August 5, 2018

My son and I on Irene's Arete- Grand Teton Range

Last Monday, Carson, my 17 year-old son and I spent some time in the Tetons together. Carson is an excellent climber. He has trained consistently on many Wasatch multi-pitch routes and works hard in the gym during the winters with family and friends.  The Tetons for more than 28 years have filled my mind with memories and cherished experiences. Routes climbed with friends I consider family. I draw on these all of the time, especially when life can sometimes get beyond trivial. These peak experiences for me, can fuel life in a way nothing else can. These mountains are sacred to me and sharing their aura with my sons can be among the greatest moments of life.  

We left our car in Lupine at 430 AM on Monday and hiked steadily at Carson's pace until reaching the Meadows, from where we hiked up nearly to the Caves and then traversed east over to our long-awaited objective. Irene's Arete stood as the blade of a sword pointing to the southern sky. The ridge looked as it always does, incredibly exposed and gorgeous. We arrived at "the tree" at the base of pitch 1. Irene's is captured by the great ring of peaks from Nez Perce to South Teton, Middle and at the foot of the Grand and the south shoulder of Disappointment peak.

After getting gear sorted and readying for the exciting ascent, we finally started at 8 AM under perfect skies. We racked up to #3 Cams, a set of wired stoppers and twin 50 meter Beals.  Pitch one, 5.7 went great up steepening cracks on beautiful rock and stopping about 140' or so up just under the hanging tooth, start of pitch 2. Pitch two 5.8 was killer. Right out the gate an off-width like double crack on a hanging tooth like rock that then ascends up a steep crack system onto a huge ledge about 120' I think. Pitches 3 and 4 consisted of elegant moves on opulent rock, with roof sections of black and gneiss crystals and climbing back and forth on the arete.  These pitches were our favorites as the exposure was lovely and the climbing superb. The westerly wind added to the excitement. I think pitch 3 was 5.7 and pitch four, 5.8. Pitch 5 had some incredibly great face climbing, some crack moves with most of the climbing left of the arete, 5.7. On pitch 6 we took the crack next to the tree which goes 5.8 but I think we made it harder as we moved right, mid-way up away from the crack and onto the face and up through a notch, after which we gained lower angle climbing to the ridge. Pitch 7 was a lovely arete traveler's dream and the climb reached a crescendo. 

I could not have been more proud of Carson. As he topped out at 12:30 PM, Was he tired? Sure was but charged more than I had ever seen before. Times like these are fleeting treasures found only through self exploration. The Tetons have given me so much over my life. What I appreciate most from them are the moments where I can be connected to my sons through a rope and see the joy in their eyes when they accomplish something profound while gaining appreciation for these incredible mountains.

We descended off the east side of Disappointment Peak to Amphitheater lake and concluded an incredible day in the hills together. We arrived back at the car at 3:30 PM that afternoon.

Irene's Arete (middle) from Meadows

Carson topping out Pitch 1

Starting Pitch 3
Carson Pitch 4 I think

Top of Pitch 5
Carson top of Pitch 6
End of the line
Happy Carson

July 22, 2018

Land of Granite Towers

A couple weeks ago we were able to get away from the doldrums of life to a much greater place for the mind to clear up and feel of the glories of nature once again. It's so wonderful to climb with my kids. My wife, a great belayer for the past 25 years, still has yet to catch the bug of moving on the rock. We voyaged to the great City of Rocks. 

Many years ago, my good friend Rich, while either climbing in the Wasatch or Tetons would constantly talk of this mystical place, where granite towers grow right out of the upland desert floor. Rich got it right. We found the quality of granite as supreme as the setting and surrounded by fellow towers that gaze at you while attempting one route or another. The rock has a different personality than what I find in the Wasatch, it is coarser, mottled and edgy. For two and half days, we climbed classics on Elephant Rock, Morning Glory Spire, Super Hits and Parking Lot rock. As the evening's power would close the page on the day, the setting sun would remind us that yet another morning would come filled with incredible experiences.

Morning Glory Spire- Courtesy Marcie Ambrose

14 year-old Owen
Carson climbing the steep and lovely granite
Owen's working through his rappel
Summer crushing it
Owen topping out on Elephant Rock

June 13, 2018

Mount Moran Skillet Glacier June 9, 2018

In 2001, Rich Lambert and I first climbed Moran via the CMC route. I recall the beautiful canoe across Leigh Lake, the bears awaiting us at the base of the great mountain and the incredible gneiss rock found on the CMC. Back then less people visited the Tetons and the feeling was that of adventure and loneliness. Moran is special in that it takes greater effort to reach it's feet. It is guarded by several glaciers and shoots straight out of two bodies of water.

Last weekend Lars and I left for Jackson around 530 PM on Friday and eventually arrived at String Lake late that night. We left the car at 4:50 AM on Saturday and unable to find a boat, we hiked the Leigh Lake trail, to Bear Paw Lake and then Trapper Lake where the trail then ended and the hell-like shwack began. For, I don't know about 1.5 miles there is no trail to the base of the Skillet Galcier and frankly it is character building, especially with skis and boots! After wandering as lost losers for what seemed like eternity, we finally made it to the drainage. We skinned up arriving at the beautiful and active bergschrund, going around it to climbers left, scrambling over the band of rock. We booted the rest of the ascent, up the handle and took the climbers right to the top. We then scrambled to the summit and arrived at 10:00 AM. 6,000 feet of ascent.

