I did a lot of stopping and thinking on this climb. Once the 3000 feet of hiking up the trail, through pretty meadow and open forest was over, the hiking becomes very steep and screeish. The East Face rises up directly above the Lupine Meadows trailhead, and is the most prominent mountain aspect seen from the valley below. The trip involves 5500 feet of elevation gain, to over 12,000 feet, and includes 2000 feet of 3rd and 4th class gullies, slabs and chimneys. I took my rock shoes for any difficulties, but I didn’t bring a rope.

Looking down on the Idol The Grand Teton and Mt. Owen

So, as I said, lots of thinking. Hmm…should I climb up that pebble strewn face to the left, or balance on the icy snow/rock boundary and frozen mud to the right? It was often difficult to tell which way to go, because the face breaks up into humpy ridges, steep heather, gullies and slabs up close. I finally decided that I’d wear boots up, because I knew I could down-climb in rock shoes whatever I climbed up in boots. If I put the rock shoes on now, I could get into more stressful situations on the descent! This worked, and allowed me to continue up without second guessing my choices.

I passed two roped parties, despite breathing heavily in the thin air at 11,000 feet. I ended up on the left side of the great gully that splits the upper face, but I knew I had to get to the right side. At one point, I looked up to see a great cliff just a few hundred feet above (impassable), and no apparent way to cross the gully to the right. I resigned myself to a high visit at the base of the cliff, rather than the summit. But right at the base, I put on my rock shoes, and went for an exploration, immediately finding a loose but short down-climb into the gully. Crossing the icy gully, I made my way up the right side, then around a shoulder with some fun, blocky scrambling. The final scramble to the summit was enjoyable, and I prolonged it by choosing a more difficult variation to the left. On the false summit, an excellent view down to Storm Point and it’s valley. On the true summit, a stunning picture of the Grand’s North Face, and Mt. Owen. I was above 12,000 ft, and having a grand time! After gingerly sitting on the highest point, I started the trip down, moving cautiously but firmly through the tricky parts. I remember a bold hand traverse on solid rock. Eventually, I got to the rap stations I’d passed before, and impressed myself with a new confidence in the down-climbing. Of course it was easy, but down-climbing has always made me kind of nervous. Doing so much of it was paying off! A roped group of three teenagers watched me. I wondered about the wisdom of their “short rope” strategy. I think they were too close together on the rope (about 4 feet apart) to stop a fall, but if someone knows better let me know. I would probably have 15 feet of rope, and let each person climb a step with a hip belay from above. The difficult steps never got much higher than that.

Soon I was hiking down steep scree/dust country, looking back at the improbable “day hike.” This was fun. Once on the forested ridge, I could relax on a good easy trail, and take pleasure in the long switchbacks it made through meadowed slopes. I was getting hot and thirsty, and eagerly drank from the waterfall near the bottom of the slope. A last look, then the final walk to the car. Teewinot seemed to shimmer behind a magic curtain far above.

This hike is a great first day of a longer Tetons trip. It gets you acclimatized, and used to the scree and gullies you’ll spend much time in later!