Grand Teton National Park
6,7,8th of September 2010
Route: The Crest Trail from south to north one way
Partners: Joe Collins, Nick Wenthur & Matt Koenitzer
One way distance hiked: 36.01 miles
Elevation profile of the Crest trail
Google Earth route from the North
Hiking with Cedarburg Bob Sled Team (See photo below for reference)
Top of the Jackson Hole Tram to Camp 1 at Death Canyon Shelf
We awoke to grand views of the Tetons from our free campsite across the valley, why pay to stay in town with views of other hotels? After some confusion of who was bringing what, we got our junk show on the road. In an effort to avoid some possible early season snow we shortened our hike to three nights instead of four and took the Jackson Hole Tram up to the start of the hike. From the top of the tram we began our 36 mile one way hike north to the truck awaiting us at String Lake. Our hike would take us on a tour of the backside of the Grand Teton finishing up in the steep walled Paintbrush Canyon.
Sunrise on the Grand Tetons
By the time we had gotten ourselves to the top of the tram the early morning clouds had burned off leaving us with clear skies and incredible views. It was a real treat to begin a hike by going downhill but what goes down must come back up in this rare law of Crest trail physics. The miles ticked off quickly as old friends, some as far back as Kindergarten, exchanged stories of travel and adventure. The stories soon turned to huffs and sunscreen sweat facials as we began our first ascent over Fox Creek Pass. The pass is just slightly over 9,500′ so it became the test piece to see if Joe and I would need to carry anyone along the way. Lucky for us Nick and Matt’s daily desk jockey aerobic program seemed to be working (I still can’t believe that they paid 3 easy payments of $39.95 for the workout tapes).
Knetz leading the way
As we gained the saddle we were rewarded with our first views of the Grand and the spectacular Teton range. Daylight was burning so we kept our stop short and continued onto the Death Canyon Shelf. Amongst giant rockfall and talus we found a flat area only steps away from the edge of the canyon shelf. Sitting on the edge with legs dangling we watched as the sunset behind Mount Bannon leaving the Grand in a reddish alpenglow.
Joe Co approaching the saddle of Fox Creek Pass, Mt. Bannon in the background
The Grand in alpenglow
Death Canyon Shelf to Camp 2 at South Fork Cascade Canyon
I awoke first to the sound of birds chirping and tent 2’s snoring. The overnight lows were quickly shaken off with a hot cup of Vail Mountain Coffee & Teas Mango Ceylon. With legs dangling I sat watching the sunrise over the Grand. The sun heated up my outside just as the tea and oatmeal had done inside. Time to hit the trail… as soon as the others were packed up and fed. With my short attention span I wandered up into the talus on a half awake request from Matt that he wanted a picture of one of those furry things in the rocks. You would be surprised how easy it is to kill an hour on a Marmot photo shoot hunt. I also managed to bag an additional creature for Matt from Minnesota.
Marmot sunning himself with the Grand in the background
After a successful marmot and pika hunt the guys were packed and ready for our days hike culminating on Hurricane Pass. We cruised across the long flat Death Canyon Shelf with the views getting bigger and better with every turn in the trail. We ticked off the miles on our rested legs with Hurricane pass lingering off in the distance.
Joe eying up Hurricane Pass
The whole crew getting a couple shots of Veiled Peak and Mt Wister
We put our heads down and watched the valley floor disappear below us as we began our switchback ascent of Hurricane Pass. The pass managed to live up to its name and only made us conjure up images of what it would be like mid winter. We were blasted with strong gusts of wind on the tree less scoured saddle, despite the calm comfortable weather we had left at the valley floor. In return we sat on the edge of a cliff overhanging the Schoolroom Glacier with some of the best views in the lower 48. Rising nearly one mile from the valley floor stood the summit of the Grand Teton. The glacial silt waters of the icy lake below made the view even Grander. We wiped the now freezing sweat from our brows and leaned back on our stacked pack wind shelter eating some snacks out of the grab bag (technical mountaineering term for a bag full of clif bars, fruit snacks, snickers, ect. reach in and eat cause it all tastes good when you get this hungry).
The bobsled team photo (we did not make the cut for the olympics)
Heading down Hurricane Pass to camp
We setup camp underneath the jagged west face of the Grand Teton. After two days of sweat, sunscreen, and lack of deodorant we washed up under a setting sun. The just add water meal was hot and delicious followed by a round of hot beverages that we finished up under the stars. The sound of the creek and light breeze left us with a setting only fit for the Grandest peaks. Shortly after dark while I was hiking back up to Hurricane Pass for a couple of photos I spotted a headlamp descending the ridge to the climbers camp located between the Grand and Middle Teton. My mind quickly wandered thinking about climbing the Exum route or making those first couple snowboard turns off the summit. Soon enough I will be back for the Grand and Middle Teton summits. The stars were slightly hazy due to a west wind bring in a slight cloud of smoke over the range. The conditions proved interesting making for some unique night shots of the Tetons.
Stars behind the Grand as seen from Hurricane Pass
Grand Star Trails
Clouds moving in oer the Schoolroom Glacier
South Fork Cascade Canyon to Camp 3 Paintbrush Canyon
With our biggest day elevation wise still ahead of us we all got an early start. Our early start was rewarded with a mother and two calfs grazing in the depths of the willows. We parted ways with the South Fork and made our way up to Lake Solitude for a lunch time snack. The clouds turned dark and the fish began jumping, we took note and hit the trail for our final pass of the hike, Paintbrush Divide. Three quarters of the way up we watched as an incoming storm engulfed the Tetons bringing some of the seasons first snows to the upper flanks.
The Grand being engulfed
We sat and watched as the Grand disappeared behind the clouds, in turn we made quick progress to cross the Paintbrush Divide before we to were engulfed. Far below we could see Holly lake and our final camp of the hike.
Nick crossing the Paintbrush Divide
Matt crossing the final glacier before camp
Our day ended with some snow flurries and a dip in Holly Lake. We all call home an area in which we call Lake Michigan the beach. We jumped in and paddled around as the wind was knocked out of us. The wind was knocked out of again after I left my watch in the water and got a temperature of 41 degrees.
Sleep came easy after three days of hiking under our belt. Tomorrow we would be back in town for a meal that needed more than boiling water added.
Paintbrush Canyon to Camp 4 the T-Ruck
We awoke to gusty winds and snow flurries starting to fly up on the divide. We packed up relatively quickly but soon realized we would not be beating the snow back to the truck. We hiked out the remaining few miles under a soggy wet snow cover. All of us were soaked and ready for a hot meal in town. We called up Kevin, a college friend of mine to show us the town. We ended up at the world famous Million Dollar Cowboy bar downtown and finished the evening at camp 4, the T-ruck. In true Jackson fashion we spent the last night in the back of the truck downtown Jackson like many ski bums before us.
Can’t wait for next year, come visit Colorado anytime!