A dream in Wyoming

Click on images to see medium size or view as slideshow All images © CPBL 2019 unless otherwise stated
Over the years, plans took shape, especially with help from Bryan,
Janet,
Erick,
Aleksa, and others.
In Montreal, we handed most of our worldly possessions in four bags over to the airline, not considering what would happen if we never saw them again.
After a truly insane and horrible 5 days captive to Air Canada, Erick and Janet outfitted us with nearly everything (much from Laura and Kevin), and we left Salt Lake City for the Tetons, where within another day our stuff was finally located and sent to the local airport, from which Aleksandra retrieved it.
While she did that, I visited the South Teton to start my acclimatization. Smoke from the massive wildfires partly obscured the Grand Teton.
The next day, Aleksa prepped her Black Dike pose below Middle Teton, ...
... warmed up her glissading game, ...
... and drank at The Meadows in Garnet Canyon.
Our skin had to acclimatize, too, ...
... descending Garnet in still-smokey conditions.
Next was a trip as a foursome to Mt Moran, complete with a water approach ...
... and a portage.
Crossing Leigh Lake,
we were grateful, no matter the conditions, that we had not chosen the foot approach this time.
We left the canoes behind ...
... to begin the climb up the Falling Ice drainage.
The weather cleared dramatically, ...
... and the flowers (and peeps) were stunning.
At CMC camp, Erick and I scouted the next morning's approach, and made a report over dinner.
We also witnessed a helicopter rescue, and ...
... comiserated with the NPS SAR rangers who, too generously, carried down the unprepared climbers' camp for them.
Under the last full moon before the eclipse, ...
... dawn found us approaching Drizzlepus, above the West Horn and Falling Ice glacier, ...
... with Leigh Lake now far below.
From the top of Drizzlepus, ...
... our next step towards the CMC route ascent was a technical descent, initially unroped, ...
... followed by a rappel.
By now I know well Aleksa's "This is terrifying. Don't take a picture of me right now" face, ...
and that she will quickly regain her comfort.
...
While roped, we climbed as two pairs ...
... up the left arete and side of the CMC face.
Higher up, ...
we reverted to scrambling, ...
... as we angled up and towards the awesome black dike.
Looking down we could see the summit of Drizzlepus, the West Horn, the Falling Ice Glacier and parts of its drainage down to our take out on Leigh Lake.
In high spirits ...
... we reached the summit of Moran, ...
... which is, incredibly, capped with a thin layer of brown sandstone.
On our way back up Drizzlepus, we got a good view (pano 1, pano 2) of guide Scott McGee's group on the CMC face.
Done with the climbing, we made a slower descent and a night paddle back to our start.
After a day off, Janet, Erick, and I were back at work on the Lower Saddle ...
... in order to climb the (complete) Exum Ridge on the Grand Teton ...
and the North Ridge of Middle Teton.
We started early and (just) managed to stay ahead of the crowds on Exum Ridge.
The climbing is pleasant (I managed okay in my mountain boots),
puts you in stunning positions,
and soon leads to the amazing ramble of the Upper Exum.
It was nice to be back, after fourteen years, ...
and to imagine being back atop the Grand in 11 days for the eclipse.
Next morning, we went the wrong way at one point on the North Ridge of Middle, ...
But that just gave us an extra summit of sorts.
The only crux of the actual North Ridge route is short and sweet, ...
aside from some later exposure.
The weather on the Grand was less ideal than the day before, ..
so after due summit snoogling,
we descended to camp and down Garnet to the valley.
With more good weather, Aleksa and I visited Teewinot,
whose main face becomes a playground of possibilities (after an unfortunate maze of "use" trails).
So we picked our puzzles, ...
and played our way ...
to the top.
When messing up is not a good idea, you make your decisions carefully.
As usual, summits provoke precarious poses (with friends Grand and Owen) ...
and summit snoogling.
When descending, don't switch back to your hiking boots too early.
Precarious poses happen lower down, too.
The next day was a cycle tour to try out the Hole's newish bike paths.
The first bits of Jackson Hole I always rave about are the megafauna and the birds, including pelicans at the Oxbow.
