A Climber's Guide to the Grand Teton


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7-Day snowfall at R. Bowl / JHMR

JLCR's Conditions Reports

2018 November News and Events: An avalanche recently ripped down the Ford Couloir. Avy hazards were rated LOW but a few slides have been running throughout the park. Several small slides, mostly slides off rock bands, were seen on the southern aspect of Disappointment Peak. Skiers were waxing the Cave Couloir in Garnet Canyon on the 10th. The approach is getting packed down in spots with boots, skis, and snowshoes but it's not the high season for skiing so expect to break trail and encounter approach hazards. Climbers will find challenging conditions.

Taylor Freesolo Rees on Six Shooter

The individuals who move through Jackson Hole are sometimes extraordinary in their ambitions, remarkable in their achievement, clever, entertaining, witty, arty, thoughtful, smart, playful and all of that at once. David Gonzales captured a picture of Taylor Freesolo Rees, former intern of David and Treefight, climbing Six Shooter some time ago. You can see the original on his website. Rees' given middle name is Freesolo so we naturally have an attraction. Her parents were climbers. We first ran into Taylor while she huddled with Renan Ozturk atop the Grand during a climbing date (Golden Face/Complete Exum). They were smitten. She is truly an impressive young lady who floated through our community, and floated away. David captured her spirit which still runs a little wild in Utah. She lives with her husband, Renan, in Park City.

It looks like the Lower Saddle's weather station is struggling to stay operational at 11,600' with the winter-like weather. Temperature, wind speed, and wind direction have exhibited data acquisition failures recently. It may come back to life with warm temperatures. The rangers decided to leave it at the saddle all winter instead of taking it down.

Skinny Skis' annual Avalanche Awareness Night is taking place on Thursday, November, 29th, 5-10 pm at the Center for the Arts. TCSAR has a new free Backcounrty SOS App for your mobile device that might prove valuable in the event of an emergency. According to their website, it's not yet available for the majority of smartphone devices: those using Android. That could change.

Call 307-739-3309 for more information on backcountry camping permits. All GTNP visitor centers are shut down for the winter season. The Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center in the Town of Jackson is open all year long. Wintertime parking restrictions in Jackson prohibit overnight parking in public rights of way from Nov. 1 to April 15 to allow for snow removal and street maintenance. Between Dec 1st & April 30th, Winter Wildlife Closures are in effect in JH: Maps of closed wildlife habitat. BTNF Winter Travel Maps

 That time of year....

The Taggart Lake Parking Lot is the closest access point to Garnet Canyon because the interior park road is closed between Taggart Lake and Signal Mountain Lodge by Jackson Lake.

Garnet Canyon above Bradley Lake

You can access Garnet Canyon from its base by Bradley Lake. The approach will vary with conditions as will the exit out of Garnet Canyon. The summer trail on the north side of Garnet Canyon can be a good exit line (more snow and fewer boulders) before connecting with the trail around Bradley Lake at this time of year if conditions permit. Once the snow gets deep enough and the lakes freeze over, just about everyone travels on skis over Bradley Lake and up Garnet Canyon via the south side of the Garnet Creek (AKA Bradley Creek).

Bradley Lake / Garnet Canyon

GEOS-East Timelapse Northern Rockies
GEOS-West images

Dornan's Webcam GTNP

Current view toward Cody Peak near the JHMR

Teton Pass - Looking West
Old Image? Try Here

Teton pass - Looking East
All Teton Pass Webcams
Teton Pass Atmospherics
 Road Conditions

~ A Few Trip Reports ~
April Through October

~ Other Trip Reports ~

MountainProject  Owen-Spalding
MP  Upper Exum
MP Forums for beta
SummitPost Grand Teton Routes


 Tristan's Teton Aerial Photos
Jack's Teton Aerial Photos
Best of the Tetons

~ OS & UXM YDS Class Rating ~

Let's state the obvious. Everyone experiences a climb differently. The Owen-Spalding route may feel like a 5.11 climb if you're 80-years-old but it may feel like scramble if you're Adam Ondra. A skier with a heavy pack climbing over ice and snow is facing a far greater challenge than a free-soloing climber on dry terrain. Both of these routes are considered to be appropriate for novice climbers under good conditions; however, they have both taken the lives of very skilled climbers under good conditions.

The Owen-Spalding route is rated a 5.4 on the Yosemite Decimal System. It involves climbing on rock that has very good holds when dry and on a route that's easily protected. It requires your full attention to the environment and your climbing. The Owen-Spalding is not a sustained 5.4 climb. Many areas are just a scramble and there's less than 300' of 5th-class climbing. Most physically fit individuals should be able to climb the OS with no previous rock climbing experience while using only natural ability and good judgment when conditions are dry. For some, good judgment might mean safety gear and a lead climber.

The Upper Exum route is rated a 5.5. Compared to the OS, the route is longer, the rock is often steeper, some holds are smaller and not immediately obvious, and there's a short faith-based friction section. Additionally, it can be difficult, and impossible for some, to safely turn around and retreat if you're free-soloing the Upper Exum. Free-soloing this route with no previous climbing experience is not recommended (consider the OS first) but that's not to say that it can't be done.

There are plenty of opportunities to cover more challenging terrain along these routes should you choose to do so. For example, there are many ways to travel through chimneys and variations along these routes are abundant. Some variations cover less challenging terrain.

The Grand Teton has a long history of accepting moderately fit and very determined individuals to its summit. Most are camping overnight and roping up for a guided climb of the Owen-Spalding route. A few will attempt a single-day ascent by themselves. Some will turn around. Some will summit.

"The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up."  Muhammad Ali

~ Climbers ~

Three former University of Montana students saw the Grand Teton in 1923 and decided to climb it. Dave DeLap, Quin Blackburn and Andy DePirro made the third verified ascent of the Grand Teton with no similar climbing experience, no gear, and no knowledge of the area — free-soloing and on-sighting the Owen-Spalding route in a single day back when there was no climbers' trail (FYI: the 1898 Owen party climbed twice). They started at 7 a.m., reached the summit at 5:55 p.m., and at 11 p.m. they got back to timberline by moonlight and slept. They had a Eastman 2A Brownie Kodak camera to document their adventure. Two days later, Eleanor Davis became the first woman to climb the Grand Teton with Albert Ellingwood guiding. Here's a nice picture of Albert, in knee socks, & Eleanor atop Pyramid Peak near Aspen, Colorado.

 DeLap, Blackburn, DePirro - Summit, & in Yellowstone

 The Owen-Spalding's Double Chimney

In the above 1924 photo, Albert Ellingwood is on top of the Austrian mountaineer Hermann Buhl. The American mountaineer Carl Blaurock took the photo.


The above image was captured by William O. Owen of John Shive, Franklin Spalding, and Frank Petersen on the summit of the Grand Teton in 1898. They claimed the first verified ascent of the Grand Teton.

Paul Petzoldt, with no climbing experience, first climbed the Grand in 1924 at the age of 16 while wearing cowboy boots. ''We did everything wrong,'' the more safety-minded Paul said in later years. In 1931, an 18-year-old Glenn Exum borrowed a pair of leather-cleated football shoes two sizes too big from Paul and went on to on-sight and free solo the Upper Exum route. He leaped across the exposure at the end of Wall Street. Petzoldt followed on the same day and free-soloed the Upper Exum Ridge after guiding clients up the Owen-Spalding.

 Glen, Paul, and dogs on the summit. 1950

The above Trailfinder's image appeared in the book "Glenn Exum: Never a Bad Word or a Twisted Rope". The photo is dated 1952 in the book. The Trailfinder's say it was 1950. Two dogs signed the 1950 register. Dogs are not allowed in the backcountry these days.

Like many of today's climbers, Petzoldt was eager to document his climbs. The first known movie of an ascent on the Grand was in 1930 when Petzoldt guided a party of three men to the summit and they "Took 'movies' all the way". Where those movies ended up is a mystery. A year later in 1931, Paul guided another party that filmed their climb and you can watch the classic 1931 Grand Teton climbing video on Forrest McCarthy's YouTube channel. Nowadays, there may be a dozen people filming their climbs on any given summer morning. You can find 1000's of images, videos, and trip reports all over the Internet.

Making us look and feel old

U.S. Olympic ski team member Laura McCabe was bringing up the rear with the next generation on June 28th, 2015. Laura was married to Sean McCabe. The young adults were headed for the Upper Exum. If we heard correctly, Dashe McCabe climbed the GT at 7-years-old in 2013.


Jackson resident Kira Brazinski was busting loose on the summit in 2016 with a handstand. Ms. Brazinski has only one fully functioning leg but does more with one than most do with two.

The youngest person that we know of to solo the Grand Teton's Owen-Spalding route, or any route, is Greta Jensen, who was 7-years-old at the time and on her third attempt. Peter Eubank climbed the Owen-Spalding route at the age of 6. It is often reported that he was 5 but he climbed Teewinot at 5, not the Grand. Beo Charette climbed the Upper Exum in 2014 when he was 6. Between 1956 & 1958, Jeff Lowe (age 7), Greg Lowe (age 8), and Mike Lowe (age 10) all climbed the Exum Ridge with their father Ralph. A 13-year-old named Jay P. Bartlett and his 11-year-old brother Frank of Ogden, UT reached the summit on July 15th, 1933 with Paul Petzoldt as the guide, and in a single day from the valley floor. Hayden Wyatt climbed and skied the grand at 14 with his dad, Rick. 80-year-old Bob Riggs reached the summit in 2007 with Molly Loomis guiding.


Geraldine Lucas on the summit of the Grand Teton

In 1924, Geraldine Lucas became the second woman to reach the summit. She was 58 (or 59) and woefully out-of-shape but tough and determined. Paul Petzoldt (16), everyone's guide, is sitting in the photo. The other men are, supposedly, Ike Powell, Allen Budge and Jack Crawford but they don't all appear in the August summit register. You'll walk by Geraldine's old homestead if you take the Burned Wagon Gulch trailhead instead of the Lupine Meadows' Trailhead. Upon her death in 1938, her ashes were buried in a large boulder and sealed with a plaque. The impossible-to-miss boulder is alongside the Burned Wagon Gulch trail. You'll see her name carved into the rock that holds the survey monument at the summit.

Nancy Stevens at the Crawl

In 2012, 51-year-old Nancy Stevens became the first totally blind woman to summit. Among other highlights in her life, she also skied in the 1998 Winter Paralympics. Teton Adaptive Sports teamed up with Exum Mountain Guides to guide Ms. Stevens. Ryan Burke, with TAS, suggested the ascent after a single-pitch climb in Jackson.

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” Muhammad Ali

Craighead Family photo of
Margaret Smith Craighead

Margaret was on the first manless ascent of the Grand Teton in 1939. It took them 4 hours and 30 minutes to reach the summit from the Lower Saddle. By the age of 16 she had climbed most of the major peaks in the Teton Range. Margaret, at 19, wasn't the only teenager in the Tetons in 1939. Within a week of her manless ascent, 13-year-old Bill Johnston from Casper could be seen climbing the Grand Teton. And a 17-year-old Jim Crooks, who was an occasional climbing partner of 15-year-old Fred Beckey, was guiding a group of 19 people up the Owen-Spalding route.

40-year-old Joe Hawkes made his 5 hour and 21 minute FKT round-trip in 1939. By today's standards, it's not an uncommon time for middle-aged runners. 1939 was also the year that Lloyd and Mary Anderson, who founded REI a year earlier, descended on the Tetons with a group of over 100 members of The Mountaineers. Their trip was documented in the 1939 Annual of The Mountaineer  which just happens to include Fred Beckey's first ascent of Mount Despair. You can still peruse the old GTNP Summit Registers on Paul Horton's great website if you want a glimpse into the climbing history of the Tetons.

'Stearnie' Clarence Stearns - John Schwartz - Jim Huidekoper Sr
Around 1960

Jim Huidekoper owned JHMG from about 1970 to 1975. Stearnie skied Teton Pass before you did and he owned Hungry Jacks in Wilson. Schwartz was a partner in the old Point Store at Hoback Junction.

A summit register from Aug. 1958

Dan Simon took his 8-year-old daughter Gail up the Grand Teton in 1958 and left a lock of her auburn hair attached to the summit register. Look closely and you may find a lost engagement ring near the summit but you won't find a register these days. They disappeared from most of the peaks in the 80's.

 ~ Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers ~

Any summer backcountry camping permit involving technical climbing or mountaineering and any backcountry camping permit for Garnet Canyon must be picked up at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station.

The Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers are an encouraging resource for unguided climbers of all abilities. As one might expect, they can be overly conservative when dishing out advice to people they don't know. And despite having concessionaires in the mountains everyday during the summer, the rangers don't always have up-to-date information on climbing conditions along the most popular routes. Nonetheless, the climbing rangers often have invaluable insights related to route finding & cruxes on climbs in the Teton Range.

A stop by the Jenny Lake Ranger Station is a good start to any adventure. You can give them a call at 307.739.3343, 8-5pm MST during the peak of the summer. The rangers have a full staff between Memorial Day and Labor Day; however, their ranger station at Jenny Lake may have slightly different opening & closing dates. The backcountry huts at the Lower Saddle which are used by the climbing rangers and Exum Mountain Guides are usually assembled by mid-June and disassembled by mid-September if time and weather permits.

In 2017, the staff consisted of 6 permanent and 15 seasonal climbing rangers. The National Park Service is usually advertising for seasonal summer climbing rangers at the beginning of the year. There were two different types of open positions in 2018. The Park Ranger Protection & Climbing position involved work as a law enforcement officer and as a JLCR. It paid $19.74 to $22.46 per hour. The other position, Park Ranger Climbing, did not involve law enforcement work. It paid $16 to $19.82 per hour. You can make more money mowing lawns in Teton County. Ten open positions were advertised for each job title — all seasonal temporary positions. 

