It wasn't my fault this time. We weren't going to predict this one. But this knowledge didn't help the sting of disappointment we felt, and it certainly didn't help us figure out what to do now. I sat on the floor of the log cabin known as the Jenny Lake Ranger Station, and leaned up against the wall. I stared ahead, thinking. Occasionally my eyes would glance to the right and stare down the conditions board. "Owen-Spalding: Icy, crampons recommended for descent. Full alpine conditions". I wasn't in the mood to slip on verglas
and fall off the Grand Teton. My crampons were more than 200 miles away. We were just not prepared.
Jason broke my trance: "Don't you really need to pee?"
I had forgotten. I stood up and we walked out of the ranger station. I intentionally left my backcountry permit on the desk.
Wednesday August 20th.
The day started like any other, except for the notions of how it would end. While at work my thoughts were miles away high in the Teton Range of Wyoming. The Grand Teton holds much allure for many people. It has been photographed and referenced countless times by countless individuals, from the famous shot by Ansel Adams to, well, I bet someone is taking a picture of it right now. Who grew up in the west and has never heard of this mountain? It's the only mountain I can think of that is claimed as it's own by a state in which it does not reside. Yes, I'm talking about Idaho.
A view of the south side of the Grand graced the background on my second monitor. I would occasionally trace the route of the upper Exum Ridge, our planned ascent route. A beautiful line, maybe 12 pitches long, but easy climbing. Long alpine rock routes were new to me but I felt I was ready to take this new challenge on. A classic route such as the Exum was an excellent place to start. I had spent days and weeks leading up to today reading route descriptions and trip reports, and studying photographs. I was excited.
Our crazy plan was to pack up and leave for Jackson that night, hitting the trailhead at about 2:00 AM. We would then attempt to ascend and descend the peak all in one day, a doable feat, but a challenge to be sure.
But as the work day dragged on, I could tell that this plan was not going to be realized. I felt myself tiring, and knew I didn't have a 6 hour drive and a 13 hour climb in me, not without sleep.
I took off from work a little early, hoping to be able to pack up and take a nap before leaving. Perhaps I could salvage the plan after all. But as a few minutes of packing turned into a few hours, I knew I wouldn't get much sleep. I napped for an hour.
"Jason, we should just do it in an overnight trip. We have a much better chance of success that way." He agreed.
Eager to leave we simply grabbed a few extra things and threw them in the back of my Jeep. I called Travis and asked if we could crash at his place that night. He agreed, and we were off to Logan.
The drive was riddled with existential conversation, questioning my life aloud with Jason as a sounding board. It was obvious that, more than climbing a mountain, this was about getting away from the neat little life I had created and all of the issues it presented. Maybe I would gain prospective, find solutions. At the very least, I would be hundreds of miles away from the problems.
We pulled into Travis' complex and he was there to meet us as we parked. It had been a few months since I had seen him. I think the last time was when we spent 24 hours straight with each other doing Kings Peak in a day. No wonder we haven't done anything since....
He and his wife, Sarah, were gracious enough to allow us to stay there, so the least I could do was fix their WIFI. No, seriously, it was the first thing I did. He didn't even ask me to... and it wasn't completely selfish. After all, I had brought my laptop along and I needed internet. But I like to pretend it was a selfless gesture.
We stayed up a while talking climbing, watching a little TV. Funny that Travis has become such a good friend, having met him only because of Summitpost.org. And first because of a trip planned by someone we both can no longer stand. But before it grew too late, we each retired to our respective beds and, well, some of us slept.