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Climbing Grand Teton - Mountain School, Day 2

This is the second entry of four chronicling a recent tip to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming to climb Grand Teton, the highest peak in the Teton Range, at 13,770-feet. My climbing partners were Chaz Wendling and Alison Calderara. We hired Exum Mountain Guides to train us and take us on the climb. They require that their clients pass 2 days of Mountain School before being guided on the "Grand". Our plan was to do the 2 days of Mountain School, take a rest day, then climb the next 2 days.

Also, be sure to check out lots of photos from the climb.

July 19:

Second day of Mountain School with Exum guides. Today our guide was Amy Bullard - a super-experienced guide who has extensive experience in the Himalaya as well as ice climbing. She also works for the Khumbu Mountain School, the school Conrad Anker started in Nepal to teach Sherpa guiding skills. During her successful attempt on Everest, she was climbing with Ed Viesters and David Breshears, among others. Amy was extremely inspirational with nothing but positive things to say. She wanted us to love the mountains and climbing as much as she did and was sincere in everything she said and did.

We started out in a bouldering area near Hidden Falls. Amy went over various climbing techniques such as edging, smearing, mantles, chimneys, layback, and underclings, and downclimbing.

We then moved quickly to the cliffs area and roped up and went over the various knots and a review of the rope management techniques that we learned the previous day. We then roped up and proceeded up the boulder field to the base of the cliffs to start the first multi-pitch climb of the day. The first two pitches didn't involve much climbing - they were geared towards getting our belaying and rope management skills moving efficiently. The third and forth pitches involved some pretty easy climbing - probably around 5.4-5.5 stuff. We then worked on some more downclimbing while being belayed - facing both forwards and backwards. By the time we were finished, it was lunchtime.

After lunch, Amy had us do some "brain gym" stuff - crossing our mid-lines to get us focused on the next multi-pitch climb. This was by far the most challenging climbing of the two days - we were told it was harder than anything we'd come up against on the Grand. It was probably 5.7-5.8 climbing - Amy went ahead and passed the belay along as she went, so it was up to us make the transitions and belay each other all the way up. Chaz and I were always the last two on the rope - while it involved a lot of waiting around, it was a nice confidence boost because it seemed to indicate that Amy didn't feel that she had to keep that close of an eye on us.

Once we topped out, we sat down for a break while Amy and Mike (another Exum guide with some other clients) talked about what to bring up the Grand as well as what to expect during the 2 days. They then set up the final rappel - a 120-foot overhanging rappel where we were hanging in space for about 70-feet. As an additional safety measure, Amy had us all on a separate belay rope - in case we screwed up the rappel, she could lower us down safely. Chaz asked to go first, since he had the helmetcam going and he wanted to video the rest of us during the rappel. I went second - it was fantastic. We all had to perform the rappel twice, so the second time, I went before Chaz so I could video him coming down. Both Chaz and I videoed Alison's second rappel.

Rather than ending the day with a boat ride back across the lake to Exum's office, Amy talked us into hiking back - about 2 miles around the lake. Instead of a hike - it was a sprint. Amy is unstoppable - she set a brutal pace, but we all managed to keep up. The whole time she was answering our questions and getting us totally pumped up for our climb. She seemed to especially want to see Alison summit - she had a trip up the Grand scheduled for the next day and she was going to see if she could work things out so that she could stay at the hut and extra day and climb with Alison to the summit. Alison was pretty psyched about that possibility.

For dinner we went to Leek's Marina for pizza. We actually managed to get back to the cabin at a reasonable hour instead of our usual past-dark arrival, which is Wyoming in July means after 9:30pm.

Submitted by michael on Thu, 07/31/2008 - 10:22am
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