Occasionally, the rangers act as if it's a burden to do their job and they can be quick to criticize, and sometimes fine, unguided parties who get into trouble in the Tetons while ignoring the obvious failures of guides associated with their concessionaires (usually people they know). From our vantage point, it appears that they are holding the less experienced mountaineer to a higher standard than the professionals.

To make a donation to the JLCR, please visit the Grand Teton Association website, the JLCR website, the JLCR Blog, the GTNP Support Your Park web page, or the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole website.

Lupine Meadows Rescue Cache

Search and Rescue
Accidents & Mountain Rescue
Search & Rescue Operations
Jenny Lake Ranger History
Acceptable Risk

Climbing Conditions

~ Local Climbing Guides ~

Unauthorized commercial guiding or participating in an unauthorized commercial climb is illegal in Grand Teton National Park.

The majority of Americans could never afford a commercially guided climb with the concessionaires of Grand Teton National Park. The target demographic of the climbing concessionaires is very white & very wealthy. While the cost seems particularly exclusive, the fact remains that most people make do without the guides and climbers are not required to pay a fee or acquire a permit to climb in GTNP. All visitors pay an entrance fee and possibly a camping fee.

The fascination with the elites isn't limited to the concessionaires. The only time Scott Guenther, GTNP's head climbing ranger, climbed the Grand in 2016 was when a contingent of chauffeured VIP's happened to be on the mountain. For guides and rangers, those VIP's are like the bosom of Kate Upton. Apparently, the director of the National Park Service and former superintendent of GTNP, David Vela, is especially passionate about making our national parks more relevant to diverse populations; however, refocusing the attention of the park's concessionaires on a different climbing demographic seems highly unlikely. The NPS currently regulates concessionaire rates and takes a percentage of the profits.

If you're using a concessionaire, be sure to pick one that best fits your personal needs. Both guiding services employ exceptional mountaineers and they have similar safety records but they do provide different services. For example, only one concessionaire is allowed to guide the Owen-Spalding route during the height of the climbing season. The JH Mountain Guides' high camp is located away from the public camping zones if you're looking for more solitude.

A guided trip can be a big waste of money. About half of all guided climbers on the Grand do not summit for a variety of reasons but it's usually due to poor conditions or poor weather. 

Climbing alone was prohibited in the 1930's when Paul Petzoldt was running the first guiding concession in Grand Teton National Park. Apparently, Paul (video) was collecting $8/day for a guided climb when he started. He increased that to $12.50 during the Great Depression. That $8 a day for a climb with Paul would cost about $132 today after accounting for inflation. Prices were in the $50 range for two-day trip up the Grand in the 60's. The first time Paul was asked to guide a group of men up the mountain he charged them $100 — more than he could make all summer as a ranch hand.

  ~ The Guide Books ~

Its presentation is a little dated.
Best Climbs Grand Teton National Park

The guide books are available at the Teton County Library (TCLIB.org). Some older and fascinating guide books are also available. We have yet to find a guide book worth recommending but they all have some value. Climbers, with guidebooks in hand, still get off route, confused, and frustrated with their guidance.

The former head climbing ranger for GTNP, Renny Jackson, co-authored 'A Climber's Guide to the Teton Range' with Leigh N. Ortenburger. Nowadays, Renny occasionally guides for Exum, and is rumored to be working on an updated edition of the climber's guide. Leigh died in the Oakland & Berkeley Hills fire of 1991. He was a mathematician for GTE's Sylvania and began climbing in the Tetons in the late 1940s. It's unlikely that Renny & Leigh actually climbed all the routes in the book and some descriptions may seem at odds with reality.

~ Published Distances ~

From The Lupine Meadows Trailhead

4.1 miles Platforms Camping Zone
4.7 miles Meadows Camping Zone
5.5 miles Petzoldt's Caves Camping Zone
6.2 miles Morainal Camping Zone
7.0 miles Lower Saddle @ 11,600'
The Upper Saddle is near 13,200'
The Summit is near 13,775'
13,775-11,600 =  2,175'

We have no idea if the distances are correct.

~ How Long Will It Take To Climb The Grand Teton ~

If you're not free-soloing, it may seem like forever. We'll assume you're traveling light, you know the route, you're acclimatized, conditions are good, you're fit, and you're free-soloing the Owen-Spalding route. Back in 1939, while some climbers were taking just over 7 hours to reach the summit from the valley floor, Joe Hawkes was proving that 3 hours and 22 minutes was possible. Let's look at some stats for those who wish to go fast.

We're betting that you can easily clock a sub-7-hour round-trip on the Grand Teton if, out at Teton Village, you can reach the top of the JHMR's Tram on Rendezvous Mountain from the resort's parking lot in under 90 minutes using all the trail shortcuts. That's 46 vertical-feet/min over the 4,139 ft elevation gain. And we like to guesstimate that if you can hike up Jackson's Snow King Mountain in 30 minutes from the parking lot to the top of the Summit Chairlift (52.4 vertical-ft/min up 1,571 ft), then you can make a round-trip on the Grand Teton during summer daylight hours in mid-July while walking at a moderate pace. If you can top out on Snow King in under 23 minutes (68.3 vertical-ft/min — 0.3 miles), then a 5 to 6 hour round-trip, or much quicker, is possible. In 2017, Ryan Burke, 35, made three 6-hour round-trips (back-to-back car-to-car summits) of the Grand Teton. He actually completed the three summits in 17 hours, 54 minutes. Some settle for two. Meredith Edwards made two back-to-back round-trips up the Grand in about 16 hours just before Ryan's threesome.

As another time reference for runners on two longer courses up the same mountains, take a look at Stephen Mulherin's race times during the 2016 Snow King Hill Climb & the Rendezvous Mountain Hill Climb. He clocked in at 00h20m49s during the Snow King race and then he punched a time of 1h05m15s up Rendezvous. Stephen also nailed the fastest time at the Grand Targhee Hill Climb in 2017 with 28 minutes and 19 seconds on a 3-mile course that gains 1,840 feet of elevation (65 vertical-ft/min — 3.0 miles). Stephen's round-trip on the Grand Teton sits at 3h00m34s. Stephen tends to keep his activities under the social-media radar which is a refreshing change of pace for Jackson athletes.

The estimated, and often disputed, distance from the trailhead to the Grand Teton's summit is 7.7 miles with an elevation gain near 7000 feet. A four hour one-way trip from the trailhead to the summit works out to 1750 vertical-feet per hour or 29.2 vertical-ft/minute. If the slope distance is actually 7.7 miles, then that works out to 1.92 miles per hour. A 3-hour trip works out to 38.9 vertical-ft/min. A 1.8-hour trip to the summit works out to 63.6 vertical-ft/min. That's how fast the best runners are averaging over the 7.7 mile ascent path. 

Stephen. Photo by Ryan Dorgan

As Jason D. Martin once said, speed in the mountains is safety; and, speed and efficiency are everything. Well, perhaps, más o menos.

When we're free-soloing with non-climbers who are fit but not athletes we aim for a 12-hour day but plan for 16. With non-climbing athletes who are looking for a quick trip, we usually make the Owen-Spalding round trip in under 10 hours under good conditions. Obviously, some will move faster, some slower. Strong soloing climbers who are walking will usually give themselves between 4 and 5 hours to summit from the Lupine Meadows trailhead.

Our round-trip times are all over the map. Some days we feel great and easily crack 8 hours. If we're aiming to go fast, but not running, we sail under 7 hours. Nursing injures or not feeling 100%, it might be a 12 hour round-trip. With really poor conditions, time can extend past 15 hours.

Our fastest walking time in 2017 from the trailhead to the summit was 3 hrs and 32 minutes. The trip back to the trailhead at Lupine Meadows took 2:55. The total round-trip time was 6 hours and 27 minutes. We didn't run or jog but we did walk very quickly when we could. We mostly walked at a moderate pace from the Lower Saddle to the trailhead during the descent.

Often, safety in the mountains means slowing down when gravity, momentum, and fatigue are working together. Or, when old joints need a softer landing. We find our best times happen mid-way into the summer climbing season after we have a few trips under our belt.

Groups usually take much longer than individuals. There are a few individuals who set out on a one-day adventure and take 24 hours to finish. There's nothing wrong with taking 24 hours if you're prepared to do so. No one knows how long it will take you to climb the Grand Teton.

"Don’t count the days; make the days count."  Muhammad Ali

~ What Time Should I Leave ~

When discussing her first ascent up the Direct North Face of the Grand Teton, Jolene Unsoeld insisted that you don't get up in the middle of the night to start anything fun.

What time you leave depends upon your preference for warmth, sleep, solitude, and your choice to free-solo or rope up. It also depends upon your fitness, skill set, experience on the route, and your acclimatization to the elevation. And, what time you leave depends upon the route & weather conditions. There is no best time to leave for every climber but there are some basic guidelines to follow for summer climbers.

Most free-soloing climbers leave Lupine Meadows near sunrise during the summer high season. Many mountaineers who are roping up on a single-day round-trip will leave the Lupine Meadows' trailhead between midnight and 2 a.m. If conditions are good and the weather is nice, climbers can leave at any time that fits their schedule. The bigger the group, the bigger the rack, the slower the climb.

The park service frowns on groups larger than 2 or 3 people on the busy popular routes and fellow climbers aren't too excited to see large groups either. Large groups can try a late-morning post 10 am start from the Lower Saddle if the weather is nice. Or, they can try a very very early start like the climbing guides. The climbing concessionaires often start their climbs by 4 a.m. from their high camps near 11,600'. They start early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms, to meet deadlines, to catch the sunrise, and to avoid other climbers. Sometimes, they leave later in the day.

You're more likely to find icy conditions in the morning especially on the bookends of the summer climbing season. A later start gives thin ice a chance to burn off as temperatures rise. It is often the case that climbers attempting to summit in the morning under poor conditions are retreating or greatly delayed while climbers attempting to summit later in the day go on to have a great day climbing — warm, quick, and ice free (or more manageable). If conditions are questionable, if it fits your schedule, and if the weather is improving, try a later start.

When Bob Harris made his climb up the Grand Teton in August of 2017, his team departed the trailhead just before 6 a.m. and arrived at the summit around 5:15 p.m. The climbing route was icy in the morning but warm & dry when they arrived. After climbing, they camped overnight at the Lower Saddle. Had they arrived at the Upper Saddle before noon they may have turned around due to the icy conditions, or had a much longer day.

Assuming they have lost sleep, climbers starting at midnight are less alert than someone leaving the trailhead at sunrise and they get more tired as the day rolls along. That's a safety hazard as is route-finding in the dark. Your attention, reaction time, and ability to make good decisions are all negatively impacted by a loss of sleep. Having said that, the truth is that many people have difficulty sleeping before a trip. If the adrenaline is high, you might as well start your climb. You're going to be sleepy either way but it's probably better to be sleepy for 10 hours instead of 18. You can always take a 30 minute nap at the Lower Saddle. It has been done.

If you don't mind a cold dark early-morning ascent then you can certainly follow the slow moving climbing concessionaires, or any other party, if they are on a route you wish to climb. Those early starts often make for some nice sunrise photography.

Early-season climbers who are traversing over snow on the approach may need to factor in additional time to deal with it. Sometimes the snow makes the climbing and the approach easier. If the snow is firm and grippy, you can quickly move to your destination. Of course, early-season climbers can cut their time in the backcountry by using skis for the approach. Spring skiers usually leave very early in the morning in order to avoid poor snow conditions and the natural hazards associated with warming temperatures.

Thunderstorms, if they are in a summer forecast, usually arrive around mid-afternoon. We try to summit and get back to the Lower Saddle before 1 pm under those conditions. Obviously, the best time to be off the mountain will vary from day to day just as the best time to start will vary with each climber.

~ The Best Time Of Year To Climb ~

~ July & August ~

The best time of year to climb the Grand Teton is usually between mid-July and mid-to-late August if you're looking for dry conditions, long days, and warm temperatures. The actual 'best time' will fluctuate within that time period. The general rule of thumb is that when Mt. Glory above Teton Pass is completely free of snow, then it's time to go fishing and climbing. Keep in mind that low overnight temperatures after rain showers can leave parts of the mountain covered in ice, and winter-like storms can blast through the Tetons at any time of year so there are no guarantees.

The month of August is a prime time for forest fires in the western US. The fire season is unpredictable so keep a close eye on the fire conditions before making plans to visit. Besides being bad for your health, the smoke obviously blocks your view.

The steep sun-baked climbing routes are often in better shape than the approach as we start summer. The south-facing Upper Exum tends to clean up fairly quickly. Sometimes the Owen-Spading route never completely cleans up; nonetheless, free-soloing climbers will usually find suitable conditions for safe & efficient travel by mid-July.

High-elevation alpine lakes can still be still be covered in ice, or contain ice, as we move into July.

~ September, October & November ~

The climbing conditions can deteriorate quickly as we leave August and enter September; however,  good conditions can return just as quickly with some sunshine and warm temperatures. The mountain absorbs a fair amount of heat energy and it helps clean the rock after a short cold spell. The Owen-Spalding route will take longer to clean up than the Upper Exum. The days are getting shorter and the sunshine doesn't reach around the western aspect of the Grand Teton like it does in July.

The weather and conditions can see-saw between extremes during the fall season. The ability to travel in a safe and efficient manner can be short-lived or extended so it helps to have greater flexibility in your schedule if you don't want to solo under colder or mixed conditions.

Besides being slick, snowy conditions in the fall season can be exceptionally dangerous because foot traps are abundant with shallow unconsolidated snow. Additionally, the climbers' trail can be hard to identify under snowy conditions so you're more likely to travel off trail. Many climbers enjoy climbing under challenging conditions. It is alpine mountaineering.

