August 26, 2012

Naturalist Basin

My sons and I have a tradition of back packing together each summer. This year was one of the best as my youngest joined us for his first multi-day trip.  My brother Jeff and his 9 year old came with too. No mosquitos, hardly anybody else around.

Day 1- Highline Trailhead, Uintas to Jordan Lake, Naturalist Basin.
Day 2- Jordan Lake to Faxon and Blue Lakes ending at Morat Lake.
Day 3- Fish at Morat and Blue Lakes.
Day 4- Morat and then pack out.

On the way to Jordan

Leaving Jordan behind
The youngest and Faxon Lake

Many fish later heading back to camp

August 14, 2012

Teton Cathedral Traverse- August 11, 2012

The Teton Cathedral Group (Teewinot left, Owen right, Grand center right)- Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Creative Commons (they don't endorse this blog)
We hear Andy and Jake yelling from above,"rock!". Grateful for the warnings we see a large black rock rifle by us at terminal speed. The face is cold,  exposed and the winds seems to chill things to a level of discomfort for those of us together upon this wall. We have been laboring up the North Ridge of the Grand Teton now for a while as we work our way along the Italian Cracks variation nearing the second ledge of the North Face.  From the second ledge, we would then proceed up to complete the North Ridge route with the final two chimney pitches reaching the summit of the Grand at 5 PM. Completing the North Ridge, with the Italian Cracks variation would prove to be a great outcome as it would complete the Cathedral traverse in one day.

August 11, 2012 started for us at 2:10 AM, with a serious amount of psych burning in our souls. With big plans (the Teton Grand Traverse), a small crescent moon and large mountains directly above us we departed and steadily climbed up the east face of Teewinot Mountain, the first of what we hoped would be many summits. Around 2.5 hours from the car we reached the airy, dark and lonely summit of Teewinot. At this point the four of us, Jared Inouye, Jason and Andy Dorais and myself joined two of Andy's friends, Jake and Joe. It was cold as the wind and headlamps amidst the darkness revealed the low clouds around us. We were happy and on schedule as we moved down the south ridge and then pointed west to peak 11,840 which we summited still amidst darkness and set 3 airy rappels as quickly as we could.
Andy looking down off the East Prong
The crew down climbing the steep northwest face of East Prong
We could see the firmament lighting with the great Teton Glacier starting in show the low clouds shrouding the Grand's immense north face. After traversing serious exposed sections and over to the East Prong we reached its special summit. Then down the steep lower snowfields of the Prong we travelled and proceeded through the soaking wet Koven Chimney and reached the rim of the Koven Snowfield. Visibility was down to 100' but enough to allow us to hug the snow line walking next to the Mount Owen head wall. Up some steep rock we made our way into the chimney and onto the summit of the wonderful Mount Owen at 7:50 AM. We were on schedule, all was well.  We saw Jake and Joe again as we climbed down looking for the gateway notch down into Valhalla which would be our way to the Gunsight of the Grand Teton which splits the daunting Grandstand.

Me and Jared high up on Mt. Owen- Courtesy Jason Dorais

Mount Owen Summit- Great visibility
Bummed by the thick clouds we wanted so badly to see our next objective. Just then the clouds graciously ripped open revealing the looming and ominous cold and dark side of the Grand Teton. I think I may have shed a tear of joy. The North Face and North Ridge were now completely visible taking our breath away while giving us a serious boost of energy. We were too low and had to re-climb something like 300 vertical feet back up again and onto Owen's south side to reach the notch.
The Route revealing itself

Jared, gel flask and cloudy Teewinot behind
Upon reaching the notch, the winds were howling from the west and that side was still dark in the early hours of morning. We did the airy unroped downclimbs with one minor rappel into the gulley and then made our way over to the Gunsight along the exposed foot ledge.  The sun was peering through this deep and very prominent cleft. After finding the steep first pitch out, we knew we were now on our way. We moved as quickly as a party of 6 split into two rope teams could move up two high quality pitches of excellent rock.
The North Ridge, Italian Cracks and North Face GT

Antsy Andy nearing the Gunsight

Nearing the Gunsight

Faint foot ledge to the Gunsight

First pitch Gunsight

Pitch 1 Gunsight

Quality rock
Then onto the Grandstand, the North Ridge was very near and larger than ever. Now cold and windy and with the sun behind the north face, we were now committed to the most technical portion of our day. Our efficiencies weren't as clean as we had hoped and as we worked our way up each and every pitch our psyche pool was draining a bit, however soaking in the setting and the location was something to never forget. The Grand Traverse plans had now shifted to the Cathedral Traverse. The route remained sustained and highly exposed each and every pitch.  Upon reaching the west extremity of the second ledge of the North Face the sun was warming and the clouds had almost completely departed. After finishing the last two chimney pitches of the North Ridge we had one small icy dihedral to negotiate and reached the summit with a joyful celebration of the completion of the Cathedral Traverse. We down climbed the Owen Spalding route after tiring of waiting at the Grand rappel.  Reaching the Lower Saddle we filled up on water and then motored back to our car reaching it at 10 PM.
Awesomeness- Jason Dorais and the North Ridge

Jason Dorais looking up after a mindful retrace of the this morning

Jared Inouye showing the tracks of the recent past-Mount Owen, the ridge and Teewinot

Jared on the North Ridge

Andy and pitch 1 Italian Cracks
Me on the Italian Cracks North Ridge Grand Teton- Courtesy Jason Dorais

A look back on the days work so far.

The cast of characters high on the North Ridge-- Pitch 3ish Italian Cracks

Second Ledge North Face Grand Teton

Looking West on the Second Ledge North Face

Jason psyched on the last pitch of the North Ridge

Jared Inouye topping out last pitch North Ridge

Summit Grand Teton and the Samurai

Duration: 20 hours car to car
Summits reached: 5-- Teewinot, Owen, Grand and intermediary peaks (Peak 11,840 and East Prong) -- CATHEDRAL TRAVERSE done!

Best quote of the day: When asked by one of the team members, "Hey Jason do you think I can do it?", response "I doubt it."

Gear used:
Camp X3 pack
Scarpa Crux-- outstanding shoe
Camp Blitz harness
Grivel Airtech Helmet
Grivel Matrix Light Ice tool
Two 8.4mm 60 M half ropes
Standard climbing rack