Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Over the top of the American Alps
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The image of the jagged Tetons shooting up from Jackson Hole is perhaps the most famous mountain vista in America. And no matter how many Sierra Club calendars or SUV ads it appears in, the sight still has the capacity to startle. But the view looking up is nothing compared with the view looking down.
To truly experience “America’s Alps,” you can’t just gawk at them from the overlooks on State Route 89; you need to get intoand ontothe peaks themselves. And that means learning the basics of alpine climbing.
The Tetons were the birthplace of American mountaineering, and founding father Paul Petzoldt went on to establish the country’s first mountain-guiding and alpine-skills school here in 1929. There’s still no better place to learn the ropes.
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5 Perfect Days
The Ultimate Itinerary
Make your first view of the Tetons the grand panorama from Togwotee Pass, where U.S. Route 26/287 crosses the Gros Ventre Range. Then head to the least commercialized campground in the parkon the southern end of Jenny Laketo claim a spot for the night.
Sites in either of two loops offer mountain views and quiet. A sketchy trail from the west side of the lake leads into Hanging Canyon and reaches three rarely visited alpine pools set at the feet of massive stone spires.
Everyone wants to climb Grand Teton (aka the Grand)and we don’t blame themwhich may be the best reason to set your sights on 12,605-foot [3,842-meter] Mount Moran instead. “Moran is a good bet for a true wilderness experience,” says veteran park ranger Renny Jackson.
Inexperienced rock climbers should hook up with an outfitter such as Exum Mountain Guides (+1 307 733 2297), which leads three-day Moran trips for $525 per person for groups of two or more. Arrive early at Exum’s facility by Jenny Lake to meet your guide and pick up gear.
Reaching the high camp on Mount Moran’s southeastern face is the goal for today, which, given the peak’s isolation, entails canoeing across two lakes (with a 200-yard [183-meter] portage between them) and scrambling 3,000 vertical feet [914 vertical meters] off-trail. At camp, granite buttresses rise all about, and rocks loosed by Falling Ice Glacier clatter within earshot.
Before turning in early for the night, watch the shadows of Moran and other Teton peaks drift across Jackson Hole.
Wake in the chill before dawn to get a “mountaineer’s start” on the day. The CMC Route, which you’ll be taking to the summit, is rated a fairly easy 5.5, but dizzying drop-offs and big-mountain conditions make it memorable.
The last thousand vertical feet [305 vertical meters] of the climb are done on the broad CMC Face, perched far above Falling Ice Glacier. “At first glance, the route looks improbable,” says Al Read, Exum’s president, “but the holds are quite generous.”
You’ll reach Mount Moran’s flat, football-field-size summit before noon. Views are stupendous; you may even see Old Faithful’s plume in distant Yellowstone. Rappel and downclimb back to the high camp, which you’ll reach by late afternoon.
Retrace your route down the mountain and across the lakes. You’ll be back at Exum headquarters by early afternoon.
Take a day hike, Jackson Hole stylewhere the locals think nothing of banging out a 20-miler [32-kilometerer]by heading for the alpine zone west of the Tetons, on the Teton Crest Trail.
Reach it the easy way by jumping on the tram at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, then begin what will be a 25-mile [40-kilometer] day, finishing at Jenny Lake. Less gung-ho hikers can make camp midway along.
Permits: You can pick them up in person (first-come, first-served) or call the park to reserve them ($5; before May 15).
Contact: For the park’s trip planner, call +1 307 739 3309.
For the full Grand Teton guide, pick up the May 2002 Adventure.
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