Climbing Nature & Hiking

2021 Labor Day in the Tetons

September 4-6, 2021

Just like last year we headed towards Grand Teton National Park for one last alpine rock climb of the season. In keeping with our moderate theme this year Carly picked the CMC Route on Mt. Moran (5.5) as the objective. This route, as the grade implies, is pretty easy, the difficulty is mainly in the approaching and the descending. Mt. Moran is much less visited than the main Teton peaks. This is due to little to no trail access and the routes being large and complex. The preferred portion of the initial approach is via water.

We waited early in line for a backcountry permit at Jenny Lake. While waiting a family of 4 bears snacked on vegetation near the visitor center. A cadre of ten national park employees forming a perimeter to prevent a bold tourist from getting too close for that perfect shot. With permit in hand we hustled over Dornan’s just outside the park to rent a watercraft of some kind. Unfortunately a 17′ canoe wouldn’t fit partially inside the van and we have too much stuff on top of it to mount it there, so we had to rent some kayaks. These were fine, but we probably lost a little efficiency in having two separate boats as well a more expensive than a canoe.

We packed and put in at the String Lake Canoe Launch. This first leg is from one end of String Lake to the other where there’s a .1 mile portage to Leigh Lake. String Lake isn’t much more than knee deep it seems and is mainly a drainage from Leigh Lake to Jenny Lake. Once at the portage we shuffled our kayaks across and set out on Leigh Lake. Thankfully the wind was calm and the lake almost like glass.

For the entire way across Leigh Lake, about 2 miles, we got great views of Mt. Moran and the face we’d be climbing. It is a little daunting since the approach is quite a long way up the mountain and under the Falling Ice Glacier.

The first leg of our two part kayak journey. This one was across String Lake which is quite shallow and calm. Our route was to the left of the large brown dike at the summit.

Arriving at the start of the hike we unloaded, secured our kayaks on shore and headed up the boulder pile of the approach. There’s about 2000′ or so of this before leaving the stream coming from the glacier and heading up the steep forested slopes to the CMC Camp. This late in the season the spring near the camp wasn’t flowing so packing water in from the stream is what we did. In total we filled up 9 liters of water leaving the stream for the last 800′ of vert to camp. This is all the water we’d have until coming back down in two days.

We finally got to camp and plopped our stuff down. The entire approach is just straight up and doesn’t give you a break—2700′ of vert in 1.75 miles. As we finished setting up camp we realized that we’d forgotten the stove and pot. Our dehydrated dinners and oatmeal breakfasts just got way less appealing. We were able to make the best of it and just do a long soak method for dinner which was OK. Definitely not satisfying, but at least we got some calories. Breakfast was a bit better since we soaked the oatmeal overnight. This was about the right consistency, just cold.

The climb is a bit odd. It is a face climb, but due to the topography of the mountain after your reach the top of the Drizzlepuss, a sub peak above CMC Camp, you begin by rappelling down to a notch below. From here you start climbing up the face. The climbing is nothing spectacular, about the same as the West Slabs here in Salt Lake. It affords nice views though. We more or less followed another party up which was convenient, but much of the face goes at about the same grade so it probably wouldn’t have mattered if we were alone.

The summit is a bit different than other Tetons summits in that it is a different type of rock and everything is smaller rocks rather than boulders. One thing that was hard to capture in a photo is the summit was filled with small orange butterflies. There wasn’t too much wind and they were all about.

The climbing didn’t lend itself to interesting shots so I didn’t get any on route. This is the summit benchmark.

The descent is a bit tricky since much of it is down climbing. We ended up more or less reversing the route up. This isn’t the “proper” descent but we didn’t have the best beta while on route so we made it work. We ended up teaming up with a party for the descent. Arthur and Tracy were friendly and it was nice to have some folks to chat with. The final and perhaps true crux of the route is ascending the Drizzlepuss. While the approach side is a hikeable slope, getting back up to the top requires the most vertical climbing of the whole route. It still is only about 5.6 though.

We camped out for a second night after the climb. In the morning we started heading down, which took a while since it is so grueling and steep. The kayak back across Leigh Lake was once again smooth and calm. After getting back to the van we decided to hangout in Jackson a bit in the afternoon before heading towards Lander. We ended up stopping about an hour outside of Grand Teton NP for the evening. We were treated with some new views of the Winds and the Tetons during a nice sunset.

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