Peak fall foliage usually arrives between the third week of September and the first week of October. Keep tabs on the fall foliage by visiting the Best of the Tetons blog, GTNP's social media accounts, or by searching your favorite hashtag on social media.

Hazards are everywhere

November is one of those months when conditions are usually too poor for a fast ascent and the weather is too cold for a really enjoyable fall climb. Occasionally, a window of high temperatures arrives in November and the mountain sheds a lot of its ice and snow for a week or so. Keep in mind that the interior Teton Park Road between the Taggart Lake parking lot & Signal Mountain Lodge closes on November 1st, so climbers will need to use the Taggart Lake parking lot as their takeoff point.

~ December through March ~

Low temperatures and less than ideal conditions keep many mountaineers off the Grand between December and the end of March but some find it exhilarating. Adventures often begin where others turn around. Paul Petzoldt enjoyed packing a bottle of champagne to the summit on New Year's Eve and taking NOLS students with him. The first "winter" ascent included Paul, Fred Brown (a Jackson Hole skiing pioneer), and Eldon Petzoldt on December 19, 1935. They had a balmy jacket-free day on the summit above a valley floor frozen at -20°F.

Technically speaking, the winter season is officially between the Winter Solstice & the Spring Equinox so if you want to say you made a winter ascent don't go up in November or April, or December 19, 1935. Keep in mind that rescue & visitor services are in short supply during the winter.

Skiers are a common sight in Garnet Canyon when conditions are favorable but most are not headed for the Grand during the cold dark days of winter. Very few climbers attempt the Upper Exum during the winter but it has been done — usually with variations out of necessity. The first winter ascent of the Exum Ridge happened in 1972, several years after the North Face had its first winter ascent but at the same time as the first winter ascent of the West Face.

Early March, 2018. View from the Enclosure.

According to an American Alpine Club Journal article, in early March of 1949, Paul Petzoldt with two partners set out to climb the Grand. They took skis and rope, but no ice-axes or crampons. They reported that most of the climbing sections were free of ice and snow; however, there was a "heavy accumulation of frost feathers". The temperature at the lower saddle was reported to be -2° F. The summit registers for 1948 and 1949 are not available so we couldn't determine if they actually found a register and signed it.

~ April, May & June ~

During these months the days are getting longer & warmer as we roll toward summer. April can be better than May in terms of safety & precipitation but it varies from year-to-year. There are some Aprils when you can walk all the way to the Lower Saddle without it becoming a postholing nightmare. All of our published trip reports were walk-ins; however, most climbers are using AT skis to get into Garnet Canyon in April & May. This is a popular time to ski the Grand. Those skiers are usually climbing through couloirs to reach the summit but a few will take the OS route.

Avalanche dangers exist throughout the spring as do snow-travel hazards like sliding over a cliffband. In April & May, freeze and thaw cycles are in play at mid-elevations, and sometimes at upper elevations. They help consolidate the snow for hikers while cleaning handholds. Upper elevations are usually getting snow in April & May. There's very little, if any, verglas on the technical climbing lines.

The valley starts to fully bloom around the third week of May. Ice on low-elevation lakes tends to burn off at the very end of April or early May. The Teton Park Road that takes you to the Lupine Meadows Trailhead opens on May 1st; however, the trail into Garnet Canyon is never free of snow at that time. On some rare occasions, the Lupine Meadows road is still covered in snow on May 1st. We often use the Burned Wagon Gulch trail during May because it's usually in better shape than the lower Lupine Meadows' trail.

  Bill Briggs' Ski Line from mid-June, 1971

June is warm, the days are long, and the snow-covered mountains with the green valleys below look their best. Conditions on the approach in June can be nasty — from slushy to frozen. Or, nice and grippy. Those conditions can change within an hour. You will still find snow on backcountry hiking trails in June. Some high elevation trails might hold patches of snow all summer. The depth of the snow varies each season and depends on the elevation, exposure, weather, and location.

The actual climbing conditions in June can throw you a curve ball but it's usually a mix of snow and ice on the climb at some point in June. Most hand holds on walls are dry if they are not in a drainage. Freeze & thaw cycles really get going at higher elevations in June.  The temperatures can climb well above freezing during the day and then dip below freezing at night which means that new ice (or icy snow) is forming overnight. That cycle continues for an indefinite time that's dependent upon the weather and can easily continue into July. High temperatures can remove a layer of grippy snow and expose ice. It's often easier to climb over grippy snow in April than to climb ice, and icy snow, in June.

Those freeze & thaw cycles increase the chances of rockfall. Continuous warm temperatures, especially without a freeze cycle, increase the odds of wet-slab avalanches and flushing in drainages. To see a variety of backcountry hazards play out, watch this classic ski-mountaineering video with Steve Shea which took place in June of  '78....

SuperTopo discussion about Fall Line
Steve's on the Grand & the Middle Teton

The valley is fully leafed out below 8500' by June. The arrowleaf balsamroot sunflowers on the Garnet Canyon trail tend to reach a peak in June and fade in July. Other flowers, and flowering weeds, come and go throughout the season. 

It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”  Muhammad Ali

Free-Soloing by the OS's Double Chimney

Just because ice or snow still sits on the route you wish to climb doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of secure dry holds. 

~ Fastest Known Round-Trip Times on the Grand Teton ~

~ FKT for Men ~

Andy Anderson, 2h53m02s, August 22, 2012
(1:48:02 up, 1:05:00 down)
Kilian Jornet, 2h54m01s, August 12, 2012
Stephen Mulherin, 3h00m34s, 2015
Bryce Thatcher, 3h06m, August 26, 1983

~ FKT for Women ~

 Emilie Forsberg, 3h51m, August 11, 2012

 Note: Kilian & Emilie ran together on Emilie's record time.

Anton Krupicka, who was out running the Grand with Kilian, took the FKT for Wyoming's highest peak, Gannett, on September 18, 2012: 8h46m32s car-to-car from Green River Lakes.

Kilian Jornet had the least experience on the Grand of all the FKT runners. His controversial off-trail shortcuts on the approach probably saved him a minute or so but they cost his FKT some credibility. Nonetheless, he would have beaten the previous record held by Thatcher without shortcuts and he might trade FKT's with Andy Anderson on any given weekend. Putting that aside, none of the runners actually took the same overall route to the summit. It's doubtful they all faced the same conditions. And it's even more unlikely that they were all hitting their life-time peak performance levels on the day of record. Of course, there are other mountaineers (& see Giir Di Mont) that could post equally impressive times but they never make it to the Tetons. Kilian was the only runner with unimpeachable proof of his record time. We feel pretty confident that a few local women might sail under Emilie Forsberg's impressive time if they were so inclined.

Short-cutting the approach could result in an expensive ticket from a ranger. There's not much of an issue if you are scrambling over talus or snow, and short-cutting during an emergency may be a necessity. Some shortcuts through brush and scree will slow you down; others may not be safe. The old climbers' trail which Thatcher took on his run up the Grand is now closed but some climbers still poach the trail. There's barely a minute's difference on the ascent between the old climbers' trail and the current one if you're in a hurry.

Kilian's GPS watch recorded a 12 mile round-trip with shortcuts. There's no way that's correct. A GPS watch won't accurately capture every twist and turn of the trail especially if it's moving as fast as Kilian's watch. Google Earth pegs the round-trip near 13.8 miles but its measurement resolution is limited and its algorithm depends upon the user accurately mapping the trail. The only published distance with some authority pegs the round trip at 15.4 miles but it's an old estimate and often disputed.

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men..."  Muhammad Ali

~ Why free-solo the Grand Teton ~

You can sleep in. You climb on any day you want. You (well, not everyone) can easily make a round-trip in single day. You can go at your own pace and enjoy some solitude. You can travel further and stay stronger when you're carrying less weight. You can easily move past other climbers. You can focus on the rock and not on the mechanics of roped climbing. You can skip the expensive camping permit. You can skip the expensive gear. You can skip the expensive guide. There's a freedom that you can't get from being tied to the mountain or other climbers. It's a far more enjoyable experience for many. Older, injured, or physically weaker climbers may not be able to carry gear or travel on time-lengthy trips. You may not have the time for multi-day climbing activities. You'll move faster then protected climbers and that is often an advantage when the weather window is short. You might recover more quickly. You're more likely to have the summit to yourself if you're not tied to a fixed schedule like other climbers. It's unlikely that free-soloing climbers are delaying other climbers in a significant way and that helps keep all climbers moving in a timely manner. And, lastly, you will have a smaller environmental impact in the backcountry if you're just out for the day.

Free-soloing has its inherent dangers as does any activity but it's relativity safe if you're climbing within your comfort zone and taking obvious precautions like avoiding bad weather, terrain traps, and poor conditions. A one-day round-trip is not suggested for everyone but many athletes free-solo the Owen-Spalding route in a single day with no prior climbing experience. It's well worth the effort to try a one-day ascent when the weather and conditions are in your favor if you're fit, acclimated to the elevation and comfortable with the inherent risks.

The best investment you can make if you wish to solo these routes and don't mind spending some money will be buying or renting a pair of climbing shoes. We solo the UXM & OS in just about any type of outdoor shoe but a good pair of sticky climbing shoes will boost your confidence & safety on the rock. You don't need super sticky big wall climbing shoes, just shoes with some sticky rubber which can be approach shoes made for climbing or mountain biking shoes with sticky rubber.

~ Plan B ~

A poem from the 1939 Mountaineers' Annual

Being prepared for the unexpected means having a Plan B. Sometimes Plan B is gear and a lead climber. A foothold might suddenly give way. Wind may knock you off balance. Verglas might be mistaken for dry rock. Rockfall may hit you. A handhold might come loose. You might lose your focus. You might lose your way. You might even have a medical emergency while climbing like Conrad Anker. Anything can happen, anywhere, anytime, even on the most familiar terrain and without warning,

Ropes (and helmets) can compensate for the natural ability of humans to make mistakes, and for nature's ability to sabotage our safety. They don't guarantee your safety but there's a good reason that the world's most talented climbers, & least talented, use ropes. Besides safety, the best reason for using a rope is that you're more likely to really test & improve your climbing skills with the safety that a rope affords. Ropes can also get you past tricky situations in a hurry.

~ Backcountry Camping Information ~

Most free-soloing climbers are just out for the day and not camping; nonetheless, many climbers enjoy overnight camping. There are several camping zones in Garnet Canyon but only three that really cater to Grand Teton climbers. Water is available at all of the camping zones. On some rare occasions, climbers at the Lower Saddle may need to get water from the Middle Teton Glacier. You should probably read up on the regulations for Garnet Canyon and take a look at your camping zone options - PDF before making any decisions.

A permit is good for 6 people per campsite. It is also good for 10 days but it is only good for 2 days at any one campsite. You must move to a new campsite every 2 days. Groups larger than 6 people must stay at special group sites. Contact the park service for more information on those sites. A 10 night backcountry camping limit is imposed between June 1st & Labor Day. There is a 30-day camping limit per year.

The Caves Camping Zone is at 9700'. It's mostly protected from the wind, it's in the trees, it's about 1.5 miles from the Lower Saddle, clean spring water is close by, and you get to listen to Spalding Falls tumble below you as you fall asleep. The number of tent sites is limited. You must pack out all human waste from the Caves. The Morainal Camping Zone is at 10,800'. As with the Lower Saddle, it can be pretty windy. There are plenty of tent sites here but there are no bear-proof food storage boxes. You are required to bring storage canisters which can be checked out with a camping permit for free at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. The Lower Saddle's Camping Zone is at 11,600'. Many climbers enjoy the wind-beaten saddle for the views and it's proximity to the summit. There is a ranger hut at the saddle and a hut used by Exum Mountain Guides. The original Exum hut was built in Detroit by Jim Smith and it stayed at the saddle for 33 years until the wind blew it into the Middle Teton Glacier. There are several tent sites for those not on a guided climb.  The huts are not open to the general public except in emergencies. You must pack out all human waste from the saddle. Other camping zones are further away from your destination and not recommended for those climbing the Grand but they can certainly be used and often are.

There are backcountry camping zones just to the west of the Lower Saddle along the South Fork of Cascade Canyon, and to the north of the Grand in Cascade Canyon. It is possible to reach the Lower Saddle from the west & north sides but it is not recommended. Climbers will sometimes access Valhalla Canyon from Cascade Canyon but most of those climbers are engaged in more difficult adventures.


There is a 'bathroom' at the Lower Saddle but it's only to faciliate the use of Rest Stop bags, etc. The Park Service no longer packs out human waste from Garnet Canyon - it's your job. There isn't much, if any, privacy in the backcountry so choose your rest stop locations carefully or plan your diet accordingly. 

Backcountry reservations for the summer season are being accepted at Recreation.gov between the first Wednesday in January (starting 8 am MST) and May 15. Customers will be able to view backcountry campsite availability in real-time and apply for reservations accordingly. You will be charged a $45 non-refundable processing fee for each trip upon completion of your reservation. The online reservation system is run under contract by a for-profit company.

The park will reserve up to one-third of each camping zone in advance. It saves two-thirds of each zone for those who wish to get a first-come, first-served walk-in permit. The walk-in permit can be acquired either the day of your trip or the day before. During peak season (July and August), competition for these walk-in permits is high so try arriving at the earliest possible time. There is a $35 fee for each walk-in backcountry permit.

Again, any summer backcountry camping permit (reserved or walk-in) involving technical climbing or mountaineering and any backcountry camping permit for Garnet Canyon must be picked up at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. They are open from 8am to 5pm (June through early September).

Winter campers need to call 307-739-3309. Typically, winter campers will pick up permits from the administration building behind the Moose Post Office during business hours M-F, or from a ranger on the weekends after calling the park's dispatch center. Winter backcountry permits have traditionally been free but that could always change.

