FULFILLING A 10-YEAR JOURNEY TO THE SUMMIT

By Jake Frank


Over 10 years ago, I moved to Jackson, WY for a college internship. That winter, spent among the shadows of the Teton Range, I promised myself I’d return to climb the Grand. This year, as an early 35th birthday present to myself and with the help of a Power Wagon®, I decided to finally give it a go.

It was a balmy Saturday morning. My good buddy Andy was somewhere in Paradise Valley on his way to meet up with me. I had packed the truck the night before, but did a last-minute check before hitting the road, all the while hoping I hadn’t forgotten anything.

With Andy inside, we lowered the windows and took in the serene soundtrack of western Wyoming. We toured the park roads looking for a spot to catch the sunrise when the sight of the morning sun, barely kissing the top of the Grand Teton, came into view. We hit the brakes to stop for a few snapshots. 

After sunrise, we left the park and entered Forest Service land to find a place to make our base camp. As we drove on, higher and higher up the rutted road, we found the perfect spot for the evening. It had gorgeous views of the Teton Range and plenty of room for us to spread out. The truck bed gave us plenty of counter space to fire up the grille and get cooking. Little did we know that once the wind died down, and the aroma of a fresh-cooked meal filled the air, swarms of blood-thirsty mosquitoes would join us for dinner. Fortunately, Andy started a fire to keep them at bay. 

Early the next morning, we reviewed the weather reports, current climbing conditions, and finalized our packing for the hike. With 7 miles and 7K feet of elevation ahead of us, we had to figure out the minimum amount of gear to bring. 

The first part of the hike was switchbacks that were well graded, but once we hit the end of the trail, we had to resort to boulder hopping and rope climbing to make progress. Just as we crested the crux of the hike, the clouds opened up and started raining. We ducked off the trail under a huge glacial erratic just before the rain turned into a lightning and hail storm. After a few hours of waiting under the rock, we were rewarded with an incredible double rainbow—just the motivation we needed to push us toward the Lower Saddle, where we’d spend the night.  

At 3am the next morning my alarm went off and we made breakfast and coffee by headlamp. Once we finished packing and double-checking our gear, we quickly made our way up the Grand—our headlamps still lighting the way. About an hour later, 12K feet high along the Central Rib, the morning light started hitting Middle Teton. We kept making our way up the mountain. It being our first time, route finding was slow.

As we picked our way through the benches and small snow fields, Andy and I reached the summit at last, greeted by a completely cloudless sky. Not even 10 years of dreaming and planning could prepare me for that view. Unobstructed beauty from left to right. Massive rocky towers all beneath me. The sun reflecting off the snow-kissed peaks, replacing my wildest dreams with an even wilder reality.

It’s still hard to describe the satisfaction I’d felt while on top. Even harder to explain is the feeling that followed. I turned to Andy, who was snapping frame after frame on his camera and asked, “Which peak should we climb next?”

Jake Frank is a seasoned photoblogger, climber and hiker. For more on this journey, and many more, visit his Instagram page at @jacobwfrank

10 MUST-PACK ITEMS FOR YOUR HIKE

Planning a hike of your own? Jake Frank shared 10 items that he can’t climb without.

( DisclosureProperly secure all cargo.)

  • 1. Waterproof Backpack (35L or larger)
  • 2. Extra Socks
  • 3. Flashlight
  • 4. Energy Bars/Granola Bars
  • 5. Water Bottle (25 oz or larger)
  • 6. Matches
  • 7. Safety Knife
  • 8. Sunblock
  • 9. Rain Slicker
  • 10. Hiking Gloves

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