Memorial Day Teton Trip Report: Day Two – Grand Teton

This is the second part of a three part trip report, for day one see “Memorial Day Teton Trip Report: Day One”. For tales of woe and some really fun skiing read on…

Who knows if it was a “good idea” or “bad idea” to camp where we did. It certainly made the camping much more pleasant, but we paid for it the next morning (and the morning after). We started booting up the headwall towards the moraine by about 4:00 AM (after snoozing our alarm for a couple hours). The snow was nice and firm and we made pretty decent time heading up directly towards the bottom of the Teepee Glacier. As we worked our way the 3000 feet up the Teepee from the meadows and headed towards the Glencoe Col the colors sharpened from the subtle peaceful hues of early morning in paradise to the bright shades of blue and white that characterize the alpine in my mind.

Below the Teepee Glacier Teton Sunrise Middle Teton

Booting up the Teepee Glacier Ben on the Teepee Glacier Booting up the Teepee Glacier

In hindsight, the two hours of alarm clock snoozing, and extra hour and a half of extra hiking up from the meadows had already done us in. But at this point, we didn’t know that. We crested Glencoe Col around 7:30, traversed over towards the bottom of the Stettner Couloir, and threw on our crampons and harnesses. By 8:30 we were headed up the beginning of the technical stretch of the route. According to the plan we would head a few hundred vertical feet up the Stettner Couloir. Then we’d cut left into the Chevy Couloir where the real ice climbing would begin. We’d climb a few pitches of mixed ice before the Chevy spat us out into the Ford Couloir where a 1000 foot snow climb would bring us the rest of the way to the summit.

The red line indicates the standard route up the Ford Stettner on the Grand Teton

In reality we would climb two pitches up the Stettner under siege from falling ice that was ever increasing in size, decide it wasn’t in the cards today, and bail. The week prior the Tetons had received a blanket of nice wet spring snow that stuck to everything. Over the previous 5 days it had melted and refrozen several times, but had never gotten warm enough to fully shed it’s blanket. On this day, the combination of rapidly warming temperatures and gusty winds were doing everything in their power to rid the mountain of this snow and ice. When we first got into the Stettner we were seeing pea to marble sized pieces of ice come raining through whenever there was a gust of wind, fairly harmless, and moderately annoying. The ice balls would ricochet through the tight couloir in every direction, giving you no way to defend yourself from the onslaught. As we got to the top of the first pitch the ice balls were consistently between the size of a marble and a golf ball, painful, not too dangerous, but increasingly annoying. As Ben was ascending the second pitch our ratio of “ducking for cover” to “actual climbing” approached 10 to 1. With Ben at the top of the second pitch ready to belay me up the ice chunks were approaching the size of baseballs. Very painful and having the potential to be very dangerous. Finally, after about 20 minutes of climbing and an hour of hiding from the ice we decided that this situation wasn’t going to get better and we bailed.

Ben Traversing from the Glencoe Col George Climbing the First Pitch in the Stettner Couloir The First Pitch in the Stettner Couloir

The Second Pitch in the Stettner Couloir George Rappeling in the Stettner Couloir Lower Stettner Couloir

To add insult to injury, as we were setting up the rappel I was able to successfully get an ice tool (with camera attached for “safe keeping”) tangled in the rope, pull out of the snow, and tumble 750 vert down to the bottom of the Stettner Couloir, somehow miraculously stopping about 50 feet above a 1500 foot cliff. After begrudgingly down climbing to retrieve it and then ascending back up to where we had gained the Stettner, we were on our way down.

The first pitch of skiing down to the Glencoe Col had softened up perfectly, which is fortunate, because with 1500 feet of exposure it isn’t somewhere you want to feel unsure skiing.


From the col we had a pretty much direct 3000 foot descent back towards our camp in the meadows. The snow varied from perfect corn, to week old wet slide debris on the upper Teepee, and back to perfect corn below. We ripped some high speed turns through paradise and in 15 minutes found ourselves back at camp.

Ben on the Upper Teepee Ben on the Upper Teepee

Ben Looking Down the Upper Teepee George Heading Towards Camp Ben Laying it out on the way Back to Camp

We quickly made ourselves a generous helping of mac and cheese, only to realize we lacked anything resembling utensils…

Climbing Nuts Work Just as Well as Spoons... Fortunately climbing nuts can double as spoons when you’re hungry and out of options. Wiped out from a long morning we laid down around 2 to take a “quick nap” and then maybe go for a short tour later in the afternoon. We woke up at 7 pm… No less tired after 5 hours of sleep we quickly organized our stuff, ate another quick meal and passed back out by 9 pm. Ready to get after the Middle Teton in the morning.

Day Three brought our attention to the Middle Teton via the East Face/Glacier Route check out part three of this trip report for the details: “Memorial Day Teton Trip Report: Day Three”.

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