Backcountry Camping Estimates for GTNP

We have very little faith that the data calculated by GTNP for anything is an accurate representation of anything. They have a history of questionable data collection methodologies and analysis. Of course, sometimes the government just lies; nonetheless, this backcountry data certainly reflects peak visitation times. October of 2015 probably has a zero due to the federal government shutdown (it ended on the 16th...).

In 2015, a study took place in Garnet Canyon that focused on the acoustic experiences of climbers attempting the Grand Teton. The average age of respondents was 33 years old. The median group size was 3 people. The majority of respondents were male (79%). Most respondents were part of a private climbing party (72%), 23% were in a guided party, and 5% were climbing guides. Seventy percent of respondents were on overnight trips. Forty-seven percent summited and 53% indicated that they did not summit (some did not answer the question). Thirty-eight percent of respondents indicated that they had climbed the Grand Teton previously.

There were an estimated 40,193 overnight backcountry stays in GTNP in 2017 according to the Park Service. The National Park Service says that for improved campgrounds, "The number of sites occupied by tent and recreational vehicle campers is multiplied by the persons-per-site multiplier of 3.3." In other words, they are guessing how many people are camping.

 NPS data for GTNP's overnight stays

According to park staff, approximately 10,000 climbers came to scratch the Tetons in 1991. The Jackson Hole News & Guide reported that 4000 or so were climbing the Grand in 2010. That would be about 33 climbers per day over a 4 month period. Compare that to 25 climbers reaching the summit of the Grand during the entire year of 1934. No one really knows how many climbers visit these days because climbers are no longer required to check in with the Park Service unless they are backcountry camping. There is a counter along the climbers' trail that counts all foot traffic but the NPS doesn't share that data online. Sharing information might expose them to unpleasant questions.

Backcountry Camping Zone Maps

Not everyone camps in the backcountry. Climbers can get a hotel room or stay in GTNP's campgrounds. Car camping is illegal in the Town of Jackson unless you work for the Rec Center. Finding a free spot to catch some zzz's outside of town isn't too difficult, however. The Bridger-Teton National Forest has many camping locations, as does the Caribou-Targhee National Forest on the western side of the Tetons. Climbers can also stay at the American Alpine Club's Climbers' Ranch in GTNP. The Ranch usually opens during the 2nd week of June and closes during the 2nd week of September so cheap accommodations are available during a small part of the shoulder season. Their seasonal opening and closing dates pretty well envelop the super-busy tourism season in the GTNP and Jackson Hole. BTW, the Average Hotel Room Rate in Jackson during July of 2017 was $393.00.

Camping is not allowed at the Lupine Meadows trailhead. That includes car camping. If you arrive at the trailhead after 11 pm and catch some zzzz's before climbing, or after climbing, it's unlikely that anyone really cares as long as you're not outside with the lawn chairs and tents. It's not unusual to see people car camping; however, this being America, land of the free and all, rangers do indeed go after car campers. One last bit of advice for the people who think the trailhead is a dining / camping area: clean up after yourself. Don't dump food or liquids on the ground. This is bear country and little critter country. They will become habituated to human food, and humans.

If you're coming to the Tetons from Yellowstone, stop by the ranger station at Flagg Ranch to get more information about camping up north. Just below the southern boundary of Yellowstone, there is free camping along the Grassy Lake Road at many campsites — first-come, first-served. And there is a Forest Service campground a little further to the south at Sheffield Creek. The closest dispersed camping area to the Grand Teton that's in the national forest may be at Shadow Mountain. The dispersed & free Forest Service camping areas in Teton County, WY & Teton County, ID are popular. These are not the improved Forest Service campgrounds for which you pay a fee and can often make a reservation. Finding a free, safe, and legal place to pitch a tent or park a van isn't always easy but it's possible if you put in the effort. Keep in mind that many small cars may not be able to completely utilize the dirt access roads that lead to the dispersed camping sites.

"A man who has no imagination has no wings." Muhammad Ali

~ Water ~

Garnet Creek

There is no water at the Lupine Meadows' trailhead but water is nearby. The South Jenny Lake visitor services area has a free 24/7 water refilling station outside the Jenny Lake Store. Additionally, you cross over Cottonwood Creek on the Lupine Meadows access road. You can certainly drink its water but we suggest filtering it. We drink plenty (LOTS!) of water before we arrive at the trailhead. During a climb, we can go without water and food but we usually try to stay hydrated. Most people will carry too much water given the fairly evenly distributed backcountry water sources. Nonetheless, it's good to be hydrated with water you're comfortable drinking. More information on water sources can be found on our web page covering the approach to the start of the technical climbing on the UXM & OS climbing routes.

From the Mayo Clinic: Exercising at a high altitude increases your fluid losses and therefore increases you fluid needs. Dehydration can lead to serious complications, including:

1)    Heat injury. If you don't drink enough fluids when you're exercising vigorously and perspiring heavily, you may end up with a heat injury, ranging in severity from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion or potentially life-threatening heatstroke.

2)    Urinary and kidney problems. Prolonged or repeated bouts of dehydration can cause urinary tract infections, kidney stones and even kidney failure.

3)    Seizures. Electrolytes — such as potassium and sodium — help carry electrical signals from cell to cell. If your electrolytes are out of balance, the normal electrical messages can become mixed up, which can lead to involuntary muscle contractions and sometimes to a loss of consciousness.

4)    Low blood volume shock (hypovolemic shock). This is one of the most serious, and sometimes life-threatening, complications of dehydration. It occurs when low blood volume causes a drop in blood pressure and a drop in the amount of oxygen in your body. 

~ Food ~

Remember to store your food securely in GTNP. Marmots will break into your food stash if given the opportunity. So will foxes, bears, ravens, etc. Wildlife should never be fed, never. It's illegal to feed all wildlife.  Don't throw food on the ground.

It takes a lot of energy to get up the Grand. If you're not used to strenuous activities, choose your diet carefully. The wrong food mixed with exercise and elevation can ruin a climb.

Everyone has a different food routine. Unlike most people, we stick to more protein than carbs leading up to a climb. We usually eat some carbs at the trailhead, however. We are only out for the day so we don't pack much in the way of food. Unless we expect a long day, we may pack nothing to eat. Most people need some form of food while in the backcountry. Energy gels with caffeine were our preferred choice of 'food' if we are looking at a sub 7-hour day and we wanted an energy spike but we have gravitated away from the sugar and toward the caffeine. Caffeine works differently with each individual and may not help you.

One last item about food:


~ Showers & Laundry ~

Showers are available at the Climbers' Ranch. Public showers and laundromat facilities are available at the Colter Bay Village and the Signal Mountain Campground. In Jackson, showers are available at the Rec. Center. The Missing Sock Laundromat is located in Smith's Plaza off Hwy 89. The Jackson Laundromat is located in the Grand Teton Plaza area behind First Interstate Bank.

~ Local Climbing Shops ~

...sells & rents gear
...sells & rents gear
...clothes, packs, some gear
...mostly clothes, packs, hunting gear
...rents climbing & BC gear
~ Telephone Numbers ~

Climbing Info 307-739-3604
Jenny Lake Ranger Station
...summer: 8-5 pm...
...winter: 307-739-3309 permits
Camping Info 307-739-3603
Visitor Info: 307-739-3399 (or 3300)
Email GTNP: grte_info@nps.gov
Road Conditions:
1-888-WYO-ROAD  (or 511)
BC & River Info 307-739-3602
GTNP Lost and Found 307.733.3350
GTNP Emergency 307.739.3301
GTNP Emergency Text Msg: 307-690-3301
  Report Wildfires: 307-739-3630
Moose Visitor Center 307.739.3399
Winter Hotline 307.739.3399
Public Affairs Office 307.739.3393
Admin: 307-739-3300
Moosely Mtn'eering 307.739.1801
Dornan's in GTNP (307) 733-2415
Climber's Ranch (in GTNP) 307.733.7271
Weather NWS 1-800-211-1448
GTNP Weather Report 307.739.3611
BTAC Avalanche Rpt 307.733.2664
BTAC Report Activity 739-2607

~ Emergency Calls ~

GTNP's Teton Interagency Dispatch is staffed 24/7 between June & September. They are staffed between 6 and 10pm during the rest of the year. Keep 307-739-3301 for voice calls & 307-690-3301 for texting in your phone in case of an emergency in GTNP (or call 911). According to the park service, the 307-690-3301 telephone number for texting is not monitored 24/7. Climbers who use Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile can text 911 in Teton County, WY. Text messages do not usually include GPS location data like voice calls do. Calls to 911 go to Teton County Dispatch (307-733-2331) and not GTNP Dispatch (307-739-3301). The Teton County Backcounrty SOS App
can be used for texting and it will drop GPS location data into a text message.

Climbers at or above the Lower Saddle may have their 911 calls directed to Teton County Dispatch in Idaho (208-354-2323). Teton County in Idaho does not have the ability to accept 911 text-messages (as of 2017).

Most cell phones can reach towers from the summit of the Grand Teton. Making a call from the North Fork of Garnet Canyon can be difficult or impossible. A text message might be easier to send. Again, there's no guarantee it will get out from your location. The first emergency call from a cell phone was probably on Aug. 18, 1994, after a rappel anchor failed and a person fell 200 feet while on the Exum Ridge.

Grand Teton National Park is in the process of planning for an upgraded wireless telecommunications infrastructure after 2017 so we might get better reception in Garnet Canyon in the future. They currently have cell towers on Signal Mountain above Jackson Lake and at the JH Airport which is inside the national park. They are considering eleven 80-foot towers that could accommodate up to four carriers. Those towers would be located at Moose, Beaver Creek, South Jenny Lake, North Jenny Lake, Signal Mountain, Jackson Lake Lodge, Colter Bay, the AMK Ranch, Lizard Creek Campground and Flagg Ranch.

“If you even dream of beating me you'd better wake up and apologize.”  Muhammad Ali

~ Visitor Centers ~

Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center
(AKA: Moose VC - 307-739-3399)

~ Social Media

~ Internet Access

Free internet access is available at many locations including the Teton County Library, all coffee shopsJackson Whole Grocer, Albertson's Grocery & Smith's Grocery, Dornan's in Moose, the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, some START buses, the JH-Teton County Recreation Center, McDonalds, K-Mart, Quiznos, and at the JH Airport. The Visitor Center in Jackson has free WiFi. There was no internet access at the Climbers' Ranch except what you could get on a smartphone in 2017.

~ The 2018 entrance fee-free days

    January 15: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
    April 21: First day of National Park Week
    September 22: National Public Lands Day
    November 11: Veterans Day

~ Hitchhiking ~

A hitchhiking Paul Petzoldt caught a ride in a Model-T to go climbing in the Tetons. Nowadays, the park's rangers are obsessed with harassing hitchhikers. Hitchhiking is legal in Wyoming & GTNP. According to the Federal Code: Title 36 Part 4 Section § 4.31 Hitchhiking, "Hitchhiking or soliciting transportation is prohibited except in designated areas and under conditions established by the superintendent." 

Hitchhiking is legal in GTNP according to the Superintendent's Compendium (2016) except under the following circumstances:  

Within two tenths of a mile (0.2mi) of an Entrance Station. Within 200 feet of a park service office building or visitor center. While holding or having a sign that is larger than 2'x2' in size. The hitchhiker must stay off the surface of the paved roadway, though a hitchhiker may stand on pavement in a paved pullout. Where vehicles may not safely pull off of the main traffic lane into a pullout or safely onto the shoulder to allow for the passengers to be received safely. During the hours of darkness, unless the hitchhiker is wearing bright (preferable reflectively enhanced) clothing. When hitchhiking behavior is deemed unsafe or a nuisance by a commissioned Law Enforcement Ranger.

See this GTNP webpage for updated information on Laws and Policies

Jackson Hole is full of busybodies. That's a recipe for great Mayberry Moments like the time in 2016 when a local resident called dispatch to report a suspicious person. A black man was hitchhiking on South Park Loop Rd. Local police responded immediately to this threat and tracked him down. They demanded to know what he was up to. Hitchhiking, apparently.

Local law enforcement caters to the imaginary irrational fears of others not only because they often share those imaginary irrational fears but because common sense often takes a backseat to the fear of inaction. Telling busybodies that hitchhiking while black is not illegal and doesn't constitute suspicious activity is too difficult for our badged boys & girls. They would rather accost a black man who is just going about his day. Unfortunately, this is nothing unusual in Jackson Hole.

 Hitchhiking while black

~ Law Enforcement ~

The US Dept of Justice - District of Wyoming handles federal crimes related to our national parks. The Wyoming United States Attorney’s Office prosecutes misdemeanors and other petty offenses in Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, the National Elk Refuge, etc.

Jackson Hole has more law enforcement officers per mile of highway than most places you will visit. We have our own FBI office and federal law enforcement agencies have an extensive presence in Teton County. Keep in mind that the climbing rangers you meet in the backcountry may also be law enforcement officers. Some are, some aren't.

Automated license plate recognition systems are used by the federal government and local law enforcement in Teton County. Facial recognition isn't far behind. The entire state of Wyoming is a speed trap. And 'pull over and fish' is our 'stop & frisk'. The speed limits on many roads are lowered at night so as to protect wildlife. 

Jackson Police Twitter Feed, Teton County Sheriff's Office Twitter Feed, Highway Patrol Twitter Feed, GTNP Twitter Feed, National Elk Refuge Twitter Feed, Yellowstone Twitter Feed.

The US Dept. of Interior oversees most of the federal lands in Wyoming. The Wyoming Game & Fish Department oversees most of the management of wildlife in Wyoming. The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation handles many investigations on its own and for local law enforcement agencies including undercover work in Jackson.

