The Climber's Guide to the Grand Teton

Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers' blog
JLCR: 307-739-3343 


******  WILDLIFE  ******
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Teton Area Avalanche Forecast Details
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The avalanche forecast is not for elevations above 10,500 feet, and the forecast is about as useful as the weather forecast—i.e. handy, but far from perfect.
JHMR Rendezvous Bowl Obs - 9580 ft,+wy+weather
 All Snowfall Graphs

News & Events 1-2018: Backcountry Camping Permits for the summer season can now be purchased online if you wish to make a reservation. Walk-in permits can be obtained on the day before your trip but they are in high demand. Two thirds of the available permits are set aside for walk-ins. 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.

There were 40,193 overnight backcountry stays in GTNP in 2017 according to the Park Service. We don't know if "stays" equals people or permits. 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 have no idea how many people are camping.

Winter backcountry camping permits are FREE and can be obtained Monday-Friday during business hours (8:30-12:00 pm & 1:00-4:30 pm) at the front desk in the big GTNP Headquarters/Dispatch/Maintenance Building. Use the building's southwest entrance which utilizes an intercom for access. To obtain a permit on weekends please contact Park Dispatch at (307) 739-3301. It now costs $35 for a walk-in permit during the summer and $45 for a reservation online at

The Teton Park Rd (the TPR) is now closed between the Taggart/Bradley Lake parking area and Signal Mountain Lodge. You can hike or ski into Garnet Canyon from the parking lot. You'll be heading for Bradley Lake, then up the canyon. 

Winter wildlife closures are in effect at many locations around the valley. Map of Mt Hunt & Static peak closures in GTNP.

Another eclipse is on its way to GTNP. The Total segment of the Lunar Eclipse begins at 5:51 am and ends at 7:07 am. It peaks at 6:29 am on Wednesday morning, January 31st, 2018.

 During the morning of the full moon

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~ 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.
 DeLap, Blackburn, DePirro - Summit, & in Yellowstone
 Albert Ellingwood at the Double Chimney

Paul Petzoldt, with no climbing experience, first climbed the Grand in 1924 at the age of 16 while wearing cowboy boots. 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. ''We did everything wrong,'' the more safety-minded Paul said in later years.
 Glen, Paul, and dogs on the summit. 1950

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 the rest of us look & 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 with Paul Petzoldt

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. It was Petzoldt's second ascent of the Grand. You'll walk by Geraldine's old homestead if you take the Burned Wagon Gulch trail from the Climbers' Ranch. 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.
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.

 ~ 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. You might be able to email them at: They removed their email address from their blog in 2017. 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. In 2017, the staff consisted of 6 permanent and 15 seasonal rangers.

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.
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~ Local Climbing Guides ~

Unauthorized 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, park superintendent 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.

If you're using a concessionaire, be sure to pick a 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.

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. The first time Paul was asked to guide a group of men up the mountain he charged them $100 — more than he could make working on a ranch all summer.

  ~ The Guide Books ~

Its presentation is a little dated.

The guide books are available at the Teton County Library ( Some older and fascinating guide books are also available. Here's a list of internet resources for climbers who can't make it to the library.

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. 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.

~ 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. Experienced climbers who are walking will usually give themselves 5 hours to summit from the Lupine Meadows trailhead. 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.

We're betting that you can easily clock a 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 using all the trail shortcuts in under 90 minutes. 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 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 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.

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 claimed 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. 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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

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

~ What Time Should I Leave ~

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. If conditions are good and the weather is nice, climbers can leave at any time that fits their schedule. Most of the experienced mountaineers who are roping up on a single-day round-trip will leave the Lupine Meadows' trailhead between midnight and 2 a.m. The bigger the group, the slower the climb.

The park service frowns on groups larger than 3 people on the busy routes. Fellow climbers aren't too excited to see large groups, either. Large groups can try an afternoon start if the weather is nice, or  very very early start. 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.

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 are retreating — or greatly delayed — due to poor conditions 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. By the time they hit the Upper Saddle, the majority of the ice on the Owen-Spalding route had burned off and the day was nice and warm. They camped overnight upon returning to the Lower Saddle. Had they arrived at the Upper Saddle before noon, they may have turned around due to the icy conditions.

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.

Besides being slick, snowy conditions on the approach in the fall season can be exceptionally dangerous because the snow has yet to consolidate; it's shallow and foot traps are abundant.

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 can be a safety hazard as can route-finding in the dark. Some people have difficulty sleeping before a trip. If the adrenaline is high, you might as well start your climb. 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.

