This year for my 55th birthday I knew that I wanted to do a climb somewhere, and there was a group headed up to Borah on the Saturday after my birthday. But then my co-worker, Daniel Watrous approached me with an invite to join him, his dad and his dad’s good friend to do a climb of the Middle Teton. After some waffling back and forth, I opted for the Middle Teton and a climb of the Southwest Couloir route to the summit on my birthday. I was not disappointed! It was a great day, I had a blast with a great group of guys and we all came home safe.
The team of 4 was Daniel, Tom, Lee and yours truly. This was my first summit of the Middle Teton, but Tom and Lee have both climbed it before. (They’ve been climbing in the Wasatch and Tetons since they were teenagers). They were climbing the “Middle” for their own personal HS class reunion. What is so special about that you ask? Well, it was their 50th class reunion. You can do the math on that one, but they are an inspiration to me and I want to still be climbing peaks like this when I hit my “50th HS reunion”.
A few observations that I had regarding the route and conditions:
1) I think the wind must always blow in the South Fork of Garnet and it is a lot easier to do this part of the route in the winter on skis, Ski mountaineering in Garnet Canyon.
2) There is a huge contrast in snow levels between this year and a couple of years ago when my son and I skied the Middle Teton Glacier on almost the exact same day, (August 12, 2011),Skiing the Middle Teton in August.
3) I reached a new personal high point on this big ball we call earth, at 12,804 feet above sea level.
Highlights Video – Featuring “Only the Young” – by Journey. (May not be viewable on a smart phone device):
The GPS data below shows the route of our ascent and descent. This was my first time up in the South Fork in the summer months, and it had been a few years since Lee and Tom had been up in here, (they’ve done both the Middle and the South before). We got a little off course right above the meadows on the first real steep pitch trying to avoid some snow, and on the down climb, we kept dropping too low. In general, if you are climbing this route, you want to stay to the north side of the canyon. And, as they say, “wait to turn up the SW couloir until you are one step away from going over the cliff into Ice Flow Lake”.
GPS Data: The route was just under 6,000 vertical and we did it car-to-car in just over 12 1/2 hours, (that included a nice 35 minute break on the summit).