Yet another bivy...
The watch shows the time to be 2:30 am. This is something like my 60th
forced bivy since I started climbing. Dark. Looks like it won't rain, at
least. I shift positions once more, try to snuggle deeper into the bivy
sack, closer to Em's warmth. Still a long ways to dawn.
We're laying on a ledge just below the summit of Grand Teton, having
completed a climb of the East Ridge at sunset. A midnight snack
seems in order, so I dig out the last of our cherry cough drops. (One
candy bar, two liters of ice tea, and three lemon drops are held in
reserve to see us through the coming descent.) I stretch my left arm to
restore circulation, and drop back to sleep. Somewhat. Getting too old
Our visit to the Tetons began, obliquely enough, on the Tiedemann
Glacier of Mount Waddington in Canada. With a few weeks of vacation
left, and Em having never visited the Tetons, we decided a small side
trip might be in order on the way home. Our initial objective of Black
Ice Couloir was abandoned due to the unseasonably warm temperatures (A
recent ascent team had described it as "Black Mud Swimming Pool") in
favor of the uncrowded, "adventurous" and "long" East Ridge.
A day was spent walking into Glacier Gulch. There we left a high camp.
The next morning, we struggled through the labrynthine moraine by headlamp,
reaching the base of the ridge at first light. What followed was 2,000
feet of delightful scrambling up third class benches and ribs,
surrounded by wildflowers and meadow grass. We had the entire mountain
to ourselves, if you don't count marmots kissing atop rock towers and
pikas busily gathering hay. Admittedly, we dawdled on this lower
section, entranced by the flowers and incredibly beautiful alpine
The Molar Tooth loomed above. A dozen or so bivy sites indicated that
the routefinding was difficult here. I scoped the situation, and we
wandered around the Tooth, never a doubt as to where the route went.
The Chockstone: Evidence of a previous epic and retreat is written on
the walls of this dizzying couloir: a rappel hex with carabiner
attached (add to the rack) and, high on the slightly overhanging wall
to the side, a fixed stopper. I eye the stopper, asking it one simple
question: "What are you trying to say?"
Its voiceless reply whispers in my head "Don't go up here."
I continue up the couloir. Lead up through the intimidating ice tunnel
beyond, elbows and knees and toes in the icy running water, to the
exposed step from snow across a bottomless moat onto steep dry rock. 40
feet later I find a place for pro, then wander up terrifyingly loose
choss to the belay.
Late Afternoon. The Notch above Second Tower. The climbing has kicked
back to third and easy 4th class slabs. We swim up the waterfalls
cascading from the East Face snowfields, desperate smearing on
waterpolished, slick slabs. No anchors. Plod up the steep snowfield,
puffing like steam engines, to the final, incredible summit rock tower
of the Grand.
Evening. Em and I stand on top of Grand Teton, the final pitches of the
East Ridge below us at last. We watch the sun disappear into the
clouds. Rappel one pitch. Call it a day. Although we still have a long
grueling descent ahead of us, then yet another day hiking back to high
camp for gear retrieval, we've had a fantastic climbing day, and still
have the Grand to ourselves, until dawn brings the hordes up the
Owens-Spalding route at first light. 2:30 am, warm, tired and happy.
Who could ask for more?
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