As of recent, I was able to interrupt routine of inner-city life in Boston with a beginner level alpine climb up the great big boob crumbling upward right straight out of the valley floor. The Grand tops out at 13,700 feet roughly and the valley floor is somewhere between 6 to 7 thousand feet. So the climber gets some serious upward battling the whole way. Being acclimated to sea level and a fat-assed cigerette smoker only added amusement to the other goofy yuppie types we all aspire to be. I had one hell of a time getting up towards the base of the climb.
Bumbing around the climbing shop in Jakson Hole the day before the lug up the mountain, I overheard talk of Fred Beckey doing the Lower Exum route on the day I was planning to climb this same route. Mr. Beckey is 85 years old. He did a lot of accents in the Tetons in the 60's and what not. Don't know to much about him. Allright the climb itself.
The National Park service required us to camp in the Moraine area the night before the climb. It's pretty much a big leveled off gully with a tumbled boulder trail presure pushed by glaciers, I think. It's still a thousand feet or better to the base of the climb. We got a late start because my buddy insisted on having coffee before the climb. He rummuged through the boulders for 45 minutes looking for glacial melt water. I sat in the dark trying to keep a positive attitude. No Dunkin Donuts around. We get to the base of the Lower Exum ready to climb around 8;30 AM. The first pitch, which I was off route was very easy. I roped up just to be a good boy. But at the end of the pitch I came face to face with the great Fred Becky. He looked 85 years old. He showed no interest in reveling in our situation so I backed off and let him stay a pitch and a half ahead at all times. If you don't respect your elders then move to Greenland. Fred did the climb. A guide led every pitch and Fred followed. I got to listen to Fred's verbatim on the climb the whole way. Bright sunny day with valley far below. horizontal views were of multi colored teton rock shooting up to the top and Fred Becky yelling at the guide all day.
The iniatial pitches are 5-6 ish You follow a couple chimneys up the broad southern arete or ridge I should say. Then the ridge steepens to four pitches of 5.7. This was about all I wanted in a grade. So the climbing was just right to keep me hyper alert but yet allways able to keep myself under safe controll. The crux pitch was a beutifull moment in one's life. You come to a head wall and ascend right up the middle of it following a crack system. The wall is allmost vertical. The exposure is awesome. I believe the wall pushes itself out a bit to allow some serious downward views below the feet. Like a thousand feet perhaps. Don't know for sure. Chose not to look down during the lead. The whole pitch warranted perfect climbing. Enough pro, features to allways feel connected to the face and upward vertical climbing in a alpine setting. Of course I was all about getting the hell out of that situation. But the hindsight of it all is romantic as hell.
Well eventually made it up to the easier pitches by 6:30 pm. Thats like 7 pitches in 9 hours. And the easier pitches amount to several to the summit. We chose to bail off on Wall street which is a continuous ledge from our point traversing the whole top peak to the middle of the uppersaddle gulley. Dindn't feel like rappelling and down stumblling the gulley in the dark. Screw the summit. The world can do without a photo of me on the top. Unless I was passed out drunk up there of course. That would make a nice picture for the grandkids.
Well did a third of the whole descent that night. The top third of the hike up is very steep. It's pretty much a long talus field. A mile or better. Hiking down with my heavy pack in the dark was killing me. At the petzolt caves I told my buddy I need sleep. I was comming close to tripping and rolling down the steep talus feild. Or at least I used that excuse to stop and sleep. Peacefull summer night under the stars. Why race back to the valleys of R.V's and no money down harley bad ass's. Crawled under a great big boulder that sheltered a wide but shallow heighted ceiling with marmot shit all over the ground. To tired to care. Sprawled out and went to sleep. Something was rummaging around in there at night. I was so tired and ingnorant that I just yelled and thrashed around a bit till the thing left. Humans have a way of taking everything over. Woke up the next day and walked down the mountain. Went into Jakson stinking, same clothes for three days, dirty messy hair and confusion for the civilised world. Stood in line at a restaurant with a family from Waltham. I love it when New Enlanders go out west and realise how fantastic it was to civilise. Even though obescity and crystal meth are corroding the pioneer spirit, the western view of life still enstills us. That bright dry sun, slow talking speed and elk hunting. Thats all folks