Trip Report
Cowboys and Aliens in the American Elysium - A Wyoming Tale
Tuesday February 18, 2014 5:39pm
Trip: Cowboys and Aliens In the American Elysium

Date: 7/18-30/2013



The Plume, Warbonnet, and Warrior 1, Cirque of the Towers

Going to Wyoming from Seattle involves a time change: one hour minus 100 years. Here, things are made of logs, rocks, and whatever bits of steel the pioneers left on their way to Hollywood and Eugene, crudely TIG welded by a guy named Lindsay, but you’d best call him Buck.

Everything that happens here stays here but, like the surface of Mars, it remains indelibly etched upon the land for all eternity. If a front yard display of every machine International Harvester ever made is the statement you’re looking for, hire a Wyoman as your landscaper.

Sure, modernity has forced its way in – buffalo herds of Dodge Ram 6000s now roam the sage, and Wyoming’s rangers now hail more from Polaris than Texas, but the citified visitor quickly gets the sense that blood, splinters, dirt and sh#t are still very much a part of an average day in this country.

Despite Wyoming’s inherent remoteness, the state harbors two of the world’s most popular national parks. I was 16 the last time I backpacked in Yellowstone, and 21 when I was last stormed off the Grand Teton.

Colleen and I rocketed towards Yellowstone, through fires and antelope, past a gauntlet of “50,000 Silver Dollars” billboards and a ’49 International flatbed with “Just Say No To Meth!” painted on the door, with dreams of the American Serengeti, replete with herds of bison, elk, and moose being stalked by wolves and bear – the circle of life unfolding in all its bloody and timeless glory under clear blue Rocky Mountain skies.


West Mullan fire, MT


West Mullan Fire, MT


Jump Up, Jump Up, and GET DOWN! Lima, MT

“Where can we see a moose?” I asked the ranger, while getting our backcountry permits.

“The Tetons” he replied. “We have plenty of bugs, though.”

We won a coveted spot on the shore of Shoshone Lake – which we soon found out was essentially the Okefenokee of Inner Mountain West. Wild Kingdom quickly devolved into Naked and Afraid – but the bugs proved as ornamental as they were voracious, which was good, because they were the only wildlife we saw – save some robins, one of whom I managed to accidentally kick off the trail.


"Come closer, little friend" Horsefly (Hybomitra lasiophthalma), Yellowstone NP


Firehole River, Yellowstone NP


Flame skimmer (Libellula saturata), Yellowstone NP


Lone Star Geyser, Yellowstone NP


Cleared for landing: White tail (Plathemis lydia), Yellowstone NP

Our planned three nights out became one and we headed for the Tetons with its promise of moose and squirrel. Don’t get me wrong; we enjoyed our Yellowstone experience – the playful little geothermals which will one day destroy mankind were interesting – but Yellowstone is basically identical to the mosquito infested lodgepole hell of the Oregon Cascades…plus geysers.

We left our semi but probably not all that legal camp at a newish but then recently decommissioned camp site along the Snake River between, but maybe not, Yellowstone and Teton National Parks.

The minute we crossed into Grand Teton NP a herd of elk appeared. Then another. And another. OK, we were on to something.


Six pointer, Grand Teton NP


Four pointer. Lima, MT


Mt Moran, Grand Teton NP

After obtaining our free permits at Jenny Lake, we headed up for two nights in the absolutely stunning if oft frequented Garnet Canyon. WAY better than the windy col or depressing moraine, and well worth the extra morning hike when making a run at the Grand. The following morning we got an early start for the Upper Exum on the Grand and Colleen’s first sort of technical alpine climb in perfect weather.


Garnet Canyon Camp


Packing for the Upper Exum, Garnet Canyon


Climbers on the handline approach to the Grand Teton


Starting the Upper Exum


The Upper Exum's Wall Street


Somewhere on the Upper Exum

The Upper Exum is a huge choss pile scramble punctuated with a few feet of wonderfully solid quartzite cracks and these cool little schist nipples tailor made for fondling, but what scenery! All the upper pitches have cute little names but the only one I could identify for sure was the Friction Pitch, and only because a soloist ahead of me said “I think this is the Friction Pitch”. We bypassed the famous Y Pitch via another gully/crack to avoid a pile up and found ourselves on the summit ridge.