"I should be a postage stamp. That's the only way I'll ever get licked."  Muhammad Ali

~ Biking ~

GTNP's paved pathways are only open to bikes between 1/2 hour before sunrise & 1/2 hour after sunset (info on bike riding in GTNP). A paved pathway (pdf map) runs from the Town of Jackson to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park. The pathway came to fruition after Jeff Pool  and 13-year-old Gabriella Axelrad were struck and killed while bike riding in GTNP. The park's nighttime pathway policy is another example of the National Park Service putting human safety at risk as they try to balance their conflicting responsibilities.

Be alert for big game if you are on a bike or driving at night. Elk often mingle overnight in the open fields alongside the roadways. Or, mingle on the roadways. They can be difficult to recognize in a timely manner even if you are traveling under the speed limit.

~ Emergency Care ~

Grand Teton Medical Clinic (summer only 9-5)
In GTNP at Jackson Lake Lodge
St John's Medical Center (SJMC) 24/7 ER
625 E. Broadway east of Town Square
SJMC Teton Village Clinic (winter only)
 Near Bridger Gondola at JHMR
Emerg+A+Care After hours call 307-733-8002
455 W. Broadway near Loaf-n-Jug
Dr. Hayse often works late & w/o appointment.
307-733-6700 269 W Broadway

~ Satellite Based Emergency Communication ~

They all have drawbacks and benefits - research carefully. If you purchase a new or used U.S. coded 406 MHz beacon you MUST register it with NOAA as required by law. Personal Locator Beacons (ResQLink) were renting for $10/day at Teton Backcountry Rentals. The 406 MHz EPIRB has been designated internationally for distress alerts.

~ Products ~

SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger
Delorme (Garmin) 2-Way Satellite Communicator
ACR Electronics ResQLink GPS Personal Locator Beacon
McMurdo Fastfind
Iridium GO!

~ Accidents & Safety ~

Many talented climbers have been seriously injured and killed in the Tetons. Professional guides and their clients have died while climbing here. There are times when climbers make decisions that seem reasonable but Murphy's Law plays out like a bad dream. When conditions are bad, or the weather is unstable, you should take into consideration the very real possibility that accidents will happen as you finalize your game plan - more so than under good conditions and good weather. It might be easy to handle an emergency under good conditions but near impossible under poor conditions. And a rescue under poor conditions or bad weather is never good and may not be possible.

Most climbers are more than happy to help out fellow mountaineers and the professional guides are often the first to respond to an emergency. If you need assistance, ask for it. If you find yourself in a bad situation during the summer, assistance is usually nearby due to heavy climbing activity all summer long. If you're soloing and unable to safely move forward or backward due to conditions, or whatever, it's probably best to simply wait for another party to reach you than to try a risky maneuver.

"Many of our clients are exhausted and at the limits of their abilities, and they make mistakes. What this means is that our clients are trying to kill each other, they're trying to kill themselves, and they're trying to kill you. Each of us needs to remember this at all times. That's our job." Dave Carman, Exum Mountain Guides, as told in the Outside Magazine story “The House of Rock". 

If you're on a guided climb, keep in mind that every climber has a responsibility to look after their own safety and the safety of others not only because guides often make incorrect assumptions about everyone's safety but because it's your job.

"Climbing is simple. You go to the top, you have a good time, and you don’t harm other people in the process,”  Conrad Anker

Every summer someone gets separated from their climbing group. Sometimes this is on purpose. Sometimes it's because of unintended events. Several things seem to happen all too often: the separated person gets injured; off route in a dangerous location; lost; or, they lose contact with their climbing party and the climbing party thinks something bad has happened when in fact the separated party is fine and heading back to the trailhead. We have spent time looking for people on this mountain who were in fact no longer on the mountain, and we have guided separated parties off this mountain. Think twice before separating from your climbing partners.


~ 2015 Accidents & Rescues ~
(GTNP mountaineering / skiing only)

On October 12, Millie Jimenez fell 45 feet down a rock slab in Avalanche Canyon, (GTNP NR). On August 31, Anthony McCormack slid down a rock slab while descending the South Fork of Garnet Canyon, (GTNP NR). On August 29, Justin Bodrero took a 200-foot fall over a snowfield & boulders while descending the Middle Teton,  (GTNP NR). On August 22, Tyler Strandberg and Catherine Nix fell to their death while on Teewinot, (GTNP NR). On the same day, a hiker pulls a suitcase-sized rock down on himself, while in Avalanche Canyon. Eight climbers were stranded overnight in Stettner Couloir on August 15-16, (GTNP NR). On August 11, Grand Teton National Park rangers conducted a short-haul rescue of two climbers from the Middle Teton, (GTNP NR). Two Jackson climbers, Jordan Lister & Carrie Schwartz, were injured on Saturday July 25th after taking a slide on snow & rocks while on the south face of the Middle Teton, (GTNP NR). On July 22, a dislodged boulder hit Tucker Zibilich and broke his arm while en route to the Grand Teton's Upper Saddle (13,200 feet), (GTNP NR). On July 7, Michael Polmear was climbing the Middle Teton’s Black Dike when a boulder dislodged from the mountain and struck his left arm, (JHN&G). On June 9th, Charlie Emerson was solo climbing a 4th class rated rock slab when he slipped and slid approximately 150-200 feet before coming to rest in a snowfield at the base of the rock feature, (GTNP NR). Two skiers died on Mt Moran on May 17th, (Backcountry Mag).

~ 2016 Accidents & Rescues ~
(GTNP mountaineering / skiing only)

On July 23, Exum Mountain Guide Gary Falk fell from the top of the Owen Spalding Rappel into Valhalla Canyon near the Black Ice Couloir, (JHN&G Story). On the same day, Rangers also responded to a rescue of a 25-year-old woman from Walker, Michigan who was hiking in the south fork of Garnet Canyon and fell on snow and was severely injured. On August 9th, two 20-year-old male climbers ascending the Petzoldt Ridge became stranded on a ledge after one of the men took a 25-foot spill. On Aug. 10th, a 30-year-old Russian man was attempting to climb 12,605-foot Mount Moran and had to be rescued after figuring out he was in over his head. He was cited for “creating a hazardous condition," (JHN&G Story). Rene Dreiling lost his life after taking a fall onto a rocky cliff band beneath steep snow fields on the north side of Mount Owen. His body was found on September 4, (JHN&G Story).

~ 2017 Accidents & Rescues ~
(GTNP mountaineering / skiing only)

On Monday, August 28th, Mounier Fizari, 22, of Bountiful, Utah, fell about 20 feet as he was climbing the Lower Exum. On August 26th, Cassie Grenier, 24, of Jackson was pinned by boulders after a rockslide in the South Fork of Garnet Canyon. Rocks landed on her chest and legs (GTNP NR). Rangers recovered the body of Alexander Kenan, 24, of Chapel Hill, NC, which was found between Teewinot Mountain and Mount Owen on August 25th (GTNP NR). He was climbing alone and the cause of his fall remains unknown. Evan Pack, 33, of Lehi, UT summited the Grand Teton on August 19th and was beginning to descend the mountain when he lost his footing on a downclimb and fell approximately 20 feet. He suffered serious head injuries (GTNP NR). Nick Marucci, 30, of Salt Lake City, UT and Laura Robertson, 23, of Orem, UT were rescued off the North Ridge of the Grand Teton after cold weather and conditions halted their progress (GTNP NR). On August 8, Ron Sloot, 58, of Colfax, WA and Geoff Mitchell, 35, of Spartanburg, SC got off route on Mt. Moran and had to be rescued (GTNP NR). Carl Miester, 46, of East Windsor, NJ was descending a snow field near the Middle Teton when he slipped, fell, and slid approximately 50 feet on snow before tumbling across 20 feet of rock and sustaining minor injuries (GTNP NR). Robert Henderson, 68, of Wilson, WY lost his footing on snow while descending the SW ridge of Disappointment Peak on June 19th and fell 400 feet which included a fall down a cliff toward Amphitheater Lake (GTNP News Release). On March 3rd, GTNP rangers & TCSAR rescued Mike Connolly, 61, of Idaho Falls, ID, from Maverick Peak in GTNP after he suffered a heart attack, (GTNP NR). On February 20th, 31-year old skier Mike Syverson from Telluride, Colorado was rescued after spending two nights in the GTNP backcountry, (GTNP NR). 26-year-old John “Jack” Fields Jr, a Jackson resident, died Feb 15th after falling 1,400 vertical feet near the Amora Vida Couloir on the south side of the South Teton. Alex Thompson took a 1000' ride in a wet-slab avalanche in Granite Canyon on April 9th (GTNP NR).

~ 2018 Accidents & Rescues ~
(GTNP mountaineering / skiing only)

Marco Korstiaan Dees, 33, fell approximately 300 feet and lost his life on July 22nd while rappelling down Guide’s Wall (5.8) on Storm Point in GTNP (JHN&G). Burak Akil, 27, of Wayne, New Jersey, was found dead on Teewinot after slipping on its eastern aspect's steep & sketchy snow during his descent (GTNP NR). Derek Wilcox, 18, of Kansas City, Missouri, slipped and fell 30 feet while descending Symmetry Spire on June 12th and was rescued on June 13th. He suffered leg injuries (GTNP NR). Glider pilot Kristine Ciesinski, 65, of Victor, Idaho, and David Ross, 65, of Salt Lake City. died when they crashed between the Middle and South Tetons on Saturday the 9th, above Icefloe Lake at approximately 10,800 feet (JHN&G Story, GTNP NR). On March 19th, GTNP rangers and Teton County Search & Rescue prepared a short-haul evacuation of Yuki Tsuji, 37, of Louisville, Colorado, who was knocked down by an avalanche in the lower half of the “Son of Apocalypse Couloir” on the south side of Death Canyon. She suffered a lower leg injury (GTNP News Release).

 Bo-Youn-ee on her first bike ride.

After a climber's death, the Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers like to tell us if a climber had "appropriate gear". If the climber did have appropriate gear, the gear didn't save them so what's the message? 

What is appropriate gear? We all know the rangers' definition. It's the Coors-Lite definition of climbing. Popular. Considered safe. However, climbing isn't defined by one style of climbing just as beer isn't defined by one style of Coors. And safety in the mountains goes way beyond gear.

Appropriate gear — as defined by the climber's style of climbing and their skill set — varies with the individual climber. It is not defined by a climbing ranger. Clearly, a reoccurring monologue about being prepared for challenges is useful. Just as Alex Honnold often uses a rope to prepare for free-soloing big walls, everyone needs to properly assess their objective's hazards. And assess their ability to deal with those hazards. We wouldn't want Bo-Youn-ee riding without a helmet but she might get by without those knee pads.

 Climber with a dislocated shoulder resting while on her way to the Lower Saddle.
You might want to read up on resetting a dislocated joint.

Exum Mountain Guides assisting
a non-client with a blown knee.

Most injuries go unreported like muscle & tendon strains, torn ligaments, dislocated fingers, and minor cuts & abrasions. According to Wyofile.com, the leading cause of death in Grand Teton National Park is unroped climbing or scrambling on non-technical terrain. Death by avalanche comes in second - mostly skiers. Falling on snow is the second leading cause of death for climbers. Most fatalities happen on the Grand Teton. The data isn't shared online so we're not sure how they break down the numbers. Would an unroped person who is injured on non-technical terrain be called an injured climber or an injured hiker? Would they be soloing? Their data is fairly meaningless without more context.

People will often wax-poetic about taking risks in life until their own near-death experience which, not unexpectedly, they will then use to wax-poetic about how precious life is. For some goals, evaluating risks is like gathering facts from a shadow. More than likely; however, we know the risk. We misjudge our ability to manage it or throw some caution to the wind. Our desire for adventure is nothing new nor is our propensity to make mistakes. As GTNP's lead climbing ranger Guenther admits, "I made all the same mistakes that we rescue people for now."

Sometimes the professionals make the same mistakes as novices. In 2005, Jim Ratz (52), who co-owned Jackson Hole Mountain Guides, fell to his death while rappelling near Lander, WY. He was vice president of the board of trustees of the American Mountain Guides Association and a former executive director of the National Outdoor Leadership School. On Feb. 21st, of 2018, 31-year-old Jackson Hole Mountain Guide Paul Rachele sustained significant leg injuries while rappelling when he came up short on his rope and fell about 100 feet while attempting to bolt a new climbing route near Teton Pass at The Reef.

You can get a feel for the fantastic ways that climbers injure and kill themselves by reading the online version of the American Alpine Club's Accidents in North American Mountaineering. The American Alpine Club's 2016 Accidents in North American Climbing (renamed in 2016) has some factually-challenged reporting in its exposé about common accidents on a Grand Teton climb but it's still a good read: Danger Zones: Grand Teton; and, online at the American Alpine Club's website.  

We will address one bit of disturbing advice from the AAC:


If lightning is in the air, you don't continue to the summit. We can see many climbers thinking that anything above the Friction Pitch is "high on the upper ridge" so let's work with that. There is an exposed exit just above the Notch Gully but we'll skip that because if you made it that far then it's probably safer and easier to exit the ridge at the top of the V-Pitch. From the top of the V-Pitch you can simply head down a large ledge system that runs to the north and takes you to the base of Sargent's Chimney which is at the ledge system's low point. The ledge system runs between the Exum Ridge and the Great West Chimney. Just south of the Boulder Problem in the Sky is a rappel option on the southern prow of the summit ridgeline — above the gap between the V-Pitch and the West-Leaning Chimney. If you're past the BPITS, it's an easy NW beeline for the Three Stooges or the Slabby Wall (take the path of least resistance). At the very least, climbers should cross under the southern end of the Horse and gain the top of the Slabby Wall. Of course, you can always retreat further down the Exum Ridge — down the Friction Pitch Bypass Chimney. It's certainly better to be in the Wind Tunnel than higher on the ridgeline. Skip the summit. Five minutes can be the difference between life and death on this mountain. Again, you don't waste time getting to the summit if you need to retreat from lightning.

