Driving...hoping.. and a miracle
I wanted to climb the Grand Teton this year not only because this mountain is so incredibly attractive and majestic, but because my girlfriend Sunnie would be climbing it for her first time. We made the plan to climb the Grand in a single day, car to car. We left Logan around 9:00 P.M. on Friday August 8th. Unfortunately the weather was terrible on our drive to Jackson. I watched the weather report and it said the storm would clear out by the next day. We hoped the weather report would be true, but things looked bad! Lighting was everywhere and increased as we drove toward Jackson. Just when we thought we would be rained out, things looked better as we arrived in Jackson. In fact, by the time we drove through town there was no rain at all. We could see stars everywhere above our heads as we arrived at the Lupine Meadows parking lot at 1:00 A.M. on the morning of the 9th. After all the rain we had driven through we could not believe our eyes, talk about good timing, it was FANTASTIC! Sunnie writes, Daniel and I started hiking at 2:00 a.m. (right on schedule).
We headed up the long 6 mile hike to the top of the lower saddle in the dark. The night air was cool and damp from the resent storm and felt good on our faces. I felt tired but very excited at the same time for my first climb up the Grand Teton. Although I was very much not in bed, my body and brain were convinced other wise and I felt comatose as we continued our approach towards the lower saddle. Before I knew it we came to the meadows were Daniel and I took a breather and ate a few snacks and gu to re-energize before the steep section to the lower saddle. We continued hiking and the beautiful sunrise slowly emerged from the towering peaks surrounding us. The sunshine gave me energy and I felt excited once again. We finally came to the climbing rope just below the base of the lower saddle and I excitedly yelled "we're almost there!" – To the lower saddle that is. Which made Daniel laugh because up tell this point I had been a zombie.
When we came to the lower saddle we were ahead of schedule and were proud too see that we even beat most of the overnight campers. We only rested long enough to fill our drinks in the nearby spring and head up to the Owen Spalding route. While we scrambled in and out of the loose rock Daniel and I joked about becoming professional rock climbing bums,quitting our jobs and spending the rest of our summer climbing in the beautiful Teton Range. (We could pretend,,, right?)
We soon made it to the upper saddle, where there were beautiful clouds flying all around, only allowing pocket glimpses of the valley floor far below- it was truly majestic. We had made it to the first pitch! A group of friendly climbers had made it to the pitch before us and were preparing to start the climb. It became quite apparent that this was a new experience for most of them, and were in ahhh at Daniels experienced demeanor. They allowed Daniel and I to go ahead of their large group assuming he and I would be faster. I belayed Daniel as he climbed around the belly crawl section,which was appropriately named because most climbers would get down and army crawl across the exposed thin ridge. Daniel however not being like most climbers griped the edge instead and smeared across. Not sure on which approach to take across myself I discovered it was actually a lot easier to do the same as Daniel. Daniel rather excited now said "the next part is probably the hardest part of the whole climb, it is a chimney and may be filled with ice" Laughing at his excitement about this new challenge I exclaimed "Sounds great!" After securing the anchors Daniel disappeared over this rather awkward looking chimney.
Upper Saddle Continued
While Daniel was climbing the leader of the friendly group of climbers that we previously passed caught up with us. When it came my turn to attempt the chimney I quickly found I was too short to reach the good hold to pull myself over. After trying many awkward attempts at getting over my new friend offered me a sling and suggested I through it over the nose of the rock and use that to pull myself up. After attempting it with the sling and still failing he offered me a shoulder and a push. With help from my friend I was able to reach and pull myself over. (Thank you friendly climber, without you I would probably still be there). Laughing at myself I continued to climb up towards Daniel.
After a several pitches we approached the top and Daniel graciously offered for me to summit first! It was breath taking (literally and figuratively)!! I felt like I was on top of the world. The clouds were still all around inhibiting the full view, but just the gratification of knowing that I was on top of the Grand Teton was enough for me. Daniel followed behind me and turned to him smiling and gave him a big hug! We celebrated our victory with beef jerky and dried apples –yum! Soon the clouds cleared and we could see the amazing view!!
We called family and friends to brag that we were on the top of the Grand Teton and rested a little while longer before we headed down to the summit to the rappels stations. After the rappels we scrambled down the ruble of rocks that seemed to never end. Finally we reached the meadows and stopped to cool our feet in the creek. Then Daniel turned to me and giving me a hug said, "Wow Sunnie this day sure turned out to be beautiful!" We both looked at each other totally exhausted and started laughing, not really knowing why? On our decent Daniel explained to me the nutritional value of the wild huckleberry. And to my surprise they were growing all around the trail and provide a refreshing treat after our straight diet of cliff bars and gue. After the long painful decent down we finally made it to the trail head. "Daniel!" I exclaimed "That was AMAZING!!! Thank you, thank you!!" And even though we were completely exhausted Daniel wasted no time to rest and quickly prepared a meal for us to eat. Because he had recently read that it was important for recovery to restore your glycogen storage within a one hour after your epic adventures. This was important, for he would be taking on Mt. Moran with his brother the very next day. I however was just enjoying the moment with satisfaction and personal achievement of climbing the Grand Teton for my first time….. But don't worry it wont be my last!
By Daniel Francom and Sunnie Hansen