On top of the Grand Teton

As ‘world’s your oyster’ as the ascent route is, the descent route isn’t all that obvious. Colleen’s still a bit shy about exposed downclimbing, so we opted do the couple of single rope raps to the Upper Col and continue down the lower Owen Spalding. If you find yourself dancing on a sketchy rap stance above a deep, dark, rope eating chimney, you’re in the right place. If you’re anywhere near stainless public art piece that could be used to load a grain ship, you’re not. Go up, climber’s right, and back down to gain the shitty rap anchor your punk single rope ass so richly deserves.

Once at the Upper Col, it’s simply a matter of trending to skier’s right of the obvious rock buttress to follow one of several goat trails for several thousand feet of chossy, gravelly alpine goodness so familiar to the Northwestern latte sucker.


Handline approach to the Grand/Middle Teton col

[size:14pt]The Winds![/size]

I’ve wanted to go there for decades. After Yellowstone, I checked my expectations at the door.

I shouldn’t have.


An old dog teaches a young dog new tricks on the drive to the Big Sandy TH



STRUT: Greater Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) with badass Shaka Zulu tat

When we emerged into the Cirque of the Towers I suspected I hadn’t survived the Grand after all and was wandering through the Elysium. Peeping ouzels and chortling robins greeted us to a welcoming carpet of bug free wildflowers interwoven with meandering streams and flat, environmentally responsible slabs. OK, we’d MAY have had a bit too much of the chronic at that point but JESUS, LOOK AT THE PHOTOS.


Leaving Big Sandy Lake for the Cirque of the Towers


Star cluster and asteroids


Pingora, from Jackass Pass


Pingora's S Butt - final pitch


Shark's Nose, Overhanging Tower, and Wolf's Head from Pingora


Cirque camp 'swimming' hole. Ask your doctor if freezing your balls clean off is right for you.


Mitchell Peak, Cirque of the Towers


Moonset over Warrior 2, Cirque of the Towers


Pika (Ochotona princeps), Cirque of the Towers


Pingora from camp


Climber descending Pingora


Sunrays on Overhanging Tower





The weather was fickle and strange to this Earthling – clear night skies, full cloud deck by 10 am, followed by anything goes – lenticulars, sunshine, thunderheads, full overcast, wind, no wind, a light squall now and then. It took a little getting used to, but the camera loved it.

Our schedule was an easy one. We climbed the S Butt on Pingora, as you do, followed by the Overhanging Tower – a solo scramble for me as Colleen hung at the Overhanging/Wolf’s Head col nursing some delayed altitude related issues. The Wolf’s Head was scheduled for the following day, but she still wasn’t quite right, so we opted to recon the Deep Lake Basin instead. WOW. What a playground! The Haystack! The ‘going to the mailbox’ approaches! Those acres of flat slabs! I see a pack horse laden with gear in our future. And, as it turned out, it actually rained in earnest that afternoon.


Arrowhead Lake from Jackass Pass. Beyond: they Haystack, Steeple, East Temple, and Temple Peaks


The Steeple and East Temple Peak from Deep Lake


Temple Peak. The second ascent of that pyramidal face awaits you.


The Winds are not without their difficulties. There is a lot of chossy approach nonsense, the climbs are a long way in, the range is a long drive from nowhere, the bugs can be bad (I hear), the weather is stream of consciousness.

Still, it may well be the range I’ve always dreamed of. Kind of like Idaho’s Sawtooths, only a lot bigger, and not quite as pink.

Please don’t quote me on that.


Sparkling jewelwing (Calopteryx dimidiata), Yellowstone NP


Grand Teton summit cheeze


Temple Peak, from North Lake


"Mr. Kaplan, your prescription is ready." Pinedale, WY


Must...Not...Trundle. Below the Grand/Middle Teton col



8109 Deep Lake Basin, WY 42042


If you believe this TR...
Firefighting, Montana style
Firefighting, Montana style
Credit: Tvash

  Trip Report Views: 2,978
Tvash
About the Author
Tvash is a climber from Seattle.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Feb 18, 2014 - 07:48pm PT
Totally rad TR, thank you!!
Looks like a treat trip, two of my favorite ranges!!!!!!
johnboy

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
  Feb 18, 2014 - 08:06pm PT
Great write up on some great country.