Global Rescue


Stay off the summit block in bad weather.
Don't get Summit Fever and make bad choices.
Altitude Sickness is very common.
Ice is a serious danger all year long.
Falling rock is common.
Lightning is common.
Hail is common.
Dangerous wind gusts are common.
Low temperatures are common.
Wet rock is common.
Unstable snow underfoot is common.
Slips are very common.
Injuries are common.
Bears are someplace.
Avalanches are possible.
Dangerous runoff is possible.
Falling snow slabs are possible.
Falling ice is possible.
Freezing fog is possible.
Freezing rain is possible.
Death is possible.

Protect your eyes and skin from the damage of high-elevation sun exposure. The sun's intensity increases at a rate of 4-10 percent per 1000' feet above sea level. The intensity varies with the time of day, snow cover, cloud cover, your location on the Earth, etc. The reflective intensity of the snow is a real threat. Take the sun seriously.

Don't forget that rockfall is a hazard at any time but it's much more active during wet weather and freeze & thaw cycles in the Tetons. Thermal expansion is also on the list of rockfall triggers but given the fairly cool temperatures at higher elevations we're not sure it's a major factor in the Tetons. Human-caused rockfall is the most common rockfall threat on these popular routes. You are in a hazard zone directly below other climbers in scree fields, chimneys, raps, drainages, etc. Almost every year climbers will cause rock to fall upon themselves. Modest rockfall activity is always happening in the Tetons, somewhere. Here's a nice overview of rockfall activity in Yosemite National Park. We are not aware of any similar studies or records for GTNP.

Local climber & writer Molly Loomis, with her late husband Andy Tyson, published a fine book on rescuing yourself from backcountry climbing mishaps. NOLS, over in Lander, WY, has many training programs related to wilderness medical care. Wilderness first Aid books may be available at your library.

“Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you're going to be right.”  Muhammad Ali

~ Altitude Sickness ~

The body needs time to adjust to higher elevations. The reduced air pressure at 13,775 ft. (4200 m) means that there are 42% fewer oxygen molecules in every breath compared to the same volume of air that's found at sea level. Additionally, there are 9% fewer oxygen molecules in a resting climber's blood which means that the blood is less efficient at circulating oxygen to the brain and other organs. The oxygen level in the blood decreases further when any strenuous activity is undertaken.

Altitude sickness has stopped many climbers from ascending the Grand Teton and its effects can become a serious safety hazard. In groups, individual denial of hazardous symptoms is not uncommon. Climbers suffering from Acute Mountain Sickness or Altitude Sickness need to stop, rest, and descend if hazardous symptoms don't improve. Pregnant women should consult with a doctor before spending time above 10,000'. Pregnant women are seen climbing the Grand.

Diamox, AKA: acetazolamide, is used to prevent and reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. You'll need a prescription. Apparently, stuff like Viagra has also been used for the same purpose but the research is sketchy. Here's an Outside Magazine story on doping climbers. Here's another from Gear Patrol.

~ Bears ~

Next to the trail on Sept 10th.

Most of the bears we have encountered were clearly accustomed to short interactions with humans. While their habits & behaviors often seem predictable their thoughts are unknown so loitering in their comfort zone is never wise. Move on. Early in the season, you need to be extra cautious with all the new cubs wandering around. We ran into bears on almost 90% of our summer trips up the Grand in 2016; perhaps 70% in 2017. They were well behaved. Except for one grizzly bear, all the bears we ran into were black bears. A grizzly should be given a wide berth. Park regulations require you to stay at least 100 yards away from all bears. A large animal carcass can present a serious hazard to backcountry hikers due to it being a bear attractant — be alert, move away. Bear Safety

If you see a specific warning sign about bears, bear spray is recommended.

Your chances of getting injured on the Grand are greater than your chances of getting injured by a bear but never underestimate the threat posed by either one. We never carry bear spray during the height of the climbing season, we don't make noise, we usually travel alone, and we listen very closely to our environment which is why we see a lot of bears.

Male grizzly bears come out of their winter dens before females. Sows with cubs tend to leave their dens between April and early May. It can be earlier or later depending on the weather, etc. Black bears tend to lag behind their grizzly brethren. Bears, as with many animals, tend to be more active at dusk and dawn. They will be especially active at all hours during the fall as they fatten up for hibernation.

"During interactions with humans, most bears exhibit considerable tolerance and restraint, consequently, interactions between people and bears often have no negative consequences for either, particularly if people act appropriately around bears. Habituated bears generally tolerate people in close proximity without being aggressive toward people. However, even habituated bears have a personal space that they monitor and may defend, so there are numerous examples of habituated bears injuring people when those people have pushed the bear’s tolerance too far. In 2007 one person was injured in GRTE by an otherwise well-habituated grizzly bear that perceived a threat to itself or its cubs.Grant MacHutchon

Grant has been a wildlife biologist at A. Grant MacHutchon Consulting for 28 years. You can read his 'Human-Bear Interaction Risk Assessment' study on bears in the Moose-Wilson corridor which cost the NPS $21,700 and didn't tell them anything worthy of that fee. USASpending.gov

~ Ungulates ~

~ The evening speed limit in GTNP is 45 mph or lower ~

Collisions with vehicles kill over 100 large animals in GTNP every year and kill over 1,000,000 large animals in the USA. In 2017, over 500 animals were killed by drivers in Teton County. Elk are often crossing roadways when it's dark and they are abundant even in the middle of the night. The last two weeks of April are prime time for elk migration off the Elk Refuge. If possible, and safe to do so, gently STOP for wildlife trying to cross roadways in the park. If they look like they want to cross the highway, they probably do.


~ The Weather ~

We can have dry summers or nasty wet ones but they are usually a mix favoring more sun than rain in Jackson Hole. A typical summer provides many exceptional days for climbing. If it does rain, it's usually in the afternoon.

Between June and September, summit temperatures can swing from the single digits to the 60's. Temperatures in the 20's and 30's are common when people are climbing in the early morning. During the hottest part of the summer, you will find shaded temperatures in the 40's during the morning.

Temperatures can change very quickly as a cold front, bad weather, or darkness moves over the area. Low temperatures can cause heavy mist to quickly freeze to rock and make it impossible to safely navigate the mountain if you are soloing. Be cognizant of the direction that temperatures are moving under wet conditions. Additionally, thick fog can make route finding difficult and hide incoming weather. The decision to turn around is always the right call if your personal safety is clouded in doubt. Safety comes first. What you don't know may kill you or your partners. Never question your decision to turn around even if others do. Mountain weather is like a game of Russian roulette. Sometimes, just waiting an hour or so will improve the weather outlook so consider taking a break if you have the time.

It is not uncommon for overnight temperatures to drop below freezing after a summer storm. Shaded ice may need a full day or longer to burn off. If you're climbing the Upper Exum, keep in mind that conditions on the west-facing Owen-Spalding route (your descent) can be far worse than anything you encountered on the sun-baked Exum ridge. Usually, thin ice can be shattered with a loose rock if you run into a problem area. Some free-soloing climbers will carry a rope for emergencies if conditions are less than ideal.

~ The Weather Forecast ~

Any forecast comes with its own uncertainty and a forecast is no substitute for common sense. Nobody can accurately forecast the weather for a ten-mile radius around the Grand Teton during periods of moderate instability. It is possible to read the weather as it develops but it's impossible to predict the how quickly the weather will go from passing to threatening. A summer forecast can change dramatically in a few hours if there is any instability in the air so a forecast that's a few hours old may be stale. This is especially true in the Tetons.

A forecast for showers may just mean a 5 minute storm that passes 10 miles to the south of the Grand Teton. It's important to examine a forecast carefully. Keep an eye out for rainfall totals. The NWS's hourly forecast shows expected precipitation totals. If the forecast shows that only .01" of rain is expected over several hours, then you know that a big storm is probably not on the horizon.

Keep in mind that forecast temperatures are temperatures expected in a shaded place. It may be much hotter in direct sunlight or much colder with wind chill. The NWS's forecast for 11,600' near the Grand's Lower Saddle has a long history of inaccurate temperature predictions. We know this because we can look at actual data from the Lower Saddle's weather station and compare it to the forecast data. A forecast that's off by 7 degrees is not uncommon.

The good news is that free-soloing summer climbers can examine overnight temperatures at the Lower Saddle's weather station before they reach Lupine Meadows. The Lower Saddle's weather station was usually dismantled after the summer high season; however, in 2018, the station was kept in operation into the off-season. Besides wind speeds and the temperature, the saddle's weather station will display the wet bulb temperature and the dew point. The dew point is the temperature that the air needs to cool down to in order to achieve 100% saturation. It's the temperature at which fog, dew, or frost can form. If the wet bulb temperature is 32°F then snow is possible at that elevation. Snow levels can be 1000' lower than freezing levels.

Forecast wind speeds can be off by a factor of 2 at the 11,600' Lower Saddle because the NWS's wind models don't take into account the fact that the saddle represents an opening in the mountain range that the air rushes through.

 This was the actual forecast.
We went climbing.

The Idaho weather radar has better mapping of the western side of the Tetons. Most of our summer weather comes from the west. The localized Wyoming weather radar doesn't properly cover the Teton Range. The GEOS-17 satellite was supposed to provide some nice weather pictures of the western US starting in 2018 but it was having operational issues. It is scheduled to be fully operational on Dec.10, 2018.

Local meteorologist Jim Woodmency runs mountainweather.com. It's a great source of weather information from other sources. His local forecast lacks the detail we look for in a forecast and he often just feeds the NWS forecast to his website. Besides having an interest in the weather, Woody made many notable ascents in the Tetons and was, for a time, a member of the Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers. He even survived being hit by falling rocks while on a routine mountain patrol. The Gold Face on the Lower Exum was put up by Renny Jackson and Jim Woodmencey in 1988.

"If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you."  Muhammad Ali

~ Thunderstorms ~

Sunny dry days are fairly common in the Tetons but so are afternoon thunderstorms. Thunderstorm usually arrive between mid-afternoon and early evening (2 p.m. to 7 p.m.). If the forecast discussion mentions monsoonal moisture, low pressure, or a cold front then that should raise a red flag. Those conditions can produce very unstable and dangerous weather. If it starts to hail in the mountains, thunderstorms are about to bust loose. Speaking of hail... it hurts. It's another good reason for using a helmet.

There are no safe places if you are outside in a thunderstorm. Of course, you can make yourself safer. Don't group together during a storm. Ideally, stay 50-100' apart; at least 15'.  Remove all metal from your body - jewelry, biners, glasses, etc. Metal can increase the severity of burns. Ropes will conduct electricity so there's a trade off between the fall-protection that the rope provides and the danger of it becoming a conductor that could easily kill you. The temptation to avoid hail and rain may drive you to caves or overhangs but they can increase your odds of getting zapped especially near the opening.

Even though most people survive a lightning strike, over 70% have permanent disabilities. The forces are similar to an IED blast and peak temperatures can reach 50,000°F. With or without lightning, climbing in the rain is a bad idea.

The summit block is a lightning rod.

The entire Lightning PDF Brochure
Mountain Thunderstorm Formation
NWS Online School for Weather

Keep in mind that gullies can become the path of rushing water & tumbling rocks.

Storms can develop right at the edge of the Tetons. And develop quickly. Exum Mountain Guides had a group of high school students on the Grand Teton's summit ridgeline when a blast of white lightning shot through the air. They didn't see it coming and you may never see it coming.

In 2003, several climbers were struck by lightning while on the Exum Ridge and Erica Summers, a 25-year-old mother of two, was killed. In 2010, 17 people decided to climb this mountain in questionable weather. The result was the largest search & rescue operation in the park's history and the death of 21-year-old Brandon Oldenkamp. Learn from their mistakes. 

~ Weather Observations ~

Lower Saddle Weather Station
Live Weather Data GTNP
WW's Weather Page
Grand Teton Webcams
MW's Weather Access Map
MW's JH Observations
JH Airport Observations
Driggs, ID Airport Observations
Recent Timbered Island Precip
Grand Targhee and Alta Precip
Read the Mountain Weather 
WU's Weather History

Temperatures in GTNP are, on average, cooler than in Jackson. The Lupine Meadows trailhead is notorious for trapping cool air.

~ See The Weather ~

~ Weather Contacts ~

GTNP Weather Line: 307.739.3611
National Weather Service - Riverton
Western and Central Wyoming
12744 West U.S. Hwy 26
Riverton, WY 82501

~ Typical Temperature Differences ~


The above graphic illustrating the lapse rate is used to estimate the worst-case scenario for falling temperatures while climbing. The Teton Range does a pretty good job of tripping up forecasters and climbers. General rules of thumb like the lapse rate don't always apply under all mountain conditions. Inversions are common and possible at any time of year. Temperature inversions can have a 40°F spread between the valley floor and 10,000' during the winter. Summer inversions are typically limited to overnight or early-morning hours and they rarely have large temperature spreads.

 Inversion Temperatures: Saddle vs. Airport

As the graphic above clearly illustrates, the time of day can influence the temperature difference between two different elevations. And temperature swings at the Lower Saddle are fairly minor compared to those at the valley floor during the summer.

The Catwalk - Mid-afternoon August 9th, 2015.

In July of 1993, 6 feet of snow fell at the Lower Saddle (11,600') and it was the coldest & wettest summer on record in Jackson, WY. In 2015, it was hard to find a summer raindrop — except for that snow storm shown above.

"I'm young; I'm handsome; I'm fast. I can't possibly be beat."  Muhammad Ali

~ Historical Weather Patterns ~

Historical Weather 1958-2012 GTNP (not Jackson)

Moose, Wyoming from 1958 to 2016

Historical Weather 1981-2010 GTNP (not Jackson)
The historical data above differs slightly depending upon the source.