Thunderstorms, if they are in a summer forecast, usually arrive around mid-afternoon. Under those conditions, we try to summit and get back to the Lower Saddle before 1 pm. 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 ~

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. You might even find nice conditions in late June if it was a very mild winter & spring. The general rule of thumb is that when Mt. Glory above Teton Pass is free of snow, then it's time to go fishing and climbing.

Low overnight temperatures after a storm 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 in the western US and Canada 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 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. Plenty of climbers free-solo with ice and snow underfoot but non-climbers or novice climbers don't usually head out under those conditions. As always, you can check with the climbing rangers about conditions on any route you wish to climb. The more seasoned rangers can also give you an estimated time frame for a completely dry climbers' trail once the first of July rolls by.

Many climbers prefer the less crowded shoulder seasons. June is warm, the days are long, and the snow-covered mountains with the green valleys below look their best. September & October can provide wonderful climbing but you need to have greater flexibility in your schedule if you don't want to solo under colder mixed conditions. Once we roll past mid-September, the mountain is pretty empty and the chances of soloing under dry & warm conditions diminish quickly. The Jenny Lake Ranger Station usually closes for the season just after Labor Day (the first Monday in September). The huts used by the guiding services and the Park Service are usually disassembled by mid-September if the weather permits.

Low temperatures and less than ideal conditions keep many mountaineers off the Grand between November and January but some find it exhilarating. Paul Petzoldt was often packing a bottle of champagne to the summit on New Year's Eve. Skiers are a common sight in Garnet Canyon during the winter when conditions are favorable. Those that are headed for the Grand are usually climbing through couloirs to reach the summit but a few will take the OS route. Very few climbers attempt the Upper Exum during the winter but it has been done — usually with variations out of necessity.

April is often better than May in terms of safety & precipitation but it varies from year-to-year. Freeze & thaw cycles start in May but they really get going at higher elevations in June as the temperatures climb well above freezing during the day but take a dip below freezing at night. This means that new ice (or icy snow) is forming overnight from afternoon snowmelt or rain; and old ice that was under winter snow is being exposed. That cycle continues for an indefinite time that's dependent upon the weather. Those freeze & thaw cycles increase the chances of rockfall. The warm temperatures in June increase the odds of wet-slab avalanches and flushing in drainages.

Very warm temperatures will cause the expansion of rocks which in turn leads to more rockfall. Of course, rainy weather can cause erosion & flushing which leads to rockfall. You're more likely to encounter major rockfalls on the approach than on the summit block but it's not something that's common. Modest rockfall activity is always happening in the Tetons, somewhere.

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.

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 can have the summit to yourself (sometimes). 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.

~ 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. We're not sure how they would enforce that if a group is camping and different people in the group buy permits. There is a 30-day camping limit per year.

The Caves Camping Zone is at 9700'. It's 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'. 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. There are several tent sites. 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.

Backcountry reservations for the summer season are being accepted at 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 park will reserve up to one-third of each camping zone in advance and save two-thirds of each zone for those who wish to get a first-come, first-served permit in person one day before the start of a backcountry trip (walk-in permit).

Those who do not secure an advanced reservation may still apply for a walk-in permit. During peak season (July and August), competition for these walk-in permits is high. There is a $35 fee for each walk-in backcountry permit. The whole reservation system seems designed to fit the needs of the NPS and not BC campers but it is what it is. The online reservation system is run under contract by a for-profit company.

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 early 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.

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...).

There were 40,193 overnight backcountry stays in GTNP in 2017 according to the Park Service. We don't know if "stays" equals people or permits but 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 have no idea how many people are camping.

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. The Bridger-Teton National Forest has many camping locations. Climbers can also stay at the American Alpine Club's Climbers' Ranch in GTNP. In 2018, opening day for the Climbers' Ranch will be June 9th, and it will close on September 10th. 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. Do not feed foxes or any wildlife.

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 Forest Service campground to the Grand Teton may be at Shadow Mountain. There are many Forest Service campgrounds in Teton County, WY & Teton County, ID.

"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. You cross over Cottonwood Creek on the Lupine Meadows access road. You can drink its water but we suggest filtering it. You will find water at many locations along the climbers' trail. 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.

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. 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. Too much food before you leave may increase the necessity to empty your intestines while on your trip. Privacy is not common in the backcountry when in the moraines and higher elevations. Waste is buried or packed out in a waste bag depending on your location. 

Everyone has a different food routine. We don't eat too much before a trip and we stick to more protein than carbs leading up to a climb. We are only out for the day when climbing so we pack much in the way of food. Unless we expect a long day, we may pack nothing to eat. We do drink a lot of water before we arrive at the trailhead and sometimes we eat some carbs at the trailhead. During a climb, we can go without water and food but we usually try to stay hydrated. 

