ruthless compassion (aroraborealis) wrote,
ruthless compassion

To high camp and back in several thousand easy steps

Sunday morning, after going to bed too late on Saturday due to a fun wedding, my dad and I got up early to hike up to Corbet High Camp on Teepe Glacier between the Middle and Grand Tetons. High camp is maintained by Jackson Hole Mountain Guides, which used to be my dad's business. Though he sold it about 7 years ago, he's still quite friendly with JHMG, so when it turned out that high camp was going to be totally empty Sunday night, they mentioned it to him in case he wanted to go up and climb the Grand, or any of about a thousand other things to climb up there. He ran it by me and my brother, and we all figured, well, sure! We'll be hung over from the wedding, but big deal, right? Then, Monday, Dan and Dad could go climbing, I'd make a leisurely descent, and maybe we'd all take a dip in Jenny Lake at the end of the day.

The hike to high camp is about 5 miles and 5000' of elevation gain (high camp is at about 11,100'), making it a bit of a trek, especially for those of us coming from sea level. I knew I'd be the slowest among us, and Dan stayed over at the wedding, so we left him a pile of food to bring up and Dad and I started out early, hitting the trail about 10am. It was a kick to be able to post from the mountain. This one was from the hottest part of the hike, along mostly unshaded switchbacks before the trail turns into Garnet Canyon:

It took us about three hours to reach the Meadows, where we had lunch and I dunked my tank top in the water to cool off. Note my stylish running skirt, here:

We were more than halfway there by that point, both in terms of distance and elevation, but, of course, the last two stretches are significantly steeper and, obviously, at a greater altitude, making the going slower. Here, I stop for a breather and to look at the ground we've covered:

This is a nice shot of the valley taken, I think, from the Petzoldt Caves, which is the top of the first steep stretch after the Meadows. This was a nice place to stop, rest, and refill our water bottles:

At this stop, we ran across a big group of noisy kids on their way up to the Lower Saddle (between the Middle and Grand Tetons) with guides from the less-awesome guide service, and also about 500 people my dad or I knew. Okay, only 5 or 6, but it still felt like a lot, wandering around in the wilderness and doing the, "Oh, hey, what have you been up to for the last 10/15/20 years?" One woman saw my skirt and said, "Oh, you're wearing a skirt -- just like your mom used to!" I guess people don't wear skirts for hiking much. Silly; they're quite comfy.

Here's a shot of the lower stretch of the last shot of trail to high camp:

It's very steep, and I finally broke out the ski poles for this bit, which was a great call. Though it's the hardest (scroddy, steep, high) part of the trail, I felt better here than I had lower down, because it turns out that you (I) expend a lot of energy on balance in these rocky trails. Having the poles to help with stability made a huge difference.

Then we were at high camp! Without a backpack and knowing I didn't have to climb another thousand feet, it was fun to scramble around the moraine, though here I'm just on the path:

You can see the valley floor way down off to the right, and in the lower left corner, there are some lines securing one of the tents that's set up all summer.

We were at high camp by shortly after 4, leaving us about five hours of daylight. We kicked around the hut a bit, I did some clambering over the boulders of the moraine and had some close encounters with the neighborhood marmots. If I were a good photographer and had a good camera, I'd've tried to get a picture of the ravens flying way below us, because how often do you get to see that? But I'm not, and I didn't, so you'll just have to use your imagination.

By about 6, we were wondering where Dan, who had our dinner, was. By 6:30, we decided to forage for dinner, and we'd mixed up a bit of french onion ramen soup plus tuna mere moments before he pulled into camp.

Incidentally, many of you have heard me scorn the mountains of the eastern US. For the record, when I say "mountain", this is the sort of thing I mean:

Annoyingly, I didn't sleep well, despite being good and tired. It was one of those nights where I could swear I didn't sleep at all, except for the fact that morning came faster than it would have if I really hadn't slept. Still, that was a bit of a bummer.

Dan, with the help of more acclimatization and an actual hangover from the night before, did manage to sleep until 10 that morning, so instead of going climbing, he and my dad joined me for a straight descent.

This is the hut, the biggest structure at high camp, where there's room to stand up, walk around, cook, play cards, have a party... whatever strikes your fancy. Obviously, what struck my fancy was tea:

This is a nice shot of high camp from above:

You can see the hut and above and to the right a tent, and farther up, there's the tent where my dad and I slept. You can see me posting a picture to LJ, and in the background, the Middle Teton Glacier looks a bit dirty.

Now, we jump to about halfway through the descent, with my brother and me working our way through the boulderfield at the bottom of the Meadows:

There would be more pictures between high camp and here, but my dad's camera fell off moments after we began the descent, and he didn't realize it for a while, so my brother went back up to high camp to get it. It's okay, though, because he's fast: The ascent that took me 6 hours, including breaks, took him less than 2 1/2, so having to go back for the camera probably made the day slightly more interesting for him.

At the end of the trail (plus a short car ride), there's Jenny Lake, which -- and you don't have to take my word for this; you could come to Wyoming sometime and see for yourself -- is seriously the most refreshing swim you could imagine:

Tags: home, travel
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