Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Grand Teton - The Next Generation

On August 11, 1898 William Owen, Franklin Spalding, John Shive, and Frank Peterson had the first confirmed successful summit of any of the Tetons’ major peaks when they climbed the Grand Teton and established the famed “Owen-Spalding” route (what about Shive and Peterson?  They were there too!).    On August 11, 2013  - 115 years later, to the day – the world-famous climbing brothers Tom and Paul Diegel – fresh off their recent successful ascents of ladders to pick apricots and various staircases at their respective homes, honored this foursome’s feat by doing the same! 

And truth be told, today’s outing had a bit more meaning.  Paul C Diegel, our dad, climbed the Grand sometime before he met our mom, and they met in 1950.  And as we were growing up this photo:
 of our dad, looking oh-so-badass high atop the Grand Teton, graced the walls of our humble home in Portland.  I think it’s probably safe to say that this photo had a singularly significant influence in Paul Jr and I being intrigued by the concept of a life spent bopping around the mountains (and, as it turns out, our dad’s climbing career ended some years later after a harrowing day on the adjacent Mt Owen when a lightning storm-turned-snowstorm rattled them so badly that our dad got home and declared mountaineering an asnine activity and that he was absolutely done with it!).    But for a variety of reasons, the summit of the Grand remained elusive to next generation of the Diegels;  I made an attempt in nineteen hundred and ninety two, and though we were tantilizingly close to the summit we – wisely, at that time – bailed due to moving too slowly.  And despite that fact that we now live only 4 ½ hours away – vs the 800 miles that we and our dad had to travel from Oregon to get to the Tetons - we never really put it together to come up to match our dad’s feat. 

And even at that, were almost denied this time:  on our drive up to Jackson Paul’s knee went from a little achy from thumping up Mill Creek on his bike the day before to quite painful, and a planned run up Paintbrush Canyon turned into a short walk as he hobbled back home.  We waited another day to see if it would improve, and since I had read somewhere that climbing Teewinot:

was good training for the Grand I thought I’d go ahead and get my “training” done the day before our planned Grand ascent by charging up that (super good scramble; anywhere else and it would be a classic; as it is, it’s “average” relative to its location).

The most common way that the Grand is climbed is to hike up Garnet Canyon with big backpack full of climbing gear, food, and camping stuff to set up a “base camp” on day one (or pay Exum Mountain Guides a lot of money to get guided and stay in their huts at the 11,000 foot Lower Saddle) summit the next morning, descend, break camp, and head down in the afternoon.  However, being somewhat averse to slow plodding and sore shoulders from heavy packs, we felt that an early start, light packs with minimal climbing gear, and a good marching pace from the valley floor should put us on top and back down in a pretty reasonable day.  Paul’s knee was feeling a little better – at least, going uphill; we’ll worry about the down later!  - so we gave it a go. 
Hiking up Garnett Canyon towards the lower saddle

"Really?  soloing up that left horizon?  really?"
However, despite the intimidating view from the lower saddle, and like all things that require a long wait, the actual climb of the Grand was a bit anticlimatic; although the GT and the adjacent peaks have a ton of amazing lines to climb, we did the OS route which is notably the easiest, and it turned out to simply be another pleasant day of romping in the mountains. A nice longish hike with a little bit of scrambling:

 and about 2 minutes of pretty airy traversing, with of course sublime views in every direction.

some of the terrain that Jason, Jared, and I ran across a few weeks ago

the backside of Teewinot and the easy part of the Cathedral Traverse from there to the top of the Grand
 We decided to not bring much climbing gear besides a harness (to poach a line to rappel down) because most of the beta we got from folks that the route was very soloable, and so it was.    Not surprisingly, a mid-August weekend with a favorable weather forecast meant that we would be sharing our wilderness experience with plenty of other people, but it wasn’t too bad and as always we bumped into a few friends:   Black Diamond CEO Peter Metcalf with BD’s QC manager Kolin Powick were there on a successful mission to finally get Peter’s son on top of the peak, and the venerable Jack Tackle was also up high, where he thrives best. 

The Tetons are amazing, and our hats are off to the 1898 ascenteers for being the first to realize the potential that those incredible mountains represent.  And the brothers Diegel are pleased to finally fulfill our destiny – ala Luke Skywalker – by summiting more than 60 years after our dad did. 
Here’s to ya, pop; thanks for the inspiration. 

A few more pics:
Nowhere is safe from I-phone diddling.....

Even the most badass of climbers do it, apparently...

Or yapping on said phone....
ah, Dad would be so.....uh.....proud!? of his cool sons.....

According to Ash:  "There's always a bear on the lower switchbacks!"
I read somewhere that climbing the Grand was a good warmup for canoeing on Jenny Lake; glad we followed protocol!

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