The skiing off the top of the handle was lovely, however the snow had become too soft and the sluff moved quickly in the runnel draining the mountain of excess sluff. It was sketchy as we would time the turns in order to not get hung up in the sluff that then dropped in to the runnel which drained down into the bergschrund.  A crappy place to get sucked into. The setting as always was incredible. Fortunate for us, we saw no one on Moran.

We arrived back at the bushwack area, stayed on a very faint elk or bear trail until we arrived at the trail proper. We saw this guy and gal through the trees on the trail and when they saw us emerge from the forest with skis on our backs they were like what the ....? Eventually we arrived back to the car before 3 PM Saturday afternoon for a quick dip in String Lake. All told it is 18 miles of travel.

High in the Handle

Topping out in the Handle
Scramble to the summit
Top of the Handle
Jenny, String, Leigh and upper left Jackson Lakes
Lars frying in the Skillet
Who has more hair?

February 24, 2018

Winter's Awakening Por Fin (February 2018)

This winter goes down as the second driest the Wasatch Range has known since record. I think the other was in 1977. I was just a young kid so I don't remember. I can say that as it finally kicked into gear a couple weeks ago, leaving the climbing and mountain biking behind was almost difficult. Hibernation I guess is a real thing. The last 10 days of snow have been really great though. Pictures tell a thousand lines so I will let to them speak. Especially cool for me this year is that my middle son has now taken to AT skiing and has now done a couple neat ski tours with me. A heck of a skier, young Carson, 16 seems to feel right at home.

Pow- Courtesy Lars
Carson- First Ski Tour! Crushing it
Not a bad morning- Courtesy Lars
Carson- Second Tour! Paradise
Me- Courtesy Lars
Carson freezing
Lars bringing it

Wind River Annual Back Pack Trip August 2017 and Autumn Climbing 2017

I have been late on posting some of my favorite pics from our annual fathers and sons back pack trip to the Winder River Range.  This past year's the trip in August 2017 consisted of a couple days in Cirque of the Towers and then three days in the great Temple District. This was my oldest son's last trip with us for a couple years while he serves in Mexico on his LDS mission. We have been doing these trips for a decade. As summer 2018 rolls around, we will miss him so much.

My 3 Boys

The Cirque after a heavy rain the night prior

A top East Temple Peak

A look of East Temple's East Face- Owen dumbstruck by the exposure
Brothers and cousins
Great Alex and Deep Lake below
Incredible morning with my sons
The entire gang

A couple of my favorite Autumn shots of my sons and I. The young lads are learning the ropes. Alex had left us for Mexico at this point.

Carson and I (Carson in Red)- Courtesy Owen
Owen on the ever-beautiful Coffin Crack

August 27, 2017

Grand Teton Direct Exum Ridge- August 25, 2017

21 years ago, a friend and I attempted the Lower Exum Ridge in a cool August morning. I had been climbing a whopping 1 year, had no idea what I was doing and I remember it took us probably 6 or 7 hours, got caught in a lightning storm, ax was buzzing and we bailed one pitch away from the top of the Lower Exum route! The first ascent party in 1936 completed the Lower Exum in 5 hours! In sneakers and driving pitons!

On Friday, August 25, 2017, Marc N, who had never climbed the Grand Teton and who had always wanted to and who is an excellent climber accepted my invite to go do the Direct Exum.  We left our car at Lupine Meadows at 2:20 AM on Friday, arrived at the base of the traverse to the first pitch of the Lower Exum at 5:40 AM, waited for light to come and then proceeded up the pitch at 6:30 AM. Once again the weather looked to be rough. We pitched out the 1st, 2nd and then linked pitches 3 and 4 together. Pitch 5, on the magnificent and steep Black Face, we did the direct Black Face Variation and then completed the 6th and final pitch of the Lower Exum in a crazy Teton micro-burst of snow and brutal winds, making for an epic morning. We completed the route at 8:30 AM. 

Now at the top of Wallstreet, beginning of the Upper Exum and at the base of the Golden Stair we hunkered down. Once the weather broke, we then stashed the ropes and soloed up the Golden Stair to the Wind Tunnel, where we hunkered down again for a more serious burst and realized it wasn't getting better so we needed to move if Marc was going to summit. We continued soloing up the Friction Pitch, V-Pitch and then roped for an icy last move heading to the final ridge. We summited at 10:40 AM, with sub-optimal conditions. Static electricity was building and my camera got fried. We took one summit pic and then moved quickly down to the rappels in freshly fallen snow, grateful to get off the mountain.  

Of course the weather got better as we descended. Reaching the car just after 4 PM in sunny, warm late-summer conditions with the great mountains surrounding our view. We had a most wonderful time.

Top of Pitch 4
Marc and the beautiful Black Face Pitch (5)
Top of Black Face and then off to final Lower Exum Pitch
Friction Pitch
Marc enjoying some brief sun on the Upper Exum
Another burst
Grand Teton
Awesome sky between storms
Complete Exum Ridge