Other members of my climbing group – Alex Hansen and Zach Burton – also came to the climb with a very high fitness level – and Alex carried the bulk of our mountaineering experience.
The Tetons (particularly Grand Tetons) are so striking that they appear to be begged to be climbed. Several staffers of GearJunkie climbed it last summer. A recap of the trip, planning and training tips and our packing list are on this page.
The tight and majestic Teton Range near Jackson, Wyoming, is an important part of American climbs. It is 132 feet high and the highest peak in the range, and it attracts climbers from around the world.
The first recorded summit of the Grand was attended by Billy Owen, Rev. Franklin Spalding and rancher John Shive and Frank Peterson. Since then it has been built by luminaries like Yvon Chinourd and Jimmy Chin as well as ordinary people like me and my friends.
Two of my compatriots and I — whose only one was a reputable mountaineer — set out on a recent trip to tackle the Grand Canyon. For two of us this journey marked a perfect introduction to alpine climbing. And looking back I can say it was the absolute best adventure of our lives (to date).
There is a lot to gain from a climb such as this. So, we’re here to share what we learned on the mountain as well as valuable information on planification, training and what to pack for your Grand Teton climb.
The guide to climb the Grand Teton
Preparation, planning and training.
There are a few important decisions that you have to make for your climb.
- When do you plan to climb your climbs?
- Are you camping or doing it in one day?
- Who is your / are climbing partner /?
- What route you plan to take?
- What are your plans to train and prepare?
- Are you going to purchase fancy new gear for the climb? (See our suggestions and packing lists at the bottom of this article.)
What month is the best for climbing the Grand Teton?
Late July to mid-September is the most popular time to climb because there is a smaller chance of finding snow and ice on the route. You can climb any time of the year, but know that you likely will encounter snow and will need the right equipment and skills.
An “icy 5.4” is no longer a 5.4. On August 4 and 6, we climbed and saw no snow on the route. Conditions change each year, so check the weather forecast with the ranger station before going.
Camping permits Gran Teton
If you plan to camp overnight in Garnet Canyon you will need a permit. We decided to camp because we wanted to spend more time in the mountains and because doing it in 2 days is less intense — at least in theory. However, you must carry camping equipment and deal with permits.
If you know your climb dates, you can reserve permits from early January to mid-May from Grand Teton National Park in advance. If you have no specified day, you can get walk-up permits on the day of or before your climb. Know that camping permits are very limited and you are not guaranteed to get your ideal camping area or a permit at all.
On a morning of 6 a.m., we arrived at Jenny Lake Ranger Station to wait in line for permits the day before we climbed. There were three other climbing teams ahead of us and we obtained the last permit for the Lower Saddle. We were stoked Most people prefer to camp higher on the mountain to make shortening the distance on their climbing day shorter. Permit availability dictates where you camp, so be flexible with it.
How to choose a climber partner
It might already be you have a climbing partner but if you don’t pick someone you like who is adventurous, will endure along and has solid climbing experience. Be sure that your partner will also commit to be fit.
Which Climb Route to Take?
There are several paths up the Grand Teton. Here we describe three of the top climbs.
The Exum Ridge is a landmark and has two sections. The lower is six pitches of 5.4-5.7 climbing and the upper is six pitches of 5.4 depending on how often you zip up the ropes. We climbed in total amazement the lower and for us it was harder than we imagined. There are ways to combine Owen Spalding with Exum Ridge, Wyoming Whiskey proved to be the best online resource for information and pictures of the Owen Spalding and Upper Exum Routes.
Instrution to Climb Grand Teton
Training is the most time consuming part of the process. Vous must respect the mountains and prepare properly. Depending on your experience this could be the hardest thing you have done or it may be your Sunday run. Either way, physical and mental preparation is key.
This was my first chance at mountaineering, and as I live only 970 feet above sea level in Minnesota, I knew I would need to train early. From January 2020 I followed phases 1 and 2 of this training program and took home workouts with weights and a ton of cardio on a NordicTrack X22i Abscissor Trainer.
Phase 3 for me involved a lot of steep hikes in Wyoming (600 feet and up) during June and July to prepare for our August climb. The other members of my climbing group – Alex Hansen and Zach Burton – came also with a very high fitness level to the climb – and Alex brought the bulk of our mountaineering experience.
How I Stay Fit: Heart Transplant Recipient Jake Ferguson
Recap: Climbing Grand Teton.
Like any Jackson adventure, this began with a breakfast burrito from D.O.G. We parked at the Lupine Meadows trailhead and went up the mountain. It’s about 8 miles in total and 5,000 feet to the bottom saddle. The Garnet Canyon landscape is unreal. There are spots to fill the water throughout the canyon and the cold glacial runoff was perfect in the summer heat.
We went on hiking for an hour and rested for 10 minutes until we reached our destination. There’s a short section of rock just under the sled topped with fixed ropes and easy climb.
Once at Lower Saddle we selected one of the obvious camping sites. There were five to seven good places next to the smallest rocks to help block the wind. We scoped out the path to the lower flexor, ate, hydrated, packed for the next day and tried to get to bed early.
It’s a descent of the lower Exum Ridge
The shot was high as we left camp at dawn. We followed the maps of the guidebook and the beta of rangers to find the start of the climb. Once on the route, the climbing was world class.
It works up a striking high line with splendid views. The exposure increases as you climb and adds to the adrenaline and wow factor of the climb. The fourth and fifth pitches are engaging, challenging or just hard depending on your ability and energy level. If an incredible day of climbing was the goal, we 10xed it. The target was summit, but we were far away from it.
