13 days. In 13 days I'll be standing at the base of the Grand Teton, introducing myself to the other climbers in the group, and trying to play it cool despite my nervousness and excitement.
Most of you probably already know a little about what this climb of the Grand Teton is all about. If not, please check out the story of my Summit for Someone charity climb for a really awesome organization called Big City Mountaineers (BCM). You might also know that I first heard about the Summit for Someone program on a podcast called MtnMeister. I was driving to the mountains listening to an episode featuring Jeff Weidman, BCM board member, when I heard his story about a kid on one of their trips who didn't recognize a starry sky.
Go to my Summit for Someone page and click the blue button to hear a clip from that episode.
I signed up for the Grand Teton Summit for Someone climb after hearing that story. I've been very fortunate to have some amazing adventures over the years, but this was a chance to make my adventure meaningful in a way it's never been before. Imagine my excitement when I later learned that the host of that podcast, Ben Schenck, had decided to organize a Summit for Someone climb for MtnMeister fans - and he chose to do the Grand Teton climb! Think about that for a second - I heard about the program on a podcast, signed up, and now I get to actually climb the Grand Teton WITH the host of that very podcast! And he's going to be recording our adventure for a future podcast episode! Crazy, huh? It's the very definition of "full circle". No really, I looked it up. The phrase is defined as "a series of developments that lead back to the original source". Oh, and Ben's bringing a friend of his who happens to be a professional photographer. Between the audio recordings and photographs this adventure is going to be well documented. I sure hope I don't make an ass of myself to be recorded for all time.
Which is a very real possibility due to recent developments. Typically by this time of year the snow and ice has melted off the Tetons and summiting just requires some hard hiking and some rock climbing. But with a heavy snowfall over the winter and a cold spring, that's not the case this year. There's still snow and ice up there. Here is a recent post on the Grand Teton National Park's Climbing & Backcountry information page:
SNOWY CONDITIONS PERSIST IN HIGH COUNTRY - JUNE 12, 2017
While the snow continues to melt noticeably below 9,500 feet, opening up larger sections of dry trail, conditions remain remarkably winter-like above that elevation. Ice axes and (possibly) crampons are required for approaching and descending most alpine climbs as well as for traversing mountain passes. To make matters worse, a recent storm deposited up to a foot of fresh snow above 9,500 feet. Backcountry travelers headed into the higher elevations should be prepared to deal with winter-like conditions.
A few days ago I received an email from the guide service that will be leading us on this adventure that stated, "As you may have heard, we had a record breaking snow year this past winter. This means that the conditions in the Tetons are still quite snowy and our Chief Guide has recommended mountain boots for all ascents in June and July. Mountain boots are boots that are more rigid and therefore are more suitable for side hilling, kicking steps and plunge stepping. They are also more compatible with crampons should we need to use them."
I don't even know what "side hilling" is, but I can guess what "plunge stepping" is and it sounds exhausting.
I've always been fascinated by stories of mountaineering, I read books about it and follow well-known mountaineers on social media. But I never thought I'D BE A MOUNTAINEER. Now, maybe one climb with intermittent use of crampons doesn't count as mountaineering - but damn, if I have to strap pointy things to my feet and carry an axe meant for arresting a potential fall to my death on icy slopes, I'm going to call myself a mountaineer.
So in 13 days I'll be standing at the foot of the Grand Teton, tossing my backpack on my back, side hilling up the trail, ice axe in hand, living the GRAND ADVENTURE I've been dreaming about for the last 6 months.
I've got this.