Our first day we settled in to the American Alpine Club Climber’s Ranch in Grand Teton National Park. Running water, cozy bunks and a community area for eating and sharing adventures. Not much more you could ask for! The Chicks guides laid out our plan for the next day and we were off to pack and get some sleep.
A seven mile hike didn’t sound too daunting, but boy is there a lot of elevation gain from the Lupine Meadows trailhead to the lower saddle of the Grand Teton! With good company and excellent guides, we set off on our way to the Exum Hut which would be our new home for a couple of days. We crossed switchbacks packed with the most beautiful varieties of wildflowers I’ve ever seen, giant boulder fields (made all the more interesting by the pouring rain!), and then we really started to gain altitude on scree slopes. By the time we reached some of the higher waterfalls, we were able to drink straight from the source without treating. We were all pretty spent when we finally arrived up to the saddle. Our guides informed us that due to the weather forecast and one of our guides needing to take a participant back down to the trail head, we would be unable to try for the summit of the Grand the following day. Not giving us much time to sit with the disappointment, we learned that we’d be heading up the Middle Teton glacier instead for a day of snow skills training. Plus, the Exum Hut is surrounded by gorgeous high alpine wildflowers, amazing views and lots of entertaining marmots and birds. Nothing but stoke for the night!
The next day was a blast (and surprisingly tiring!). We practiced making traverses across steep snow, chucking each other down the snow field to practice self arrest from different starting points, and forming rope teams to move more safely. We concluded the day in rope teams of two climbing straight up the headwall back to the lower saddle. The third guide made it up to join us late that afternoon. Back at the Exum Hut, we learned that due to time limits for getting back to the trail head, we wouldn’t be able to make the Summit of the Grand the following day either. We could push as far as we could make it, but would end up heading back down short.
Our final day was an early morning Alpine Start (which sounds way more sexy than it is) that put the team at the Enclosure as the high point of the trip. Shy of the summit, but in good spirits and excited about all we had learned and accomplished on the trip, the group started the trek back down. Grand Teton National Park is such a beautiful miracle in the way that it always provided one more thing of beauty any time I started to feel achy or tired slipping my way back down the scree, back to the water crossings and snow crossings, back to the boulder field and switchbacks and finally to the beautiful meadow and trailhead.
The guides at Chicks Climbing and Skiing are unmatched. They’re professional, kind, hard working and all around inspiring women. The lessons I learned – including disappointment – were so profoundly valuable that it’s still taking me a bit to wrap my head around it. I feel enormously fortunate to have had this experience. As we peeked around the corner before the boulder fields, the huge peaks came in to view and my eyes welled up with tears. There’s such magic in the adventures we get to have outdoors, and it’s made even more special when you’re surrounded by a tribe of such wonderful people.
Thank you to Eddie Bauer for the opportunity and sponsoring my participation. I am forever grateful.