Struck From My Not-A-Bucket List: Hiking In Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

18.July 2012

Our Journey

I’ve never really had a bucket list. You know, one of those lists of things that you absolutely must do before you die? I guess I don’t want to be hemmed in to only those experiences and would rather experience whatever tickles my fancy at the time.

There are a couple of things, though, that I would really like to do. Am I contradicting myself here? Can I not have a bucket list and then also have a list of things I want to do? I mean these are BIG wants – like big enough for me to really work at making them happen. Is this, in fact, a bucket list despite my not wanting to have one? Bummer.

  1. Live somewhere else. We’re working on this and today I feel like we’re closer than ever before.
  2. Be able to speak another language. I think this will be linked to #1 – we’ll see where we end up.
  3. Do a multi-day, back country, high alpine hike. I just think it’s cool and I admire those I know that have done it.

Two weeks ago I managed to cross #3 off my not-a-bucket-list as we headed to Wyoming and went hiking in Grand Teton National Park.

We took four days to hike the Teton Crest Trail. It was everything I wanted it to be.

It was just hard enough. I had thought it would be much harder and that I would, in fact, be in tears more than once due to exhaustion and frustration. It was hard, don’t get me wrong, but it was totally doable. In fact I was amazed that I could strap on a 40ish pound pack and hike 13 km (8 miles) a day at an average of 2900 meters (9500 feet) day after day after day. It’s amazing what your body will get used to.

It was more beautiful than I had imagined. I don’t like to look at pictures of places before I go as I like to see them fresh for myself and, really, I’m not sure that any pictures could have done justice to the beauty of the mountains in person. “It’s just sooo beautiful” I would exclaim time after time as though it were impossible that such beauty existed hidden from most of the world.

There were no bears. This is grizzly country and I was very fearful of seeing one, or worse, running into one on the trail. This is one of the reasons why I have never done this before. Hiking in grizzly country meant that I had to swallow the fear and trust that it was going to be okay. Trust only goes so far though, let me tell you! We were super conscientious of being ‘bear aware’:

  • We always hiked together and we each carried bear spray.
  • We kept all food in bear canisters and hung whatever wouldn’t fit in a tree.
  • Our ‘kitchen’ was far from our tents so there would be no food smells near our sleeping area.
  • There was to be NO nice smelling items in the tenting area. We didn’t even brush our teeth before bed!

For those of you thinking of doing this here is roughly the route we followed – drop me a line if you’re interested in more detail.

Day 1. Most people start the Teton Crest Trail at the top of the gondola out of Teton village but, due to snow conditions on the trail, we opted to enter in through Death Canyon…ominous, no? We hiked all the way up the canyon and camped about halfway along the valley under the Death Canyon Shelf. It took us about 5 hours to hike the 11 km (7 miles) and was mostly up as we gained elevation into the mountains.

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Our motley crew prepares to leave the parking lot.

Death Canyon Trailhead, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

At the Death Canyon trailhead.

Death Canyon, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

It’s not long before we can see the mountains through the trees.

Death Canyon Shelf, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

First glimpse of Death Canyon Shelf.

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Heading up to the ‘kitchen’ which is no where near the tent area.

Day 2. Apparently we’re not an early rising bunch as we didn’t leave camp until 10:30 on this morning. We headed to the end of Death Canyon and climbed up to the Death Canyon Shelf meeting up with Fox Creek pass. This was my ‘must see’ moment – I was excited to be on the shelf and to see the views – it did not disappoint. Traversing the shelf we then climbed up over Mt Meaks pass and hiked down the Sheep Steps into Alaska Basin. This was steep and snowy at times which made for some great ‘ski walking’ and  ’bum sledding’ on the way down. We made camp around 5:30 pm on the rocky outcrops next to a small lake about 13 km (8 miles) from where we started in the morning.

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The plan is to hike up to the end of Death Canyon and then climb up onto the shelf.

Death Canyon, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Start of the climb up to Death Canyon Shelf.

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The snow along the way made it more difficult.
Death Canyon Shelf, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Oh so happy at the top. THIS is the view I’ve been waiting for!

Death Canyon, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

A view down into Death Canyon where we came from.

Mt Meaks Pass, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Seriously? More climbing? Up over Mt Meaks Pass.

Mt Meaks Pass, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park

More snow. I think this is where we brought the tequila out for a little pick-me-up!
Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Down is way more fun!

Alaska Basin, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Camp on night #2.

