Struck From My Not-A-Bucket List: Hiking In Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
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.
- Live somewhere else. We’re working on this and today I feel like we’re closer than ever before.
- Be able to speak another language. I think this will be linked to #1 – we’ll see where we end up.
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.
Our motley crew prepares to leave the parking lot.
At the Death Canyon trailhead.
It’s not long before we can see the mountains through the trees.
First glimpse of Death Canyon Shelf.
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.
The plan is to hike up to the end of Death Canyon and then climb up onto the shelf.
Start of the climb up to Death Canyon Shelf.
Oh so happy at the top. THIS is the view I’ve been waiting for!
A view down into Death Canyon where we came from.
Seriously? More climbing? Up over Mt Meaks Pass.
Down is way more fun!
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.
Killer climb the next morning.
Worth it though. Looking back down into Alaska Basin.
Hurricane Pass is a toughy…can you see the others almost at the top already?
And then BAM! There they are!
On the tippy top – steep valley on either side.
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!
Down into the trees again.
One last look at the mountains before we head out.
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.
Have you entered the giveaway?!
It’s time to share the wealth!! I have TWO copies of Chris Guillebeau’s new book The$100 Startup to give away. I have already read it (and loved it!) and will be reading it again and taking notes as I determine how best to put my World Domination Summit $100 investment to great use.
Just leave a comment on this post letting me know you’re interested – I’ll draw TWO names on July 25th and announce the winners the following day.