It was just another Sunday afternoon with not much on the agenda. I decided to get out a bit. My first idea was to climb Rammell Mountain in the northern end of the Teton Range. This would be a quick peak with only about 2 miles and 2000 feet to the summit from the trailhead. However, since I was alone, I decided against this because of the mountain's proximity to grizzly country at the north end of the range. I decided to save that one for later.
Table Mountain was a peak that I'd had bad luck with in the past and never got around to summiting. There is a good trail system up the peak, and the views are supposed to be incredible. So, I decided to head into Teton Canyon and do it. I knew that I'd probably have to hike out in the dark, but with a trail the navigation would be easy. Instead of the regular route, I chose the Face Trail, which gains altitude quickly, and I would at least have some kind of nice view in case I decided to turn back before dark.
After arriving at the trailhead for Alaska Basin, I found the Face Trail that heads up. The trail isn't marked at the trailhead until you head up into the trees. It isn't maintained, but it is heavily used still. It was about 5:15 pm, and there was plenty of sunshine to get me to the top, so I headed up. The trail was steep but manageable. In no time I had great views of the peaks on the south side of Teton Canyon and the back side of Freds Mountain. I passed a couple of moose, but they quickly hid from view once they saw me.
Around 7:00 pm I was high enough on the mountain that the summit was possible. The trail that I had taken had joined up with the main tourist trail and all I had left was the last stretch above treeline and the scree slog and scramble to the summit.
The sun was getting lower and I wanted to get to the top before twilight, so I pushed myself until I finally made the summit at 7:45 pm. I was there. I made it to the summit. The most rewarding part of the hike is that you get peeks here and there of the central Teton summits, but you only get a complete view once you summit. I finally had that view.
The Summit and the Setting Sun
Before too long the peaks began to get darker in front of me. I figured I didn't want to downclimb the summit scramble in the dark, so I headed down and back around the "table" to where the peaks were visible still. I wanted to catch the last light on the Tetons before heading back.
To truly catch alpenglow on this side of the high Tetons you must catch the right conditions. The horizon needs to be clear, and from up here the horizon is very far away. Any clouds grazing the Lemhi and Lost River Ranges can obscure the sunset. That's what I ended up seeing, but it added some neat light effects.
Once twilight hit I still had enough light to make it quite a distance down the trail without using my headlamp, heading down at around 8:50. Being alone in the dark heading down the trail required an MP3 player and an under-active imagination. I was ready to run across the moose or a bear by surprise further down. Singing along with the music seemed to be my best option as far as a wildlife deterrent. I had my bear spray with me, but I wanted to avoid needing to use it. The trail up high went quickly, and heading down the steeper parts lower down was quick, too, but I was ready to end my trip. I got back to the car at about 10:40 pm, making it back home in about an hour.
It was a quick trip, but definitely a great mountain experience.