2017 Seasonal Rainfall at the Valley Floor

Keep in mind that the days get colder and shorter as we roll through summer. You'll have about 16 hours of daylight during the 2nd-to-last week in June when the summer solstice arrives in GTNP.

You'll find more snow at the lower elevations in the month of June compared to September; however, the June days are longer and warmer. June usually gets more thunderstorms but September's storms typically bring snow and ice that sticks around. These two months are considered part of the shoulder season for climbing in GTNP.

Occasionally, on the hottest days, temperatures on the summit hit 60°F and overnight temperatures ping 45°F. The highest temperature at the 11,600' Lower Saddle in 2016 was 63°F on July 21st, so that would put the 13,775' summit near 55°F in the shade under worst-case lapse rate predictions. Most high temperatures don't arrive until after 3:00 pm. We have seen climbers turn around in July & August simply because they didn't have gloves when the temperatures took a morning dip.

~ Historical Lower Saddle Weather Observations ~

 Lower Saddle Temperatures 2018 - 11,600'

Supposedly, the hottest day of the year, on average, arrives during the 2nd half of July.

   Lower Saddle Wind Speeds 2018 - 11,600'

 ~ The Wind ~

Climbers have been killed & injured by wind gusts while on the Grand Teton. It's a real threat for soloing climbers on places like the Friction Pitch. Usually, however, the wind-chill temperatures cause the biggest problems for climbers.


The wind can blow pretty hard at the Lower Saddle. Gusts reached 75 mph on August 21, 2015. The Lower Saddle's wind speed was a constant 30 mph the next morning and the temperature was 31°F at 6 am. That makes for a 15°F wind-chill temperature. If you're unprepared for a cold windy day on the Grand Teton, you're likely to turn around after a whole lot of effort & time on the approach.

~ Hypothermia ~

Although the occurrence is not common, climbers can experience hypothermia & frostbite during the summer. Wet clothes lose much of their insulating properties and a breeze can greatly increase the rate of heat loss so hypothermia can happen in air temperatures up to 50°F. Mild hypothermia can increase the odds of an accident due to the loss of dexterity, mental focus, and other factors. Forget hypothermia, just being cold is uncomfortable and can result in a loss of focus and dexterity.

The cold can be deadly. Hypothermia took the lives of several Grand Teton climbers in 1985 after a snowstorm trapped five climbers on the Exum Ridge, and hypothermia ultimately took the life of Gary Miller in 2013. Hypothermia took the toes of Aaron Gams who wrote the guidebook, Teton Rock Climbs, after he got stuck on the Middle Teton during a shoulder-season climbing trip.

“It's hard to be humble when you're as great as I am."  Muhammad Ali 

~ The Sky ~

The center line is solar noon
13:31 on June 21, 2018

In June, the sun sets in the northwest and burns the Owen-Spalding route clean, or tries to. Near the fall equinox, the sun sets almost directly in the west and the route burns off slowly. In the winter, it's a dark cold place with the sun setting in the southwest. The Upper Exum faces south so the sun hits it all the time. Garnet Canyon doesn't see too much sun during the winter because the sun is low in the southern sky for most of the day which means it's behind Nez Perce, etc.

Position of the Sun in the sky at 43° N

~ Celestial Events ~

 Perihelion: January 2, 2018 10:34 pm MST
Aphelion: July 6, 2018 10:46 am MDT
Equinoxes: Mar 20 10:15 am MDT / Sep 22 7:54 pm MDT
Solstices: Jun 21 4:07 am MDT / Dec 21 3:22 pm MST

2018 -  2020 UTC Times
Spring Equinox & Summer Solstice

Subtract 6 hours from UTC to get a summer MDT in Jackson. MDT starts on Sunday, March 11, 2018 and will end at 2:00 AM on Sunday, November 4. Subtract 7 hours during the MST months to get a UTC. (UTC CalculatorCoordinated Universal Time WikiCurrent UTC Time)

Northern Hemisphere

The Big Summer Show - Perseids in GTNP 2018

  1. January: Quadrantids
  2. April: Lyrids
  3. May: Eta Aquarids
  4. August: Perseids
  5. October: Draconids
  6. October: Orionids
  7. November: Leonids
  8. December: Geminids
  9. December : Ursids

Moon Phases

~ Celestial Links ~

Visibility: Standard Visual Range (Chart)
Current Fires
Astronomy Information for Moose, WY
Wyoming Star Gazing
NASA Earth Observatory
Sky Map for Jackson Hole
JH Clear Sky Chart
Clear Sky Google Map
NASA Night Sky Network (Home page)
Current Moon Phase Chart
 The North Star - Polaris Wiki
NPS Night Skies
Sky at a glance
See the Northern Lights from Jackson Hole
Aurora-service.org Forecast
3-Day Aurora Borealis Forecast &
 30 Minute Forecast
Aurora Wiki


Usually, a Kp index number of 7 (G3 = Kp7) is required before the Northern Lights have the BIG SHOW along the northern horizon in GTNP.  Sometimes the Northern Lights show up with a Kp of  5 or 6 but the odds are lower. Check the Kp Forecast's View Line.

 A sample forecast from March of 2018

We find that the times can be off by 5 minutes.

Upcoming sightings
 Spot the International Space Station in GTNP.
 ISS Webcam ...if dark, ISS is on dark side of earth.
It's over 200 miles high & 17,000 MPH.
Video from station of Earth

The ISS disappears when the sun no longer reflects off its exterior.


You have a better chance of seeing Old Faithful from the Grand Teton if you're looking in the morning when the air is cool and clear. You may even see it with the naked eye.

"I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was."  Muhammad Ali

~ Winter in GTNP ~

All GTNP visitor centers are closed for the winter. Park information can be obtained by visiting the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center in Jackson, Wyoming, or by calling 307-739-3399, 10 am - 4 pm, Mon. - Sat. The Moose Visitor Center usually reopens in early March.

The interior park road is closed at the Taggart Lake parking area during the winter season so you must start you trip from there if you wish to climb the Grand. The road usually reopens on May 1st.

A few winter variations for Garnet Canyon access.

Most folks ski across Bradley Lake to access Garnet Canyon once the lakes freeze over and snow covers the valley floor. The most common winter route runs along the southern side of Garnet Creek (AKA Bradley Creek) once you're further inside Garnet Canyon. You will find a well-used skin track on the south side.

There is a slight ridgeline between Bradley & Taggart lakes that runs up Shadow Peak. You could take that ridge to the west and then go across the steep slopes at the entrance to Garnet Canyon but it's not necessarily your best option. That route needs plenty of compacted stable snow on the NE slopes and you need to know the route otherwise you'll end up in some messy terrain - it is faster if you know what you're doing. Most people just go across the lake. Choose wisely given the conditions.

Frank H. Bradley and his assistant William Rush Taggart were members of Ferdinand Hayden's Geological Survey in 1872. It was during 1872 that Yellowstone was declared a National Park and Nathaniel Langford and James Stevenson claimed to have made the first ascent of the Grand Teton. Hayden's photographer, William Henry Jackson, captured many of the first photographs of landmarks in the West including the Grand Teton.

If you're camping during the winter, make sure to choose a camping location that's not in a common avalanche zone. Standing trees tend to be standing because avalanches didn't wipe them out while they were growing so places like the Platforms Camping Zone will be safer than the Meadows. Trees with broken branches down low may be in an avalanche zone. The bodies of Greg Seftick and Walker Kuhl were found in their sleeping bags after they were crushed by an avalanche that buried them under more than 13 feet of snow while they were sleeping in Garnet Canyon.

Expect poor winter road conditions in GTNP.

The NPS does not put salt on the roads and it's rare to find sand. Safety First is NOT their priority but it can be yours if you slow down. The highways that WYDOT maintains aren't much better. The Town of Jackson also does a poor job. If you want to see how the pros do it, drive across the Wyoming - Idaho border. To give you glimpse into how bad it can be: park rangers responded to over 50 motor vehicle accidents in GTNP between mid-Dec, 2016 and January, 2017.

WYDOT Road Conditions
WYDOT Mobile or call 511
Get Teton County Nixel Alerts via txt msg by
texting your ZIP CODE to 888777 for mobile alerts.

"I'm so mean, I make medicine sick."  Muhammad Ali

~ Avalanches ~

The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center does not forecast the avalanche hazards above 10,500'; however, reports of avalanche activity and pit reports in Garnet Canyon can sometimes be found on their website. Our general feeling about avalanche forecasts and in-field assessments for higher elevations is that they are a poor safety guide unless the threat is high. Additionally, an avalanche forecast is not intended to be a guide for extreme terrain.

It's wise to keep in mind that the so-called backcountry experts get it wrong time and time again. They are quick to blame the inherent dangers instead of themselves. Poor judgment is to blame more often than not. Either way, the backcountry doesn't care about your skill set, intelligence, fitness, or preparation. It doesn't advertise its threats with neon arrows. Go forth with the certainty that you may need to turn around and come back another day, or not come back.

Basic avalanche courses are available in Jackson from many sources. If those are too pricey, they are, pick up a book at the Teton County Library and take advantage of the many free online resources. No one needs avalanche certification unless it's for a job but every backcountry player should have a good understanding of the hazards, the ability to deal with the negative consequences of any hazard, and the ability to minimize their exposure to those hazards. A list of winter resources is located on our Climbing Resources page.


~ Winter Closures ~

Many areas in the national park and national forests are closed to human travel during the winter so as to protect wintering wildlife. You can find winter travel maps online. Additionally, some roads, or sections of roads, are closed simply to avoid the expense of maintaining them during the winter, or because it would be impractical to open them. Most paved roads reopen on May 1st. Most dirt roads open once they dry out.

Winter Closures in GTNP: YELLOW AREAS and Highlighted Roads

~ The Grand Traverse ~

The Grand Traverse is a traverse of the Tetons’ central peaks which include Teewinot Mountain, Peak 11,840'+, East Prong, Mount Owen, Grand Teton, Middle Teton, South Teton, Ice Cream Cone, Gilkey Tower, Spalding Peak, Cloudveil Dome and Nez Perce. It starts and ends at the Lupine Meadows trailhead. The level of climbing difficulty ranges up to IV 5.8. Peak 11,840' and the East Prong are sometimes left out of the bagged peaks. The fastest known times are shown below.

~ FKT Records for Men ~

Nick Elson 6:30:49 - see below
 Alex Lowe 8:15 - depending on the source.

~ FKT Records for Women ~

Julia Niles had a nice free-solo in about 16 hrs

Note: Rolando & Kim ran together on Kim's record time.

Janelle ran with her husband, Mark, in 2017. 
Julia ran 6 months after getting her left lung removed.

 Janelle on her record-breaking Grand Traverse in 2017

Alpinist Magazine has the total distance at 17.9 miles which sounds more realistic than Rolo's 14. An Outside Magazine story has a total elevation change over 20,000 feet. Take all those numbers with a grain of salt.

Rumor has it that the summit to the Lower Saddle was once clocked in 12 minutes by Rolo Garibotti. We're not sure that his feet touched the ground at that speed but that remarkable (almost unbelievable, or unbelievable) time was once reported in the now defunct outerlocal.com website as true. We are not aware of any of the climbers providing unimpeachable proof of their record times on the Grand Traverse.

"I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'"  Muhammad Ali

~ 2016 Grand Traverse FKT Speed Record ~

On August 16th, Canadian runner & climber Nick Elson, 32, broke the 16-year-old speed record for the Grand Traverse by nailing a time of 6:30:49. Eric Carter took some of the photos. Eric ran a round-trip up the Grand Teton and back to Lupine Meadows in under 3.5 hours on the day before Nick made his record Grand Traverse run.

Here's Nick at the Double Chimney

"I set off just after 6am and reached the summit of Teewinot in 1:23. I reached the summit of the Grand in 3:18, soloing carefully on the Italian Cracks. It was great to pass Mark @smileysproject here guiding the traverse as he had also helped me out with some great local knowledge.

I'm a fairly cautious person and I like to think that I kept the risk at a reasonable level, but as I jogged across the "catwalk" while eating a gel I did manage to elicit a plea of "please don't die" from a member of one of the nearby roped teams.

From the lower saddle, I was able to make good time. I think that having rambled around in the mountains since childhood has made me pretty comfortable on the type of 3rd and 4th class terrain that is prevalent on the traverse.

I arrived at the summit of Middle in 4:01 and Nez Perce in 5:31. I made my only route finding mistake descending, but before long was kicking off some impressive rock slides going down to the meadows. When I finally hit the smooth trail, I tripped and fell flat on my face. From there I ran down the trail and mostly avoided hip-checking any hikers. I finished in a time of 6:30:49.
Nick Elson

Also in 2016: Over the course of three days in August, 70-year-old Lee Sheftel of Carbondale, Colorado, completed the Grand Traverse with partner Greg Collins.

~ The Grand Teton Triathlon ~

The GTT (AKA: The Picnic) involves biking from Jackson's Town Square to Jenny Lake in GTNP, swimming from the Jenny Lake Overlook on the eastern shoreline to the western shoreline, taking the Jenny Lake Trail to the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, cruising to the top of the Grand Teton and then doing the whole thing in reverse for a total of 42 miles of biking, 2.6 miles of open water swimming, and 20 miles of hiking and climbing. This is not a sanctioned race with a set date. It's more like an FKT event to test yourself or an all-day picnic with lots of exercise. David Gonzales started the picnic. He escaped Jackson to see the real world for awhile.

Ryan Burke with adaptive athlete Lucas Onan during a 2017 Picnic (16:39 total time)

Julia Heemstra, at 42, was the first woman to complete the Grand Teton Triathlon (The Picnic) solo and unsupported. She finished in 14 hours and 47 minutes. It helps to be a former masters-level swimmer and robust climber. A year later in August of 2017, Julia completed the Moranic in 13 hours and 33 minutes free-soloing the steep CMC face of Mount Moran.