My heart broke. I had not entertained the idea that we might be slender, and now our dream and all the hard work and preparation were on the line. I looked up the mountain before we went down and remembered the documentary’s ‘Meru’. Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk had to turn just short of the summit after being on the wall for weeks. We experienced a fraction of that, but it was still agonizing.
After some rappelling and route-finding in the dark, we were exhausted and defeated again after… 21 hours later. We were grateful for a sleeping bag and that the permit was good for 2 nights, we crashed shortly after returning home in the Lower Saddle.
The climb of Owen Spalding
woke up to light rain and windy morning. Just came off a very long day when we were excited, then tested, then crushed. With a shaken confidence and tired bodies, we asked ourselves: “Do we have the energy, skills and enough food to walk up and then down safely?”
After much deliberation, the weather cleared, and a life-giving hydrated meal, we decided to make another try. We placed one foot in front of the other and a few hours later we were out at the Upper Saddle Rowing up. The 5.4 climb sections of Owen Spalding were refreshingly easy for us. It felt more like scrambling than much harder climbing on the lower excum.
We were tired, but we persevered confidently and smiled knowing we would make it this time. We stood on the summit shortly after. I was repeating aloud: “I can’t believe we did it! It was great to stand at the top but it was the journey and the people and the suffering that made it so sweet. Climbing the Grand Teton was an enriching experience — more than we thought.
We clung for a bit on the summit and eventually scrambled, retraised and hiked down the Owen Spalding Trail back to camp and parking lot. It is a long haul, especially after a busy day in the mountains. Do not underestimate the descent or impact of altitude. Continually drink water! Fortunately we had a RovR cooler filled with food and cold drinks waiting in the car for us to get into.
Packing List of the Grand Teton
The Grand Teton is not a difficult journey to take lightly. Planning and preparation go a long way towards your summit endeavor. We relied on Alex’s mountaineering experience to source gear and conducted a lot of research to find the additional equipment we needed.
While this is not an exhaustive list (and your preferences may vary greatly), these are the items that we recommend you consider when setting up camp and climbing with ropes for your trip. YELLOW PROS if you are not camping or plan on soloing the OS, you can reduce the climbing and camping sections.
In true GearJunkie fashion, we used this adventure as testing time for all sorts of gear, so that we also list what we actually packed with some notes for reference.
Sleep System: Shelters, Sleep Bags and Mattress Pads
On any adventure, sleep is important. The Thrill of the Grand Summit will push you mentally and physically. Poor sleep and groggy starts are not fun. Here is what we used, with temperatures dipping into the mid-40s a night.
- Shelter: We chose a tarp to reduce weight. It was a bold move that worked well, but nearly everyone else brings a tent that can handle windy conditions, as it is easier to place in the rocky terrain. Rab tested the 2. Siltarp
- Camp : Bags between 20 and 35 degrees were solid for the weather, as nightly temperatures were in the 4os. Weather varies rapidly so be prepared. Nous used Rab Mythic 180 Ultra, Rab Neutrino 200 and ThermaRest Hyperion. Besides that, each bag is high quality and light and we stayed warm.
Pro tip: Even if you have already used it, prepare yourself before you start your shelter and sleep system at home. There are obvious campgrounds in each of the Garnet Canyon Zones. Many are near rocks (read Windblots) because it can get windy especially on the Lower Saddle. Weather can be unpredictable with rain, snow and more, so prepare with a good shelter.
Gear and gear for Approach, and Camp – Gear and clothing for the Appaloosa
This trip covers a lot of ground and ascends several thousand feet in elevation; expect to face a wide variety of weather conditions. Prepare for up to 3 days in the mountains is worth it. Here is what kept us going during our 3-day adventure.
Rock climb gear for the route
If it was just a walk to the top, more people would be up there. Chaque route requires some climbing and even the easiest sections are very exposed. Each person has a different level of comfort and skill but this is the climbing gear that got us there. Note that it is different depending on the route you select.
Water and hydration :
Drinking plenty of water keeps your body feeling good and helps combat altitude sickness. Fortunately, there are a handful of places where the mountain runs intersect the trail. One of the parties on our list drank the water straight, and the other two drank filtered water to be safe. No one of us got sick!
- We both had the capacity for 2 l water.
There was still a lot of running on 4 August for us. In terms of forward mobility, we would have hauled a max of 0.75 L each on the hike to the Lower Saddle and then 2 L each from the Lower Saddle to the summit.
Gear for food preparation and nutrition pre-rep.
The food you eat will go a long way in keeping you fully fueled for long days that push your limits properly. Although your personal food preferences may vary, these meals and items were important for us in helping us to reach our goal.
While doing training hikes, experiment with what foods you like to eat and sit with you throughout the activity good. Bring something you know you will devour when you get it out of your pack. We brought some Sweet Strip Candy, Dots Poplins and savory Cheez-Its – all were amazing.
Gear : Miscellaneous
There’s no shame in taking a few extra things to help make the trip more enjoyable. These are a few things that we brought with us. We took them or leave them!
Pro tip: Bring an extrawag bag with you You can go two to three times in a single bag but once full, you have another one to bring home. We brought 2 bags of each.
For us, the Grand Teton climb was an epic adventure, and we will keep these memories for the rest of our lives. If you think you’re going to climb it, we would encourage you to “say yes to life” and go up there. Climb on