Climbing the South Teton

As is often the case with me, my plans always start out more grandiose than what actually transpires. This climb was going to be a combo climb of both the South and Middle in the same day. This is a fairly common climb that a lot of people do and it is still “on my list”, but I didn’t attempt it on this trip. Instead, I decided to climb the South via the Northwest Couloir and see how fast I could do the climb.

Part of my reason for scaling back the plan was to see if I could double book the day and also hit the Feuz Family Reunion up in the Buffalo Valley. This gave me added incentive to keep the pace up. I left the trail head at 5:03 AM, and was back to the vehicle at 12:15 PM, for a round-trip of 7 hours and 12 minutes. That time is pretty pathetic compared to what some of the real speed climbers do, but on this day nobody passed me. I still had to get back to Teton Village to shower and pickup Ann and the reunion started at Noon. We were “fashionably late”, at just after 2 PM. It was great to reconnect with some of the Feuz relatives and I vowed to not let 30 years go by before we get back there!

I turned 56 years old earlier in the week, and it seemed appropriate to tackle this peak solo and get over 56 hundred feet in elevation gain. I had climbed the Middle last year for my birthday and so I had seen the climbing route. In addition, I had studied up on it from some of the mountain climbing sites. The literature seemed to indicate that it was rated slightly more difficult than the Southwest Couloir route on the Middle, but after climbing both, I think the Middle is slightly more difficult.

Some random thoughts about this climb…

  • Climbing solo is a nice challenge and I think it is a great chance to grow and learn. But, I really do prefer climbing with others. It is more fun to share the experience, and of course, it always nice to be able to know that you have someone there if you encounter trouble along the way.
  • Animal eyes encountered in Teton Park in the dark with your headlamp are always kind of spooky – even if it turns out to just be Bambi’s mom.
  • If you are choosing to run/jog down the Garnet Canyon trail, you must remain focused the entire way. A stumble and slight ankle sprain are the result of not seeing only one of the many tree roots that were across my path. It slowed me down for a few minutes, but then I just said to myself, “what would Chuck Norris do”, and took off on my steady jog again.
  • It’s probably best to not try to summit a peak on the same day you are headed to a family reunion – at least if you want to be there in time to eat!
  • My raw data indicated approximately 5,700 elevation gain and 13.7 miles. When you factor in the “up and down” of the climb, it came out to 6,076 vertical and 14 miles. Not bad for a half day’s work.

GPS Data and map of the NW Couloir route of the South Teton in the Teton Range:

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