Check Out Those Tetons!

By October 7, 2019 October 20th, 2019 Campsites, Excursions

We slipped past Jackson on the shoulder of summer, with only the high crags  of the Tetons holding the new snow of the coming season. Following a dropped pin recommended by a friend, our route took us up a rutted road to the top of a mesa at the base of Whisper Mountain, and on Nat’l Forest land.  We knew weather was coming, but with a million dollar view out the back door and the promise of paying nothing for it, we pried a campsite out of high heaven and bedded down for the upcoming storm.

Morning’s first light on the mesa showed a horizon zippered by the staggering uplift of The Grand. At 13,770′ it stands in the middle of lesser mountain monsters.

We watched the skies turn ashen as the range piled snowclouds behind it.  The end of our sunshiny days were near.

I couldn’t get enough of the views off the mesa.  Every step out, every glance up, I was struck with the loft and intimacy of these massive peaks, wondering at the awesome forces that birthed them.

A steady snow began falling the during the night, and by mid-morning, only the tips of the mountains popped in and out of squalls that steadily broke on the mesa.

Not to let the day get away in spite of the weather report, I started out on a solo trip into the park and up to Ampitheater Lake, an alpine cirque glacier at 9800′.  With the temp plummeting and the snowline at 9k’, I set off on the trail.

A few miles up I was startled by an antlered buck showing ass as I tiptoed by.  He pretended not to notice and dwelled on whatever’s good to eat at the bottom of bushes.

The trail narrowed and got confused once I crossed the snowline.  Occasional breaks in the cloud cover felt like a hot lamp on my skin, and by 3 hours up I was practically in my shirtsleeves.

The first break in the 3000′ climb up came at 9600′, with little trail to be seen.  I knew the general direction, though, so I set off up the narrow valley knowing the vaunted lake was further up an increasingly cold and difficult path.

Ampitheater’s black waters under a heavy snow, with Point Disappointment just beyond.  I’d passed up some college boys earlier that said we shared the same goal, but they had all turned at the disappearance of the trail.  There is something magical and haunting about being on a mountainside with only your prints in the snow pack.

The sun seemed a pale dot with no more heat than a flashlight’s beam, as the evening settled in at altitude, and the hot ramen I just wolfed down juiced me up for the quick-stepping return leg.

Just as I turned for home the sky broke and turned blue.  I turned my face towards the glow, and had no more than snapped this pic before the clouds collapsed on the sun, and forced me to spend the 5 mile downhike in the increasing gloom.

A final view back once I rejoined the lupine meadows showed heights that soared far above where my trail had ended.  A snappy breeze and 20 degree temps sent me shooting the 20 miles back onto the mesa to rejoin my waiting wife.

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