Thanks
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado & Nepal
  Feb 19, 2014 - 12:46am PT
What an enjoyable trip report (not to mention some good insights on Wyoming). Thanks !
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
  Feb 19, 2014 - 04:42am PT
hey there say, ... wow, i am really enjoying your trip reports, Tvash...

i love! wyoming!... will say the same as jan here...


*sorry, i can't see all the pics, will come back when i can, but
tetons are very special art-wise, to me, as well as seeing the climbing aspects...

thank you so much!! great trip reports...

:)
Crag Q

Trad climber
Louisville, Colorado
  Feb 19, 2014 - 08:43am PT
Awesome. Love the photos and humor.
Grippa

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Feb 19, 2014 - 09:17am PT
fantastic TR!
kaholatingtong

Trad climber
The real McCoy from the inside of my van.
  Feb 19, 2014 - 09:32am PT
TFPU
wilbeer

Mountain climber
Terence Wilson greeneck alleghenys,ny,
  Feb 19, 2014 - 09:39am PT
There is nothing like Wyoming,Thank You.
patrick compton

Trad climber
van
  Feb 19, 2014 - 10:53am PT
OK, we’d MAY have had a bit too much of the chronic at that point

no better time to wake n bake than in the backcountry!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Feb 19, 2014 - 11:12am PT
SIIIIK!
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Feb 20, 2014 - 06:48pm PT
1/4 way through the read I was thinking 'This guy has a creative eye and a knack for photographs.' Then this pearl:



Also loved the sub-baroque, 18th century kinda' feel on the sunrays on overhanging tower shot.
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Feb 20, 2014 - 07:28pm PT
Ahhhh, REEL Cold water!!!
You don't sweat after jumpin' in, that's for sure!
Great shots!
Stone Cowboy

Trad climber
Livermore, CA.
  May 16, 2016 - 03:35pm PT
Wow!!! How's the Starbux over Der in them dar rocks? or is a smokin cup a hot joe? Very Very Very Happy y'all...
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  May 16, 2016 - 03:40pm PT
how did I miss this one?
Thanks!
Timid TopRope

Social climber
the land of Pale Ale
  May 16, 2016 - 05:08pm PT
Likewise, jaybro.

You have a great eye for composition. And the report is Groovy. There, I said it, groovy.

Young Andy left his heart in Wyoming. I should have stayed a whole year.

Really cool TR.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
  May 16, 2016 - 05:19pm PT
I loved the Tetons. When I got my driver's license me and my buddy went there for the first time. Quite a drive from home. We went every summer for a few years.

Great pics. I've been to Yellowstone quite a few times, too. Once, my wife and I visited Yellowstone in winter, much later, and skied all over the place. It is amazing in winter.



kunlun_shan

Mountain climber
SF, CA
  Feb 1, 2017 - 10:34pm PT
Bumping this great Tvash TR.
ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
ne'er–do–well
  Feb 1, 2017 - 10:56pm PT
me 2
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Feb 1, 2017 - 11:20pm PT
Bitchin TR!
Branscomb

Trad climber
Lander, WY
  Feb 2, 2017 - 07:54am PT
Good insights into WYO. Kristi and I are born&raised 5th gen Californians, lived here for 27 years now (got too crowded in Eldorado County), and both of us are more than frequently stunned as to the back-looking mind set here. Phew. I like those days when they announce on the radio (in winter) not to leave town unless absolutely necessary because the roads are soooo bad, but all that crap about our wunnerful western traditions of mining and drilling and the Cowboy Up Crap is just a little much.

