Tuesday, July 31, 2012

When climbing the Grand Teton in a day isn't enough...

My trusty Ultraspire Omega

In preparation for UTMB I have been trying to get over the the Tetons and run as much as possible.  Incredibly I have been able to get over 4 of the last 5 weekends, and only missed one because of my trip to the Philippines.  Of the runs I've done in the Tetons in the last month this last weekend takes the cake on so many levels.

I have to backtrack 8 or so years to a run that Ty Draney did around Mt. Rainer with Nate McDowell.  At some point during that run Nate told Ty that if they really wanted to do it right they should climb the mountain and then run around it; the seed was planted that day. Fast forward to a week ago when I called Ty to tell him I had the weekend and wanted to spend a few days going big in the Tetons.  Ty was in for one of the days I would be up there and suggested we climb the Grand and then run the Circumnavigation Loop.  The seed was transferred. 

In between seeing patients on Wednesday afternoon I see that I got a voicemail from a Montana phone number.  Turns out it is Mike Foote and on his drive back from HardRock he is going to be in the Tetons for a few days, the exact same days I had planned on being there... I called Mike and before he knew it I dropped Ty's idea of running the Grand and then circumnavigating it, he started to respond and I interrupted, telling him to let it digest for a few minutes while we made plans for what we would run on Friday.  The seed was transferred again. After discussing Friday's plan I asked what he thought about Saturday, the seed was already growing and he opted in.  

March 4th Marching Band rocking Music on Main in Victor Thursday night,

I met up with Mike early Friday morning in the thriving metropolis of Wilson, WY.  We parked the cars behind the gas station and hitched a ride to the Phillips Pass TH halfway up Teton Pass.  For the next 6.5 hours we made our way over ridges and down canyons to Phelps Lake, before turning south and finishing the run at Teton Village.  We raided the Moose Mercantile for chocolate milk and ice cream, before somehow Mike managed to get us a ride back to Wilson on his first attempt! We spent the rest of the afternoon laying low at the Teton County Library and then crushing copious amounts of pizza when Ty got to town.  

North Face Athlete Mike Foote Never Stops Exploring

As evening settled in we made our way out to Lupine Meadows to catch a little shut eye before our planned start at first light.  Just before the sun came up we were making final preparations and we were joined by local hardman Chris Kroger.  Chris is a teammate on the US Skimo team and a solid guy to have around in the mountains. With just enough light to see the trail our team of four made good time up the trail.  We passed a couple of parties on the way up to the upper saddle but had no idea the log jam we would run into as the climbing got more technical.  As we topped out on the upper saddle a small circus began to unfold.
Views of the sunrise are the prize for starting early

Running up Garnet Canyon Towards the Grand

 There was a party of five just starting up the double chimney followed by  a party of ten that was just fixing lines across the crawl and the belly roll.  Ty hadn't climbed with this type of exposure and I had promised his wife to bring him home so we planned on roping the technical sections.  We convinced the party of ten to just let us tag onto their line and follow them since they were fixing ropes.  

We made it across the Belly Roll and then onto the ledge were we waiting an hour for any forward progress.  Planning on moving fast we were getting really cold and then word came from the Double Chimney that a party of 6 was trying to descend back into the crowd.  We made the decision that we could bail here simply because it was getting dangerously cold for us and the masses were making things far too complicated.  We backtracked to the upper saddle and then quickly began our descent. We were able to get down in good time without trashing ourselves.  Once we got below the Valley trail junction Mike and I joked about passing people on the way down and how we would have to explain what we were doing when we passed them again on the way up after hitting the cars and refueling.  

The crew coming off the Upper Saddle

At 6:17:00 into out journey we were back at the cars dropping climbing gear and trading it for calories that we would need for running the Circumnavigation.  Chris said goodbye and 10 minutes later we were heading back up the trail to run the loop clockwise.  Ironically it got quite warm as we worked across the valley trail and I convinced Mike and Ty to stop and take a swim in Taggart Lake.  We moved well past Phelps lake and up Death Canyon.  As we started to climb out of Death Canyon towards Albright Peak the wheels started to come off.  Ty had a really hard time with the heat, and I had a severe loss of motivation.  We walked a bit and both started to come around.  

Ty showing some stoke

Mike Foote- Still Exploring

I was very stoked to see this view of the Grand after being high on it earlier in the day

Ty Charging through the wildflowers, sure a lot of nature out there

Mike putting the hurt on near the top of Hurricane Pass

As we crested Static Pass all of us were boosted by the amazing views the the Teton High Country has to offer.  We the mood lightened, cameras came out, Ty plugged into his iPod so he could serenade us with his karaoke skills and we motored across the Death Canyon Shelf, over Buck Pass and into Alaska Basin (one of my favorite places on the planet). A slight route misjudgment led us up a climbers trail towards Avalanche Canyon that cost us about 20 minutes of extra time on feet, but was quickly resolved and we moved up towards Hurricane Pass.  The last ascent up Hurricane was a solid push for Mike and I as we buried each other, or at least he buried me! We snapped a few more pics before starting the long descent down Cascade Canyon towards Jenny Lake.
Top of Hurricane Pass

 Overall the descent went well, although we were all pretty ready to be done.  Ty put the hammer down for a while as he started to smell the barn and he was jamming out the Eminem and the Offspring which always boosts the pace a little! 

This tree encouraged me to toughen up!

All of us dug in a little deeper once we hit the lake to make the final 3 mile push to the car.  We rounded the corner on to the Moose Ponds loop and were greeted by a large Bull Moose happily munching a way on the alders.  It reminded us to keep a sharp lookout for the final stretch to the car. 14:57:07 after leaving the car we had finished our Up and Around loop of the Grand Teton.  After having a bystander take a finish pic, I got nauseous, Ty puked and Mike ate a bag of chips, all par for the course. After putting ourselves back together we headed to the stream to soak and wash off before heading into Jackson to celebrate an amazing day in the mountains. 

Very happy to be back at the sign after a super day.

Stats for the Day:  48(ish) miles, 15,328' ascent. 6:17:18 Grand Car to Car (including 1:18:00 down time at Upper Saddle) 12:00 aid station break between "halves", 8:27:49 for the 33.7 mile Circumnavigation, total time 14:57:07.

My Gear:

Shorts: Patagonia Strider 3 1/2'

Shirt: Patagonia Gamut T

Socks: Patagonia Merino Ultralight

Pack: Ultraspire Omega

In the Pack: Patagonia Houdini, Black Diamond Icon (Roch Special), Black Diamond gloves, Patagonia Cap beanie. 


3 tabs First Endurance Pre-race Extended Release (before starting)

3 tabs First Endurance Optygen (before starting)

1 PB/Nutella/Jam wrap for breakfast

4 tabs First Endurance Pre Race (1 after 5 hours and then 1 every 2 hours)

3 flasks First Endurance LS

3 Nutella, PB and Jam wraps on whole wheat tortillas

2 16 oz servings First Endurance Ultragen

1 12 oz coke

1 Cliff Z-Bar (stolen from my girls snack stash)

280 oz of water throughout the day. (refilled the hydration bladder 4 times!) 


  1. Psychopaths, all of you!

    Hmmm, fixed lines low on the OS on the GT? Sounds like the tool bag from I.F. is back doing his little junk show illegal guiding non-sense. It's a problem every year up there. How disappointing for you guys to hit that mess.

    Rule number one on the OS when moving fast... never wait for the knuckleheads. Just be polite and play through "...excuse me....pardon me... nice day, isn't it?, pardon me...", etc.

    You remember, Luke, as we flew down the OS last summer? People will just stare slack jawed. Good times.

  2. That's just awesome! Major bummer on the numbskulls on the OS though. I read that thinking "That's bizarre" and then saw Brian's comment and understand. Morons.

    Good luck on the Teton UTMB training!