildlife.
Garnet Canyon with the Middle and the Grand
A fox visits our camp following a hail storm
We trekked out well before sunrise the next morning. The early morning snow in the south fork of Garnet was firm, but not worthy of crampons. We made good time up the extensive snowfields, with the two boys showing improved ice axe and snow travel skills since last year.
Sunrise in the South Fork of Garnet Canyon
High in the South Fork of Garnet Canyon
We hit the saddle between the Middle and South Tetons around 8:00 am, took a break, surveyed the ridge toward the Middle Teton, and remarked at how last year at this same time of morning, we were assailed by thunder and lightning, with buzzing iceaxes and horizontal hail. This time we were given only sunshine and blue sky.
At the saddle between the Middle and South Tetons
From here we ascended along rock at the ridge crest, avoiding the hard snow and unsafe runout on the slope. After attaining the flat spot below the apron, I surveyed the southwest couloir and reconciled with my understanding of the route. It looked straightforward to my eye, but I was uncertain if we would need to tread on the steep snow in bottom of the couloir, so we kept our axes with us a bit longer. After ascending onto solid rock above the apron, the route up and around the snowfield was relatively clear, and we left the axes there. Once we reached the narrow bottom of the couloir itself, we took a short break to enjoy the views.
Entering the Southwest Couloir
From here we donned helmets and began the dirty scramble up the guts of the couloir, finding and using solid rock where would could. We soon found ourselves high above the pass and feeling distinctly alpine.
In the Southwest Couloir of the Middle Teton
Feeling high in the Southwest Couloir of the Middle Teton
After working past a couple chokes, we worked left onto solid rock and out of the couloir. From there we ascended a faint track of loose but reasonable rock, and soon found ourselves just above the notch between the twin summits. We had inadvertently bypassed the exposed scrambling on the crest, but were quite excited to have reached the top. At this point we encountered another climber for the first time that day, and after letting him have some solitary time on the summit block, we took our turn gazing at the Grand and relaxing on the summit.
Looking down to the South Fork of Garnet Canyon
Success on the Middle Teton
We descended the couloir safely, carefully passing one additional climber on her way up. Once we were down to the safe and sun-soft snow of the canyon, we flew down the canyon and back to the Meadow.
Although we had ample time left in the day, we chose to stay the final night in Garnet Meadow and enjoy our time in the mountains. Several groups of climbers passed through up and down, as well as an afternoon storm. The next morning we trekked back out of the canyon and down, demons slayed and full of content memories.
Exiting Garnet Canyon
Coincidentally, we passed mama(?) black bear at the same location where we had seen the cub on the way in.
Black bear on the Lupine Meadows trail
Berry hungry bear
Another great visit to the Tetons.