In my more cynical moments I think about the pioneers who came West. The ones that had the drive and spirit made it to the Coast. I think that's why CA is so progressive and such a center of intellectual progress. They had it. The ones that didn't have what it took to get all the way dropped out in places like this and proceeded to inbreed like rabbits. There's no other explanation for some of the attitudes you encounter here and the rock-headed nature of our state government.

There's a lot of good people here, but sometimes, you just can't f*#king believe the depth of ignorance around you and the pride they take in their stupidity. They don't know what they got in terms of a beautiful landscape and they just want to trash it for a few dollars more.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Feb 2, 2017 - 10:00am PT
Stellar reportage, sir! The pics ain't bad, too! Actually, any number are outstanding. In fact, I borrowed the wife's big assed iPad Pro to better appreciate them - best Pika shot I've EVAH seen!

signed,
Former Northwestern Latté Sucker

ps
The only time I climbed the Grand, in winter, we had to tie small boulders to our rope in order to rappel. We found that preferable to rapping with the ropes blowing straight up. :-)

And the only time I got decent weather in the Winds the one good day
was spent helping to bring a crispy critter down off of Pingora. :-(
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
  Feb 2, 2017 - 10:17am PT
Like brooding gargoyles perched over the story's edifice, your first three paragraphs are crafted in the manner of fine stonework and they are also funny as hell!

Then, these passages bring me back to the heart of the mountain experience. So good!
Once at the Upper Col, it’s simply a matter of trending to skier’s right of the obvious rock buttress to follow one of several goat trails for several thousand feet of chossy, gravelly alpine goodness so familiar to the Northwestern latte sucker.
Cirque camp 'swimming' hole. Ask your doctor if freezing your balls clean off is right for you.
There is a lot of chossy approach nonsense, the climbs are a long way in, the range is a long drive from nowhere, the bugs can be bad (I hear), the weather is stream of consciousness.
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
  Feb 2, 2017 - 10:07am PT
Sir, your prose are just out-freaking-standing, and the photography is pretty "this does not suck" too. Feel free to post up at just any time, any time at all. Gotta say that the Tetons are a repeating passion of mine as well. The Winds are just otherworldly.
kingtut

Social climber
carmel, ca
  Feb 2, 2017 - 10:28am PT
If you like the woods, there is a lot of them in Wyoming.

These are the real woods, not the suburban parks we have in CA.

The kind that have at least 4 things that will kill you.

1. Bison (smash puny human)

2. Elk/Moose in rut wanna fight anything

3. Grizz (scooby snacks)

4. Cute Doggies (maybe not documented recently, but I'm betting a starving pack would bout you).

Climbing is good too. Problem is, they never ask you how many years you have lived in Wyoming, they ask you how many Winters. They get only 72 days, mas or menos, frost free in Jackson.

I was just a tenderfoot visitor. Recommended.

Thanks for the TR.
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Feb 2, 2017 - 08:08pm PT
Perhaps the most beautiful trip report ever on ST.

Beautiful photos,

Beautiful Mountains, flora, & fauna.

Beautiful prose.

Thank you!

And I'll be sure not to quote you again on this:

The Winds are not without their difficulties. There is a lot of chossy approach nonsense, the climbs are a long way in, the range is a long drive from nowhere, the bugs can be bad (I hear), the weather is stream of consciousness.

Still, it may well be the range I’ve always dreamed of. Kind of like Idaho’s Sawtooths, only a lot bigger, and not quite as pink.

Please don’t quote me on that.
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
  Feb 3, 2017 - 07:45am PT
Me Like!!!

You have the ability to help us experience both the micro and the macro parts of your trip.

I especially love that pic of the 6-pointer with the soft furry rack, what a specimen!

ground_up

Trad climber
mt. hood /baja
  Feb 3, 2017 - 07:56am PT
Wow ! I missed this one also. Worthy of a bump.
lars johansen

Trad climber
West Marin, CA
  Feb 3, 2017 - 08:05am PT
Beautiful report, thanks-lars
Radish

Trad climber
SeKi, California
  Feb 3, 2017 - 11:49am PT
Hey now that was real Nice! I've always wondered about that area. You didn't mention Grizzly?? Thanks for a really inspiring view of it all. Very cool bug shots too! And Climbing~!
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