Celebration of Life 2009


Brian and I remember Big Jeff in the best way we know

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

Big Jeff died of cancer at 43. We honor him and his wishes with our annual Celebration of Life. Here's an explanation of what that means.

Past years

  • 2000 St. Helens and Adams
  • 2002 "Peak Week", 8 peaks
  • 2003 Elephant's Perch
  • 2005 Mt. Hood
  • 2006 Adams- St. Helens traverse
  • 2007 Warbonnet Peak
  • 2008 Around Mt. St. Helens


So for 2009, Brian flew into Boise and after a quick repack at the house, we drove up to the East Fork of the Wood River. The little Suby didn't like the last bit of road, so we parked at the sign for PK Pass. We left the car at about 1pm, and it only took 10 minutes of walking to reach the road's end.


East Fork trail

It took about an hour and a half to reach this gorgeous meadow. That's our summit, Big Basin Peak, in the background. The ridge to the left is the south ridge. From the trip reports I had read from Big Dan and Super Dave, we were looking for the little notch just above the big one.

Meadow below Big Basin Peak

The wall under the notch is pretty steep, but Dave and Dan had built this great ledge that allows you to just walk up onto the ridge.

Ledge leading to notch

Once on the ridge, the view down into Big Basin is really great. But the view up the route is much more eye-catching.

Looking up the ridge

They rate this route Class 3+, and I would agree. We found the rock on the ridge crest, like here, to be much more solid and pleasing to the touch. But with some exposure.

The gullies to the west were more protected, but looser. We used the gullies on the descent.

V slot

Although Brian is a clam (that is, he lives at sea level) we made the summit at 4pm. Gorgeous day, if perhaps a bit warm for our taste. This is September?

That's Old Hyndman and Hyndman in the background.

Then we drove back into town for dinner with my daughter.

Summit view

The next morning, we got a leisurely start from Hailey and drove to the Tetons. This is the Grand Teton from the road to the west of Victor. Yowzah!

Our objective was to climb the Upper Exum ridge, somewhere near the right skyline.

Grand Teton west side

But first, a story:

Many years ago I put a trip together to attempt the Grand. When things finally fell in place, I discovered that my family (of which I was one of the children) was taking a vacation to Washington. So my "friends" went without me!

To make matters worse, the rotten guys summitted! The archived summit registers are on line these days, and I found the signatures of Tom, Jerry, and Walt (right).

So back to our story: 37 years later, I finally got to give it a go myself.

Middle Teton

We drove straight to the Climbing Ranger's hut and registered for a campsite on the mountain. Then off to the Lupine Meadows trailhead for some gear sorting and a quick change of clothes. We were on our feet right at 3pm, heading for Garnet Canyon.

This is looking up Garnet at the Middle Teton. There are campsites in the trees on the left, the "Platforms."

Note the trail in the middle of the talus.

Middle Teton
Just above there, the talus in the trail gets bigger. Garnet Canyon

This is the second campsite, the "Meadows."

The Meadows

We didn't take pictures of the third campsite, the "Caves." But here we are at our registered campsite, the "Moraine" at about 10,800'. It was 6pm.

That's the Lower Saddle in the background. The route climbs the talus cone on the right, then up the cliff band by hauling on a hand line.

But first, we got a good night's sleep.

Moraine camp

The next morning, we got up at 5:40 and were on our feet at 6:30, headlamps on.

When we arrived at the cliff band, it was light enough to see.

Just above the cliff band, you arrive at the Lower Saddle. The sun was coming up and it looked like a good day. The haze in the valley, now 5000' below us, is smoke from a controlled burn. Sunrise
From the Lower Saddle, you hike up Class 2 terrain to the black dike. From there, you angle left below the "Needle", a pyramid-shaped rock splitting the two main gullies.
Looking up at the summit

Above the Needle, you climb up and then right across a gully on Class 4 terrain (pictured here).

After moving well to climber's right, you cut back behind a big boulder, crawling through a cave (you'll see a picture later). The cave is called the Eye of the Needle.

Brian was behind me and missed the eye, instead doing a gnarly traverse above the boulder.

Class 4 traverse

From above the Eye, you continue up the same gully a bit more through a notch in the ridge, and across the Wall Street gully to Wall Street. The picture is Wall Street. We climbed about half way up, where we got in line behind two other groups. This is where you put on the gear (for us: rock shoes, harness, a small bit of protection hardware, and rope), and due to the queue, we had about an hour to do so.

I found the dreaded "step-around" of Wall Street to be pretty easy and not that big of a deal.

Wall Street

After Wall Street, you climb the Golden Staircase.

This lucky young lady is Jen. We found out later that she received a wedding proposal on the summit.