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:
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 
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

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). Climbers who use Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile can text 911 in Teton County, WY. Calls to 911 go to Teton County Dispatch (307-733-2331) and not GTNP Dispatch (307-739-3301).

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. Text messages do not usually include GPS location data like voice calls do. 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. 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.

“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 is no internet access at the Climbers' Ranch except what you can get on a smartphone as of 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

Speaking of law enforcement, automated license plate recognition systems are used by the federal government and local law enforcement in Teton County. The entire state of Wyoming is a speed trap: 'pull over and fish' is our 'stop & frisk'. Jackson Hole has more law enforcement officers per mile of highway than most places you will visit. JPD Twitter Feed, TCSO Twitter Feed, Highway Patrol Twitter FeedGTNP Twitter Feed, Teton County Jail Mugshots.

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

~ Biking ~

The pathways are only open to bikes between 1/2 hour before sunrise & 1/2 hour after sunset. Pathways run from the Town of Jackson to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park.

~ 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 was designed to operate with satellites and has been designated internationally only for distress. 

~ 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

Additionally, 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).
 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, 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."

Of course, 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.

You can get a feel for the fantastic ways that climbers injure and kill themselves by reading the online version of 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 story about common accidents on a Grand Teton climb but it's still a good read: Danger Zones: Grand Teton & online at the American Alpine Club's website. We will address one bit of disturbing advice from the AAC:
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. Climbers who are near the Boulder Problem in the Sky have a rappel option on the southern prow of the summit ridgeline - just above the V-Pitch. They can also make an easy NW beeline for the Three Stooges or the Slabby Wall once past the BPITS - 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. Skip the summit. Five minutes can be the difference between life and death on this mountain. You don't waste time getting to the summit especially if you need to retreat from lightning.

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

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. Snow blindness 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 high on the list of rockfall triggers. Human-caused rockfall is very common directly below other climbers in scree fields, chimneys, raps, etc. Keep in mind that torrents of snow, rocks, and water can flush out of couloirs at any time of year.

Stettner Couloir blowing out. It blew three times in 30 minutes.

“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, and there are 9% fewer oxygen molecules in the climber's blood at rest 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. Of course, 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. Keep in mind that a grizzly bear will defend its cubs far more aggressively than a black bear. 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.

"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.
~ 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. Bears, as with many animals, tend to be more active at dusk and dawn. 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. Most climbers try to summit before noon and reach the Main Rappel to the Upper Saddle by noon but it varies with the weather.

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. GTNP Weather Page.

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.

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. A summer forecast can change dramatically in a few hours if there is any instability in the air so a forecast that's 6 hours old may be stale. 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.

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. Unless there are obvious threats on the horizon, we just head for the Grand after reading a forecast and keep tabs on the weather as we go. We have the advantage of knowing how long it will take us to move around the mountain and we feel no pressure to summit.

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 a 60% chance of rain but only .01" of rain is expected, then you know that a big storm is not on the horizon but the odds are good that a short shower will appear somewhere in the Tetons. As we all know, a 70% chance of bad weather may never materialize while a 20% chance of bad weather does. This is especially true in the Tetons.

The word "isolated" in the NWS forecast refers to showers that are few and far between, only 10% to 20% of the forecast area will receive measurable precipitation. "Scattered" refers to the range of 30% to 50% coverage. Neither refers to intensity, amount, or time. The NWS does forecast a precipitation quantity in the hourly forecast graph; and, if you run your mouse over a graph you will see hourly percentages at the bottom of the graphics.

NWS defined terms: Rain: (Stratiform) Precipitation, in general, is relatively continuous and uniform in intensity. Sky condition usually changes little throughout the day. Showers: (Convective) Precipitation will be characterized by the suddenness in which it starts and stops as well as by rapid changes in intensity. The sky may rapidly change in appearance with peeks of blue and sun alternating with times of complete overcast.

The NWS's forecast for 11,600' near the Grand 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 temperatures at the summit are often near 32°F and climbers would like to know if new ice or snow is to be expected. Those conditions are difficult to estimate if the forecast is off by 7 degrees. The good news is that free-soloing climbers can examine overnight temperatures at the Lower Saddle's weather station before they reach Lupine Meadows. The Lower Saddle's weather station is only available during the summer months.

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.

Most people who look at the forecast below would reconsider their climbing plans. We examined the forecast more closely and decided it was going to be a nice day. It was.
 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.

Local meteorologist Jim Woodmency runs 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.

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.

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. If you must rope up, try attaching the rope using something like an Alpine Girth-Hitch if that's even possible under the circumstances. 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

~ Weather Observations ~

Lower Saddle Weather Station
(summer only)
WW's Weather Page
(summer only)
Grand Teton Webcams
MW's Weather Access Map
MW's JH Observations
JH Airport Observations
Driggs, ID Airport Observations
GTNP Weather Past 10 days
Recent Timbered Island Precip
Grand Targhee and Alta Precip
TetonCounty's Weather Station
Read the Mountain Weather 
WU's Weather History

Temperatures in GTNP are, on average, cooler than in Jackson. Some of the weather stations in GTNP spit out very suspicious data when compared to the data at the nearby Airport. It may be that the location of the station is prone to trapping hot or cold temperatures that don't really represent what is going on outside of a 200' foot radius.

~ Lower Saddle Weather ~


The Lower Saddle's weather station is only operational during the summer. 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.

 ~ Weather Resources ~

Mountain Thunderstorm Formation - PDF

~ See The Weather ~

NWS WY Webcam index
Grand Teton Webcams

~ 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 ~

There are days when the temperature at the Jackson Hole Airport and the temperature at the Lower Saddle are within a degree of one another. Inversions are also possible at any time of year. Temperature inversions can have a 40°F spread between the valley floor and 10,000' during the winter.  During the summer, inversions are typically limited to overnight temperatures.
 Inversion Temperatures: Saddle vs. Airport

During the summer, the National Weather Service used to forecast an 8°F difference between the Lower Saddle and summit no matter what the weather or time of day. And their low-temperature difference between the valley floor and the summit was rarely more than 13°. They no longer issue a forecast for the summit which is probably due in no small part to the fact that it was a poor forecast.
The Catwalk - Mid-afternoon August 9th, 2015.

A deep winter snowpack can linger on the climbers' trail throughout the summer and ice can blanket the mountain at any time of year so climbers need to be prepared for mixed conditions if they have a fixed future climbing date. Locals have the advantage of increased flexibility in their mountaineering plans whereas visitors from afar do not. 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.

Shoulder-season climbers should be comfortable with mixed conditions and be prepared to travel with an ice axe and crampons. You can rent crampons and axes (and climbing shoes) at several locations around Jackson Hole including from Moosely Mountaineering inside GTNP by the Moose Entrance at the Dornan's shopping & dining area. Mountaineering rentals are fairly inexpensive at all of the rental locations.

Crampons have their own safety issues. They can catch on rock, snow, and clothing. Sharp crampons can cut your leg. They can make climbing and snow travel an awkward process for newcomers. Strong climbers who know the mountain might get by without specialized gear under poor conditions but all climbers should reconsider their climbing plans when thin ice has covered the mountain.

"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)
2017 Seasonal Rainfall at the Valley Floor

The historical data above differs slightly depending upon the source. 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 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. 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 Summer 2015 -11,600'
 Lower Saddle Temperatures Summer 2016 - 11,600'

 Lower Saddle Temperatures Summer 2017 - 11,600'

The hottest day of the year is, on average, July 16, with a high of 79°F and a low of 48°F at the valley floor.
Lower Saddle Wind Speeds Summer 2015 - 11,600'
 Lower Saddle Wind Speeds Summer 2016 - 11,600'

  Lower Saddle Wind Speeds Summer 2017 - 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.
Wind Chill Index

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.

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. 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.

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

~ The Sky ~,-110.8024,15
The center line is solar noon
13:28 on June 30, 2015

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

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

~ 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 Forecast
3-Day Aurora Borealis Forecast &
 30 Minute Forecast
Aurora Wiki 
Usually, a Kp index number of at least 7 (G3 = Kp7) is required before the Northern Lights have the possibility of being seen along the northern horizon in GTNP. Kp Forecast

We find that the times can be off by 5 minutes.
For a more complete list, follow the link below
Spot the International Space Station in GTNP
ISS Webcam ...if dark, ISS is on dark side of earth
Over 200 miles high & 17,000 MPH
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 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.
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.

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, 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

~ Avalanche Links ~

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.

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. More often than not, poor judgment is to blame. 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 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 negtive consequences of any hazard, and the ability to minimize their exposure to those hazards.

JH-BTNF Avalanche Forecast WY
National Avalanche Forecast Map
JH NWS Snow Avalanche Guidance Report
JH Recent Events 
JH Snowpack Summaries

~ Snow Data ~

JHMR Rendezvous Bowl  7-Day Graph
BTAC's Big Sheet 24 Weather Hour Data

~ Skiing Links ~
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.

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) time was once reported in the now defunct website as true.

"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 routefinding 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: From August 1 to 3, 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.

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

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.

The peak river flows in the Snake River happen around the second week of June with 14,000 cubic feet per second being the 65-year mean. The record high is 38,600 cfs.

~ Earthquakes ~

USGS Recent Earthquake Map for WY
Snow King Seismograph (Or Try Here)
Teton Pass Seismograph (Or Try Here)
Moose WY GTNP Seismograph 
Flagg Ranch GTNP Seismograph
Seismograph Stations USGS
Advanced National Seismic System
UU's Station List - MAP
UU's Real-Time GYA (Yellowstone) Quake Map
USGS National 2.5+ Quake Map 
USGS's 'Did You Feel It?'
New Report a Quake page
Shake Maps

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

~ Fire ~

~ What's the height of the Grand Teton ~

The 'official' NGS height is 13,775'
GTNP uses 13,770'.
The 2015 USGS map has the height between 13,680 and 13,760'.
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. For USGS topo maps, elevations are usually accurate to within half the contour line interval which means the elevation of the upper contour line on the USGS map is between 13,640' & 13,720'.

We noticed this next image from the National Weather Service which shows the height of the Grand Teton at 13,781'. Funny thing about the NWS maps is that they start out with metric units until you zoom in. The metric units have the Grand at 4194 meters which is about 13,760',-110.802413942

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. 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 (43.7443662914193,-110.801330214354) of the summit; however, we may have missed another dataset.
Actual LiDAR model - South Teton

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

Most hiking trails in the backcountry are not completely free of snow at the start of the summer. A few can have snow linger all year long in shaded ares. The valley starts to fully bloom around the third week of May and is fully leafed out by June. The arrowleaf balsamroot sunflowers on the Garnet Canyon trail tend to reach a peak in June. They start popping up around the valley in late May. Other flowers come and go throughout the season.

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 are 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. You can find Owen's survey of the Town of Jackson on the BLM's GLO Records search page.|st=WY|cty=039|svr=WILLIAM%2bO%2bOWENS
 A partial look at Owen's 1892 survey of what is now the Town of Jackson.

The 2015 USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle maps for Wyoming are available for a free download at the National Map home page. Here's a direct link to the 2015 Grand Teton 7.5 minute quadrangle. It is downloaded as a zip file from the USGS. It unpacks as a GeoPDF file. 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. 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 7.5 min Grand Teton 2012 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1968 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS 7.5 min Mount Moran 2012 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1968 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS 7.5 min Ranger Peak 2012 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1968 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS 7.5 min Survey Peak 2012 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1989 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS 7.5 min Colter Bay 2012 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1968 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS 7.5 min Rammell Mountain 2012 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1968 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS 7.5 min Jenny Lake 2012 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1968 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS 7.5 min Teton Village 2012 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1996 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS 7.5 min Mount Bannon 2012 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1968 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS 7.5 min Granite Basin 2012 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1968 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS 7.5 min Rendezvous Peak 2012 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1968 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS 7.5 min Teton Pass 2012 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1996 PDF-zip / TIFF
 USGS 7.5 min Palisades Peak 2012 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1996 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS 7.5 min Victor 2013 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1978 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS 7.5 min Driggs 2013 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1978 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS 7.5 min Flagg Ranch 2012 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1996 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS Grassy Lake Res. 2012 (GeoPDF-zip) / 1989 PDF-zip / TIFF
USGS Grand Teton Quadrangle from 1899 in a PDF-zip file

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: 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 and download them for free from the 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 

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:

2016 Bridger-Teton Motor Vehicle Use Maps
Over-Snow Vehicle Use Map (OSVUM)
 Front Section Only
Over-Snow Vehicle Use Map (OSVUM)
 Back Section Only

Caribou-Targhee National Forest Maps
MVUM &  Visitor Maps

Wilderness & Refuge
 ~ Online Maps & Apps ~

Snow King Trail Map (PDF)
Teton Pass Trail Map (PDF)
JH Friends of Pathways Maps
Teton Valley ID, Trails & Pathways Maps
 Idaho Alpine Club Maps
Google Earth
Google Maps
CalTopo Mapping
Here We Go Mapping
Bing Maps
Open Street Map
Open Cycle Map
Open Topo Map
Teton County GIS
Declination at GTNP 2-4-2017
 11° 33' E  ± 0° 22' 
....changing by  0° 7' W per year

~ 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. 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
Firearms in Grand Teton National Park.

Not all news releases are released online and climbing related NR's are often misleading.

Current River Flows and Res. Levels

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