Friday, March 12, 2010
Marking Teton History
MARKING HISTORY-FIRST TURNS
I was lucky enough to become the first female to snowboard the Grand Teton.
We had been watching the weather for days, wind looked good and no new storm cycles coming our way...1st attempt was on Tuesday. I was supposed to work, and on Monday night Max and I saw a window of opportunity in the forecast and decided to make it happen. I called my boss and said, "look, there's something I need to do..."! He said don't worry about work...and get 'er done! Tuesday morning we woke up at 2am and starting skinning up Garnet Canyon just after 3am. The sun started to rise while we were in the meadow and deep down we knew we were way behind schedule. With all the gear on our backs we headed up the Teepe Couloir and stopped for a rest. The day had started and we weren't sure about the haze turning to cloud cover or the heat of the day creating dangerous snow conditions. This was the turn back moment. Once beyond the Teepe, there is no turning back. We chose to bail after 7 hours in, and maybe 4 hours from the summit! But we left our ropes and gear under some rocks at the top of the Teepe to make our lives easier on the next attempt. Once the decision was made to abort, the day became leisure. We skied the Teepe and stopped before the Meadows to take a nap on the Jackson Hole Climbers Guide summer station (which was just a tarped platform). Once we woke up and the snow was softer we rode down back to the car somewhat disappointed.
I had the next two days off, and after religiously looking at web cams and weather stations online we chose Thursday for the next attempt. Wednesday became the day of rest, we tried to sleep as much as we could and eat as much as we could. This time we thought of giving ourselves a head start and wake up even earlier. An addition to our crew was added, it was Nick, Max and myself. We woke up at 1am and in the zone were skinning by 1:50am. I was prepared for the cold skin up to the Meadows and made it as efficient as possible this time, there was no wasting of energy or time today. We got to the Meadows and it was still dark. Dropped our skins off, laced up our crampons and started booting up towards the Teepee. We hit sunrise at the top of the Teepee and we were feeling good. Except for poor Nick, at the no turn back moment, Nick had become nauseous and decided to bail and let Max and I go.
Max and I left as much unnecessary gear at that spot and started the ascent. Roping up with ice axes in hand, Max lead the way to the Stettner Couloir. Rounding the corner with Nick watching us go, I knew this was going to be the day I "send" the Grand. I had prepared myself in the past months, my determination washed away all fear and it was merely an execution of moves. Once in the Stettner I experienced my first ice climbing. Testing out my ability to trust an ice ax I moved over the ice bulge. Cleaning the gear and simultaneously climbing we reached the Chevy Couloir. It got a bit cruxy so I belayed Max as he headed up. While in the shade, and my sweat drying I became borderline hypothermia watching Max move over the biggest crux of ice. Once he anchored and it was time for me to climb, I moved as fast as I could, not knowing if we were running out of time and to just keep warm. Quickly we moved from one anchor to the next until we reached the last set, where we would be rappelling for the descent. we left one rope and some gear, ate and drank as much as we could and began the final approach to the summit in the Ford Couloir. This was just a symo climb on rope through knee deep, crusty/sugar snow. Safe for the most part but as always high exposure with serious consequence. I became so exhausted that I found myself grunting through every throw of my ax into the snow and every step with my crampons. But alas, finally we summit and it seemed as if we could see the world. I was the first to drop in, marking history of the first female to snowboard the Grand. At no point was I scared through all the climbs, but at that moment, when all I had to do was what I do best-snowboard-I was terrified. Because at that moment I knew that I would either become a statistic or mark history!! I dropped in gripping my ax in my right hand. Each turn was scarier than the next but I made it to the first rappel station and clipped in waiting for Max. Ok, so far so good, I successfully snowboarded, now the exit! 5 rappels later and some down climbing we reached the top of the Teepe Couloir. SAFE! At that moment I knew it was done. We weren't out yet, but I knew I was capable of getting back to my car alive!
Retrieving all our gear along the way we finally made it back to the car just before sunset, tired, hungry, cranky and all my toes and fingertips frostbit...But I was alive and I had just SNOWBOARDED THE GRAND TETON!
Now, I'm trying to retire from snowboarding and go back to skiing!! just kidding!