Day 3. We climbed almost right out of the gate on this morning. After reaching the end of the Alaska Basin we headed up through Hurricane Pass. This was not a trivial undertaking; at just over 3000 meters (10,000 feet) the oxygen level is a little lower than my beating heart would have liked. Mother Nature tried to make up for it by hurtling wind at us at an amazing rate (I guess that’s why it’s called Hurricane Pass – I would not like to see it in inclement conditions!) but all that managed to do was to make it harder to stay upright. The views at the top, though, of the Grand Tetons themselves were the best of the trip and worth every oxygen deprived step. We dropped into the upper portion of South Cascade Canyon and then dropped, quite steeply (and snowily) again before setting up camp for the night in the trees of the South Cascade Canyon camping area. It was another 13 km (8 miles) on this day and took us about 7 hours with quite a lengthy lunch break.

Hurricane Pass, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Killer climb the next morning.

Alaska Basin, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Worth it though. Looking back down into Alaska Basin.

Hurricane Pass, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Hurricane Pass is a toughy…can you see the others almost at the top already?

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Peek-a-boo mountain.

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

And then BAM! There they are!

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

On the tippy top – steep valley on either side.

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park

Some steeper, snowy, down.

Day 4. This day was all about hiking out. With the dramatic views and tough hiking behind us we just put our heads down to hike out. A downhill hike the whole way through Cascade Canyon, the hardest part was meeting up with the day trippers coming from the Jenny Lake boat. It’s weird to come across people after having been just the five of us for four days. They all smelled so fresh and clean (believe me, we did NOT smell good!). The ladies were wearing makeup and the kids were all whining it was too hard. We quickly deked off the main trail to a secondary trail to avoid it all as much as possible. We ended up alongside Jenny Lake and made our way to Spray Lake where the car was parked. Fastest day yet – 11 km (7 miles) in three hours!! Time for beer!

South Cascade Canyon, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park

Down into the trees again.

South Cascade Canyon, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park

One last look at the mountains before we head out.

Snake River Brewing Company, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

What a great crew!!

Thank you so much to Eric, for outfitting us with all the hiking gear we needed and for guiding us safely through the mountains, and to Kim and Brian, for allowing us to be part of their dream.

*****

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15 Responses to “Struck From My Not-A-Bucket List: Hiking In Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming”

  1. Carmel Says:

    Wow. So great to read the story behind the whole hike. That looks amazing. Your comment about not being early risers and leaving at 10:30 made me laugh out loud.
    Carmel recently posted..Grilled Chicken Banh Mi & Hoisin Glazed Corn

  2. crazy sexy fun traveler Says:

    OMG the nature there is really beautiful! You are right about it, more than expected :)
    crazy sexy fun traveler recently posted..SURPRISING FACTS ABOUT NEW YORK CITY

  3. Jen M. Says:

    Did you work with a guiding company to arrange the trip ad the equipment or did you take it with you?

    • Gillian @OneGiantStep Says:

      We were lucky to be hiking with Kim and Brian, who are on a hiking/camping tour and so had stuff they could share with us, and with Eric, who lives in Jackson Hole and knows the area very well. He hooked us up with almost everything we needed – he also volunteers with Search and Rescue…so we were very safe! There are outfitting stores in town – we used one to rent the sleeping bags but you could potentially rent everything you need.
      Gillian @OneGiantStep recently posted..Practicing Ramen Slurping

  4. Audrey Says:

    Looks like an amazing experience Gillian, those Teton Peaks are quite impressive. The scenery reminds me a lot of the Lake O’Hara area in Yoho National Park. So glad you didn’t run into any Grizzlies, that has been my worst fear of hiking in the Canadian Rockies. P.S. we would make great hiking partners if your start time is 10:30am, that suits me just fine!
    Audrey recently posted..Attractions Along The Icefields Parkway

  5. D.J. - The World of Deej Says:

    What a great couple days…gorgeous stuff!
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..The San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge

  6. Arti Says:

    What a fabulous hike! With such pretty scenes and the nature to give company. You had a wonderful time!
    Arti recently posted..Sensoji Temple, Asakusa – Tokyo

  7. Patricia Davidson Says:

    Wonderful to read about your hiking trip! I do have it on my list (not a bucket list for me either!) to go to the Grand Tetons. It’s every photographer’s dream I’m sure :) I am a bit afraid of the bears, it’s a definite concern. Nice you had no encounters with them!
    Patricia Davidson recently posted..Another trip to the Gorge

  8. Dan Says:

    Doing some last minute planning on my part. Heading out there this weekend to hopefully begin hiking Sunday. I am probably going to have time to spend in town after the trail before I fly back east. Is there someone in town, i can stash some extra stuff i dont plan to hike with? Thanks!

  9. Gillian @OneGiantStep Says:

    Hi Dan, I contacted my friend there and he suggests trying a couple of the gear rental shops – they might be able to store for you or point you in the right direction. He also says that, if you have a car, you could simply leave the gear in the trunk – it is safe in the area and, in fact, that’s what we did – we left a car at the trail head with some of our other stuff in the trunk. No trouble. Have a great weekend!!
    Gillian @OneGiantStep recently posted..Monday Moment: Thai Amulets

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