Golden Staircase

Then you scramble a bit to get to the Wind Tunnel.

At this point, we had passed the second group and were following the first one. Between these two guys, they had more than a handful of successful summits on this route.

We mistakenly thought they knew where they were going. After the Wind Tunnel things didn't seem quite right, but we followed them anyway.

Wind Tunnel

Although we were now off route, we were making good progress and having fun.

Note: In retrospect, I think the real route is around the corner, past Brian, more or less on the nose of the ridge.

That little peak down there just behind Brian is the Middle Teton. It is 12,804' tall.

We were climbing unroped and Brian yelled back,
"Hey John, it's getting pretty flat up here."
Near the top
And we were on the summit at 11:30am. T-shirt weather. We shared the summit with the two guys we had been following and another group of two: a guide and his client who had completed the full Exum ridge. Grand Teton summit
Then it was time to man up. This is the view down the Owen Spalding on what some call "The Dark Side." In addition to the obvious snow, we found patches of verglass, which isn't so obvious until you try to stand on it or hold onto it. Owen Spalding
After down-climbing the Class-4 Sergeant's Chimney (which some folks rappel), we got to the lower rappel station. We were anticipating a tricky rappel with our 60meter rope (it's about 59.5 meters to the ground assuming you hit it just right, otherwise it's a bunch further). But our buddies felt guilty for slowing us down on the climb, so they offered to let us rappel their longer ropes. Hooray for good manners!
Here I am after finishing the free-hanging part, where your feet can't touch the wall.

After the rappel, you think it's over. But there is a lot of scrambling yet to do to reach the Lower Saddle, some of it Class 4. We somehow got off route and ended up going through the Eye of the Needle backwards on the way down.

See? I told you you'd get to see a picture of it!

Eye of the Needle

After a long hike back to camp, we made a pot of coffee, packed up all of our gear, and started back down to the car. On a Friday evening with a good weather report, there were a ton of folks heading up. We had hit it just right with perfect weather and no crowds; once again someone was watching over Brian and I during the Celebration.

Then we had a wonderful dinner at Dornan's, where we ran into Mike, a friend from Corvallis from the early 80's.

We also ran into Jen and Dave, where they told us about their previously-mentioned engagement.



After a night at the Gros Ventre campground just outside the park, we went back in and rode the boat across Jenny Lake. We were going rock climbing on the Guide's Wall, and were loaded with all the gear. But after a stiff hike up the side of the canyon, as we were putting all the gear on at the base of the climb, Brian took one last look at the guide book and realize we needed two ropes for the four rappels-- but we had only brought one.

So instead, we did a long day hike up Cascade Canyon. It was sort of pretty.

Scenery on the hike
When you visit Grand Teton National Park, you have to sign a waiver agreeing to take at least one picture of a moose. For some reason, I couldn't get Brian to walk over and make the big guy stand up. And it was only about 50 feet. I mean, c'mon. Moose

So after our hike, we decided to break up the long drive home by climbing something in eastern Idaho. For our objective, we --almost randomly-- chose Scott Mountain, just because I'd never been to the Beaverheads and was looking forward to the view of Montana.

We had no map, but we had the Lopez book, Idaho: A Climbing Guide. So no problem. After finally figuring out the access and driving all the way to the end of the road in Scott Canyon, that must be Scott Mountain, right?

Scott Canyon
Working under that assumption, the guide book instructions weren't making a lot of sense. So from high on a ridge, we rejected the easy-looking peak off to our right and instead chose this cool-looking formation. We couldn't see a route that pierced the cliffs, but we were convinced that if we went out across the face we'd find one. Talus

So we started off across these upward-sloping ramps.

And across. And across.


At times there were nice, wide ramps. At other times, not so much. We just kept on following around one corner after another, hoping with each turn that we would find the hidden key to the summit.

Finally, we went around a corner that dead-ended in a huge drop with no exit. Time to turn around. We had made it to about 10,800'.

We skidded and slid back down the ledges, always aware that there was a major void just beyond.... Descent

The other concern was that of retracing our steps. We agreed that this face was a bit of a puzzle, and that a second route across here was unlikely. So with care, we tried to remember which ledges we had used. Eenie. Meenie. Miney. Moe.

We have to traverse all the way out past the right side of the picture, on the second ramp from the bottom. Here I am, going down but still looking up hopefully.


This picture shows approximately where we had gone.

When we got home, I checked the maps and found that sure enough, we were NOT on Scott Mountain. Thanks to Dan's trip report on IdahoSummits, I finally figured out that we were on Huh's Horn and that the previously mentioned "easier peak" was the correct peak. No wonder the guide book was so hard to follow!


Mr. Natural Home | 2009 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski