Friday, March 17, 2006

So Close, Yet So Far: The Grand Teton in Winter

There's something inately wrong about waking up at 3am. Sure, there's the over riding feeling of fuzziness, dryness, sleepiness. But below that, on an evolutionary level, your body knows that it just isn't right. It's like meeting a rattlesnake on the trail. Even if you didn't know what it was or what it could do, you'd be frightened. It's just programmed.

After a very quiet ride out to the Park, Mark and I got our gear together and started skinning by headlamp. It's a rare opportunity when one gets to skin uphill in a down jacket, and even rarer yet when one can do it and not be hot.

January, 3am, Grand Teton national Park, -20°F

After a few hrs of skinning in what we hoped was the right direction, we emerged into the Meadows and were greeted by a beautiful sunride. Orange and pink with just a few white clouds dotting the sky. Perfect weather for our ascent, or so we thought.

At the base of the headwall it began to snow. We left our skis, took out our axes and began to climb the headwall. ABout 2/3 of the way to the top it REALLY began to snow. Sideways. Upon reaching the Lower Saddle we took the time to sit down and eat since it was obvious we wouldn't be continuing any higher. Visibility was down to about 5 feet and there was horizontal snow. After laughing at the drastic weather changing we started down the Headwall in white-out conditions. Skiing down was tough and slow going. With zero visibilty we had to pick and feel our way down, but eventually we found ourselves back at the car; very hungry and very tired.