Anyone who has done the Grand Teton Triathlon has experienced the power of 60°F water to remove heat from the body faster than 60°F air. Still water conducts heat away from the body approximately 20 to 25 times more efficiently than still air. An unprotected swimmer can succumb to hypothermia even in warmish water on a warm day. Unless you're a Jimmy Sorensen or swim the Trans Tahoe Relay every year, a proper wetsuit is essential for a safe swim across Jenny Lake. Participants have also towed $15 boogie boards for hauling food/clothing/shoes. They can be used for emergency purposes in case of cramping in the middle of your 1.2-mile swim. Keep in mind that using a bike on the pathways is illegal at night. You can use the park's roads.

 Peak Water Temperatures 2016, Snake River

The temperature of the water in the Snake River rarely matches the temperature of the water in all of the park's lakes but the monthly highs and lows follow similar patterns. If you are wearing a wetsuit for the GTT, make sure it works best with the expected water temperature. Sometimes you can call the Jenny Lake Boat Concession facilities and get a water temperature at the dock.

Water Temperatures Snake River @ Moose
 Temperatures below the JL Dam
If OFFLINE, click on the JL Dam link

The peak river flows around Jackson in the 1,078 mile-long Snake River usually happen around the first or second week of June with 14,000 cubic feet per second (just above Alpine, WY) being the 65-year mean. The record high is 38,600 cfs.

 The GTT Swim
The Bike Path through SJL isn't obvious.

“I’m not the greatest, I’m the double greatest.”  Muhammad Ali

~ What's the height of the Grand Teton ~

The 'official' NGS height is 13,775'
GTNP uses 13,770'.

The 2017 USGS 7.5 Min. Quad Map (pdf)
The height is between 13,760' & 13,840'
The upper contour line is not the summit.
43.741208, -110.802414
43° 44′ 28.35″ N, 110° 48′ 8.69″ W
T44N R116W Section 32 NW 1/4

The 'official' height of the Grand Teton has changed many times and it will change again due to the natural movements of the Teton Range and new measurements. The Latitude & Longitude of the summit monument also changes. For USGS topo maps, elevations were usually accurate to within half the contour line interval (80'/2 = 40') which means the elevation of the upper contour line on the USGS map is between 13,720' & 13,800'. Perhaps the elevations are more accurate these days.

We noticed this next image from the National Weather Service which shows the height of the Grand Teton at 13,781'. Back in 2017, the NWS maps would start out with metric units until you zoomed in. The metric units had the Grand at 4194 meters which is about 13,760'


As far as we know, the Grand Teton's height has never been officially observed to a very high degree of accuracy & precision using modern mapping tools such as GPS, IfSAR, and LiDAR.

Back in the late 80's, local surveyor and climber Rich Greenwood wanted to get a better height measurement atop the Grand Teton. Eventually he got an opportunity to take a Trimble 4000ST GPS receiver up the mountain in October of '91. You can read about their adventures, and the original Grand Teton surveys, in a story published by Point of Beginning Magazine in 1992 (PDF File).

 October 1991

A LiDAR scan over GTNP and the National Elk Refuge was conducted in 2014. The vertical accuracy was 7.4 cm RMSEz (vertical linear root mean square error in the z direction) and the point spacing was 0.7 meters or 2 points per square meter which would certainly hit near the true summit of the Grand Teton if they flew over the top and nabbed a NAVD88 elevation. The last data that we looked at ended just to the northeast (43.744...,-110.801...) of the summit; however, we may have missed another dataset. We were told that the park service had LiDAR of all the peaks in the Tetons. We haven't been able to find it online. We have not asked the NPS for the data.

~ Maps for trails within Grand Teton National Park ~
~ USGS 7.5 min map links are further below ~

There are many trails in GTNP that are not marked on any official maps. These can be climbing trails, hiking trails, game trails, horse trails, utility line trails, boundary line trails, irrigation trails, homesteader trails, mining trails, abandoned roads, service roads, abandoned trails, outfitter trails, and dike trails. There are trails that remain a mystery to most visitors but are well known to locals like the Burned Wagon Gulch Trail or the trail to Hanging Canyon. Trails through places like Avalanche Canyon are often in poor shape. Some of these trails are occasionally maintained, or were maintained. Some of the trails were never maintained and some are in rehab. Obviously, the park service would like everyone to stay on mapped or marked trails. In a backcountry absent of trails, climbers are expected to exercise good judgment when moving through a fragile ecosystem. This is a national park worth protecting.

Granite Canyon Trailhead
Death Canyon Trailhead
Taggart Lake Trailhead
Lupine Meadows Trailhead
Jenny Lake Trailhead
String Lake Trailhead
Leigh Lake Trailhead
Hermitage Point Trailhead
Two Ocean Lake Trailhead

~ Teton Range USGS Topo Maps ~

The first standard topographical map of the Tetons was published in 1899. William O. Owen  surveyed many of the lands in Teton County and his name is on the Owen-Spalding route & Mt. Owen but his surveys bypassed the Grand. His name is mentioned on this survey by Lupine Meadows and he triangulated the altitude of Mt. Owen in 1925. You can find Owen's survey of the Town of Jackson on the BLM's GLO Records search page.

 A partial look at Owen's 1892 survey of what is now the Town of Jackson.

The USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle maps for Wyoming are available for a free download at the National Map home page. Here's the 2017 Grand Teton 7.5 minute quad (about 54 MB). It's a layered image that contains aerial photographs, contours, etc. The 2012 GeoPDF maps did not include trails. The 2015 maps have some trails but not all. The standard PDF (much older) maps often show more trails and you can download them too. The USGS updates these GeoPDF maps on a three year cycle, usually. There are several smart-phone apps that allow you to view the GeoPDF's. Older phones may be too slow to load and pan the images. The TIFF & JPG image files may be best for older phones and newer ones given that they currently have more details related to trails. You may need an additional app to open TIFF files.

For viewing GeoPDF maps on a personal computer, use the TerraGo Toolbar in Adobe Reader. For viewing GeoPDF's on your smartphone, consider using the Avenza System Inc app. You can only load a few GeoPDF maps at one time on the free version of their app unless you buy the maps from Avenza. As with offline Google maps, your location can be tracked on the GeoPDF map in real time without a cellular connection if your phone's GPS is active. Some TIFF images also include embedded coordinates. The Avenza app can decode and open TIFF files.

PDF's & TIFF's
Tiff images will download the fastest
USGS 2017 Grand Teton 7.5 minute quadrangle
USGS 2015 Grand Teton 7.5 minute quadrangle
USGS 7.5 min Grand Teton TIFF

You can easily download these maps & others from Pick-A-Trail

USGS Grand Teton Quadrangle from 1901 (JPG)
USGS Jackson Quadrangle from 1935 (JPG)
USGS Victor-Driggs Quadrangle from 1946 (JPG)
GTNP Topo Map from 1968 (JPG) — USGS has free PDF

WY 7.5 min USGS Maps as Tiff Files (TIFF)
ID 7.5 min USGS Maps as Tiff Files (TIFF)

FYI: The Wyoming TIFF webpage directly above has some formatting errors. Starting with Wyoming's 52676 Dutch Nick Flat SW map, the TIFF download links don't work properly on the archived Libre Map Project website; however, they can be parsed if closely examined. For example, this is the full hyperlink to the 52676 Dutch Nick Flat SW map:


You'll notice that the link has two http:// addresses. You can select the second part of the address and open it to download your file. Or, you can search for TIFF files at https://archive.org/details/usgs_wy and download them for free from the archive.org site.

USGS TopoView
USGS Earth Explorer
USGS National Map Viewer 
USGS Store - & Free Downloads
USGS Wyoming Maps
NGS DataExplorer 
National Geographic's ...
GeoHack Map Links
Free Wyoming Geologic Maps
USGS Geologic Map GTNP
Free USGS Topo Maps TopoZone
Library of Congress Maps
Wyoming Geospatial Hub
Archive.org USGS Maps
NRCS Wyoming 

This map shows the names of various features around the Grand Teton.
 Download - 1.56MB  -  Download - 2.56MB  with a few more features.

Note that the South Couloir of the Middle Teton is often called the Chouinard Couloir. The western boundary of the South Couloir is the Chouinard Ridge as defined in A Climbers Guide to the Teton Range. It's difficult to exactly locate some features on a topo map so keep that in mind.

~ National Forest MVUM Maps ~

These are now available for your mobile device.
Avenza System Inc has an app for viewing: www.avenza.com/pdf-maps.

2018 BTNF Motor Vehicle Use Maps
Kemmerer, Big Piney and Greys River Ranger Districts
 2018 Front of map, & Back side
Jackson and Blackrock Ranger Districts
 2018 Front of map, & Back side
Pinedale Ranger District
2018 Front of map, & Back side

 2018 Bridger-Teton Winter Travel Maps
Jackson Ranger District Winter Travel Map South
 Blackrock Ranger District Winter Travel Map North

Caribou-Targhee National Forest Maps
MVUM &  Visitor Maps

Wilderness & Refuge
 ~ Online Maps & Apps ~

Snow King Trail Map (PDF)
Teton Pass Trail Map (PDF)
Mountain Bike the Tetons Trail Maps 
Teton Freedom Riders Maps
JH Friends of Pathways Maps
Teton Valley ID, Trails & Pathways Maps
 Idaho Alpine Club Maps
Google Earth
Google Maps
CalTopo Mapping
Hill Map.com
Here We Go Mapping
Bing Maps
Open Street Map
Open Cycle Map
Open Topo Map 
Teton County GIS

Declination at GTNP 4-1-2018
 11° 25' E  ± 0° 22' 
....changing by  0° 7' W per year

As a point of reference, the azimuth between the Middle & Grand Teton is about 30°. The Lower Saddle sits on a similar azimuth line near 27°. In other words, if you sat on the southern end of the saddle and looked toward the north end, the compass would show a 27° allignment off of the north-south line after taking into account the declination to the east.

~ Local VHF Radio Frequencies (MHz) ~

It's unlikely that a broadcast from Garnet Canyon will reach anyone during an emergency. You might reach a pilot with an aviation radio or the Driggs Airport's CTAF channel from the Lower Saddle. In 2012, a hiker used a marine radio to call for help from Waterfalls Canyon, so you never know. For the most part, two-way radios are best used for communications between members of a climbing party assuming you don't mind schlepping them up the Grand. If you're wondering where frontcountry bears are hanging out, tune in to the park's dispatch channel: 171.675.

 Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) Control Tower: 118.075
You used to be able to Listen Live to JAC here
JAC Ground: 124.550
JAC CTAF: 118.075
JAC UNICOM: 122.95
Driggs Airport has no tower:
Marine Distress Channel: 156.8
Mutual Aid: 154.875
Teton County Search & Rescue
155.22, Tx/Rx Tone 100.0
The agencies below use
 Rx: 171.675

~ Weather ~ 
NOAA Yellowstone Weather Radio: 162.45
Driggs, Idaho Weather Radio 162.450

~ Frequency Ranges ~ 
Aviation 118.000 - 136.975 MHz
Marine: 156 - 162.025 MHz
Weather: 162.400 - 162.550 MHz
International Distress: 406 MHz

Speaking of the airport....
Launching, landing or operating an
unmanned aircraft, such as a drone, within
Grand Teton National Park is prohibited.

~ Other Stuff ~

Best of the Tetons - Outstanding Photo Blog
TetonPlants.org - nice site about plants
More Than Just Parks
Firearms in Grand Teton National Park.

~ Car Rentals, Bus, Bike, & Taxi Services ~

Car rentals in Jackson can be a nightmare according to some consumers on Yelp. For what it's worth, we have never had a problem with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, currently at the JH Airport, and they have the best reviews on Yelp; however, we don't endorse them despite receiving exceptional service because your mileage may vary. Taxi services to and from the airport are fairly expensive. Uber & Lyft are available in Jackson. The JH airport sets rates for all transportation services to and from the airport. Jackson has a collection of bikes around town that can be rented from their bike rack with an app. We also have several bike-rental businesses — renting mountain bikes, commuter, e-bikes, etc. Our pathway system is extensive. Jackson has a free bus system, the START bus, that operates within the Town of Jackson. Outside of town, the START bus is not free but it's fairly cheap. It only runs to Teton Village. We have a commuter bus (part of the START Bus services) for workers who live over Teton Pass in Idaho, or 'down valley' in Alpine, Wyoming, and points south. There isn't a regular bus service to the airport. There is a discounted taxi service to the airport which does cost less than the overpriced regular taxi service. It's supposed to be for locals but we will assume that anyone can use it. Two transportation companies provide shuttle services every day between Salt Lake City and Jackson: www.MountainStatesExpress.com and www.SaltLakeExpress.com. They have different routes and one is faster than the other - call them and get detailed information. Hitchhiking is always free and it's not too hard to get a ride in Jackson.

~ Rivers ~

When we switched to Google's Blogger platform in 2010, we did not transfer our images from the previous domain host. Those images are not available online. Only a few trip reports between 2010 and 2016 are still in our Blogger archives. They rest were deleted. Our offline catalog exceeds 100,000 images. It will probably never see the light of day. If you would like to get hold of an old image, send us an email with the date of the climb and we'll see what we can come up with.

"I never lost anything up there and...
never wanted to go back" - Allen Budge 

This is one of the few web portals for climbers that isn't intended to promote products or the author. The only thing we promote is free-soloing the Grand Teton as safely and as efficiently as possible. We would like to thank everyone who tolerated our photography, who climbed with us, and who helped make this mountain more accessible to those who carry the dream to climb it.

Enjoy Safe Climbing