We saw Jackson Lake and Mount Moran from Signal Mountain.
Very nice, Aleksa, but what is on your nose?!
We went to bed early ... but only briefly, getting up again for a one-day ascent of the Owen-Spalding route on the Grand Teton.
When we got to the Upper Saddle, we could see Middle Teton in the sun, ...
... but in the other direction a line-up of shivering parties awaited the Belly Roll pitch!
We didn't come mountaineering to stand in line!
So we hopped over to the sun on the Enclosure for a wonderful nap. Later, with the crowd dissipated enough to pass it, and sun on our climb, ...
We wandered up, ...
... mostly unroped, ...
... to enjoy some chocolate from Stephen ...
on Aleksa's new lifetime high point.
We practiced the normal descent route from the Grand, ...
... fearing it could be dangerously crowded on Eclipse Day.
Alas, one of those cold climbing couples had been overstretched, and we witnessed our second (normally infrequent) air rescue in 11 days.
It's a multi-step process, with mobilization of SAR techs from Jenny Lake, ...
... scouting, ...
... first insertion, ...
... and, later, second insertion, before pulling out the injured.
On the brighter side, ...
... the flowers in the Tetons ...
... were lovely!
After a night of socializing ...
... with many friends and family in the valley, ...
... the time had come for the eclipse. Amy, Janet, Erick, Aleksa, and I headed back up to the Upper Saddle, escorted part-way by Bryan. We discussed the geometry of eclipses, which has neverending subtleties.
If you grow up with Teton guides for parents, you could end up on the Lower Saddle for a total eclipse at a rather young age.
Nevertheless, we estimated that the crowds would, after all, be modest, and with management facilitation by Amy, found that the four of us who planned to climb all wanted to ascend the Upper Exum to see totality from the highest point of land it touched.
We surveyed the sneaky approach to the Upper Exum from camp, ...
... we all pooped in bags, ...
Amy journalled, ...
... and Erick dealt with the strange smell near our tents ...
... by serving his wife some fresh Marmot in Hotel Ko.
Early the next morning we had breakfast ...
... and ambition!
Erick made the first lead of the famous terminus of Wall Street by headlamp.
Sunrise found us high on the ridge ...
... with direct sun from the horizon ...
but partial clouds overhead, keeping us in suspense.
We climbed, ...
...
... with and without ropes ...
...
... into the sun ...
... and it was glorious.
I would never get tired of returning to this route.
Aleksa enjoyed her fashionable new approach shoes, ...
but not being sent up a wrong-way, too-hard boulder problem (sorry!).
There is nothing in the world like being just you and the mountain, ...
...
... and your friends.
When we arrived, the summit was still largely empty.
Erick led a rather significant engineering project:
Thanks to this eclipse, the summit now features a rock couch, facing East, ...
... and built for four.
On the 21st of August, 2017 at 11:34:46 my dream came true.
As it became noticeably darker, we looked out at all the special places we had visited during our trip. I followed instructions I'd read not to try for photography, nor socialisation, during my first experience of totality. "It's going to be a spiritual experience" people had gushed.
I now happen to agree, but for sure the experience of seeing with your naked eyes a sky featuring a black hole, and the otherwise-hidden solar corona, for 135 seconds cannot be captured by a photo. Nevertheless, Erick somehow managed to record a great video of the excitement, including the Moon's 100 km wide umbra moving towards us at 2.3 times the speed of sound. (Aaron Glasenapp also made a 4-pi video of the event and all fifty climbers on the summit. See also Tuan's work; he was on Table Mountain).
Moved and fulfilled, we put our solar glasses back on after totality and watched some more of the partial eclipse.
Eventually, we descended. The NPS, in its fear of crowded madness which never materialized, had kindly set up quadruple fixed rap lines.
It was time to say goodbye to the Tetons. For some reason, many people returned to work.
However, winter had clearly not arrived yet, so Bryan and I showered, sorted gear, ...
... and packed up to visit the Wind River range, a wilderness possibly even more jaw-dropping than the Tetons.
But that's another story.