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Tétons Climb : GearJunkie Guide to the Grands



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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.

  1. When do you plan to climb your climbs?
  2. Are you camping or doing it in one day?
  3. Who is your / are climbing partner /?
  4. What route you plan to take?
  5. What are your plans to train and prepare?
  6. 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!

  • Pack something light and reliable. If you use a blown sleeping pad, be sure to check for sharp rocks before lying it on the ground. We use the Therma-Rest NeoAir XLite and UberLite. These are some of the lightest blow up pads out there. They are very comfortable and carry small.
  • Pillows: This is a personal preference. For years we made a pillow by putting our extra layers in a stuffsack. On this trip we opted for Sea to Summit Aeros and Therma-Rest Air Head Lite camping pillows.
  • Trekking poles: Many people bring trekking poles for the walk and the trek down as it is steep in places and you carry a decent load. Black Diamond Trail Pro, Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Poles and a hiking crew are tucked away.
  • Headlamps are a must for alpine starts, camping and returning to the car after dark. We used Black Diamond RL and Petzl Swift RL.
  • Hat: Grab your adventure hat and a beanie that fits under a climbing helmet
  • It’s a hat, it is a neckwarmer, it’s a mini-trash. Bring one!
  • Top-Basis Layer: Bring along your favorite layer that breathes but also keeps you warm. We used the Polar 240 thermal icebreaker Merino and a Patagonia Capilene air crew for climbing days.
  • T-shirt or hoodie – ideal for hikes in and out if the weather is good. We had very warm weather so packed lighter Merino shirts and Simms Sun Hoodies.
  • Amidlayers: This is likely what you will climb in so pick something light and durable. We tested the Mammut Ultimate VI SO Jacket which is durable and wind resistant.
  • Puffy – Jacket: A puffy is your best friend in the mountains. We used the rhabaon and the fit and warmth of this lightweight puffy were spot on.
  • Thankfully, we didn’t get rained on on as we hiked or climbed, but our Black Diamond Highline Stretch and Mammut Kento Shells blocked the wind and kept us warm as we climbed the shaded, cold Owen Spalding Route.
  • Underwear: Merino wool or a poly-wicked blend will work wonders Our go-to – Unters were Smartwool and SAXX.
  • Bottom basic layer : Short and heavy underwear served us well. We used Odlo Blackcomb Pants and merino icebreaker 200 Oasis leggings.
  • The trek has a lot more hiking than climbing pants, but it is nice to have a pants that can handle both. We used the Rab Kinetic Alpine pants and the Western Rise Evolution Pants and love them.
  • Shorts athletic or running: We debated all the cost of shorts and they definitely were as we hiked up. It was hot with the temperatures in the 80s. We packed lightweight athletic and running shorts such as the SAXX Pilot and Vuori Kore Shorts.
  • Approach shoes: We chose approach shoes as the sticky rubber lugs make climbing and scrambling easier. For the Owen Spalding we actually kept our acrobats on the whole route and they worked well. We wore Salewa Wildfire Edge, Salewa Wildfire GTX, and Black Diamond Mission LT footwear.
  • Socks: Bring a thin pair that works for walking and that fits into a climbing shoe on cold days, plus a thick wool pair for sleeping
  • Sunglasses: At higher elevations the sun can be fierce so bring some sunglasses that provide good coverage.
  • Gloves: If it gets cold you will be glad to have gloves. We brought all thin gloves and one of us a thicker pair of Hestra Ergo grip active gloves for rappelling and morning jumps.
  • For lower exum we used a full rack of up to 3 inches of Black Diamond Ultralight Camalots and Stoppers with double Cam #1 and #2. For Owen Spalding we used a half-rack (also called light rack) of up to 2 inches of ultralight cams and stops. Bottom line – bring enough equipment to keep you safe.
  • Ropes: As a group of three we used two 60 mm 9,0 mm Sterling Nano ropes. If there were only two climbers on the Exum (or two to three climbers on Owen Spalding), a better option would be a 70 m 9.0mm rope like the Mammut Alpine Sender Dry. A 70m rope is a bit heavier but saves time on rappelling. You can up the Owen Spalding with a 60 m rope twice with your rifle. That said, if we climbed Owen Spalding again, we could probably solo the route to save time and carry less gear.
  • We used the Alpine Mammut Wall and the Black Diamond ATC guide. Bring a device with guide mode to simplify belaying from above.
  • Carabiners and alpine draws: You need locking carabiners for anchoring, casting and rappelling. We had one to three. Additionally, we brought a handful of alpine cables to add to our stock of slings and non-locking binder strings.
  • Slings and cordelettes: We used slings for natural pro and some anchors. Pour the three of us we packed four – plus double slings, three – plus single slings and two cordels for anchors.
  • Helmet – Protect your Noggin! We tested and loved the Mammut Wall Rider helmets.
  • Harnesses: If you have one, bring what you own. If you want to buy or upgrade a bike, get something that is light, comfy, and that has durable gear loops. We used Black Diamond Vision and an older CAMP – harness.
  • Climbing footwear: For us, climbing shoes were vital on the Exum route. On the Owen Spalding route, we carried them but did not use them and instead climbed in knee-high shoe solutions. Depending on your skills and comfort, you could get away with shoe approaches on Owen Spalding. If you are uncertain, we would suggest that you bring a comfy pair of proper rock climbing boots. The classic La Sportiva TC Pro, a broken-in pair of SCARPA Helix, and evolv Kronos are all working beautifully.
  • Packs from the summit : You’ll need a lightweight and durable pack to take this equipment and a day of food and water to the summit. We used the Black Diamond Rock Blitz 15 and the Mammut Trion 18L. Both of these packs had enough room for us to carry our essential gear and extras in case something unexpected happens.
  • Safety communication – Better safe than sorry We used a Garmin inReach SE to communicate with family and in case of emergency. Also, a compacted or SPOT device would work.
  • Walkie Talkies: When we packed the gear, we debatted bringing walkie talkies. In retrospect, the being able to communicate from the top of the pitch to the bottom would have been very difficult without them. We were thankful to pack two walkie talkies from Midland.
  • Wagbags: These can be collected for free at the ranger station when you get your permit. They must be used for human waste and TP at higher elevations. Don’t forget to pack them out!
    • 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

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