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Learn rock climbing in Wyoming's majestic Tetons -- no experience required


The Grand: Rock climbing in Wyoming's Tetons

An illustrated itinerary of one of our many travel adventures for gay men, lesbians, and friends.

This information supplements our
shorter Overview of The Grand.




Rock climbing in Wyoming's Tetons



Have you always been intrigued by the prospect of rock climbing, but never knew how to go about learning this sport? Others, including many other gay men and lesbians, have felt the same way. If you cannot see a towering peak without wondering what it would be like to stand on the summit, then this Grand Tetons trip is for you.

Perhaps you've done some outdoor rock climbing or indoor sport climbing with friends and now would like a bigger challenge with expert guidance. Or you've climbed with one of the outdoor groups, but think would be more fun with other gay people. Or you've never tried rock climbing, but would like to try -- and also to have a vacation that will stand out from anything you've ever done.

Then it's time you learned to climb! Come join us on The Grand.Back to Top




1: Arrival Day

Rising over a mile from the valley below, the Grand Teton, nicknamed "the American Matterhorn", is widely considered our country's most majestic peak. If you're flying into Jackson, ask for a window seat. You'll enjoy dramatic views as your plane touches down in the flat valley alongside the Teton range.

Early arrivals may want to drive into Grand Teton National Park for sightseeing. Our climb trip officially starts at 6:00 pm with a reception and orientation, followed by a buffet dinner.Back to Top



Rock climbing in Wyoming's Tetons



Rock climbing in Wyoming's Tetons

Grand: Climbing Lessons


2: Climbing Lessons

Our two days of hands-on lessons are taught by experienced local climbers. We'll take a boat across sparkling Jenny Lake then hike up past a thundering waterfall. At the base of the cliff, we'll practice our climbing skills.

As the Grand Teton and Teewinot peaks loom overhead, we'll learn how to tie dependable knots. Whenever you're climbing on steep rock, you'll be anchored to someone above with a rope. We'll practice the art of belaying -- how one climber protects another if he or she should slip. We'll also learn to get the most advantage as we climb from small holds and cracks in the rock.

A vertical crack may seem to offer no support for a climber yet, by twisting your foot properly, that crack can become as secure as the rung on a ladder. You'll learn about "laybacks", allowing you to push your feet against the bare cliff face by leaning back on your arms.

Then come the adrenaline parts: Climbing up a vertical cliff using only the skills you've just learned. You'll rappel back down on a rope using a device known as a "Figure-8" that lets you control your rate of descent. You'll feel a burst of adrenalin kick in as you step off the top of the cliff to begin rappelling, with the mountains rising to one side, pine trees and lakes on the other.

At the end of the day, cool off with a dip in Jenny Lake before heading home.

This trip is planned for people who have long been intrigued by rock climbing but never had a chance to give it a try -- no experience is expected. If you have a strong climbing background, the first day's lessons may be waived with prior consultation.Back to Top




3: Climb!

On our second day of lessons, you'll have time to practice the skills you learned yesterday. We'll climb more challenging rocks and learn some new techniques. One rappel will leave you dangling briefly in mid-air.

Safety is always of paramount concern. Whether you're climbing up or rappelling down, your instructor, or partner, will always be ready to catch you on the backup rope.

You'll learn some climbing terminology over the course of these two days, as well. "Technical climbing" means you're on rock sufficiently steep that you want a rope as a backup in case you slip. A "pitch" is the distance each person climbs on one rope. As you climb each pitch, your partner belays you. At the end of a pitch (typically 50 to 150 feet), you regroup, catch your breath, coil the rope, and get ready for the next pitch.

At the end of the day, if you're in good aerobic and physical condition and were comfortable with the lessons, your instructor will probably clear you to climb The Grand. If you or your instructor feel you're not ready for it yet, you have the option of using one or both of the next two days to refine your skills further.

There's more to Jackson Hole than just the Tetons. In fact, tonight is a very good opportunity to explore the town. If you're in the mood, we recommend the barbeque dinner and cowboy show at Bar-J Chuckwagon Ranch. Or enjoy a quiet night out at one of the many superb restaurants in town.Back to Top



Rock climbing in Wyoming's Tetons

Grand: Climb!



Rock climbing in Wyoming's Tetons

Grand: A Pinnacle or a Hike


4: A Pinnacle or a Hike

We now have two days off from climbing. These extra days offer opportunities to enjoy the Tetons' many other outdoors attractions, and each other. They also give us more time to acclimate to the altitude -- we're over a mile above sea level -- improving the chances that we'll all make it to the summit.

For the first day, there's an option we highly recommend: an ascent of the rock spire known as Baxter's Pinnacle.

Baxter's Pinnacle is rock climbing at its best. Some 8 pitches of clean, vertical rock. A short hike from Jenny Lake takes you to the base of the spire with clear views of the Grand Teton in the distance.

As you climb, you'll gain valuable practice in belaying your fellow climbers. The first pitches are fairly easy, allowing you to concentrate on your technique.

Then come the more exposed pitches. Step around an arete -- a vertical rock corner -- and look down at a hundred feet of air below you. You're protected by the rope, and your own climbing skill, as the adrenaline rushes through you.

The top pitch offers a special challenge: a delicate starting move on which you must lean out from the rock just enough to keep your footing on a small nubbin of rock, yet not so much that your fingers slip off the rock. You may slip and find yourself hanging on the rope, but at least you'll have given it your best shot. And if this move proves too difficult for you at this point in your climbing career, there's an easier way to the top.

"Hanging on the rope?" Just a few days ago, the thought would have terrified you. Now, you've learned to trust the rope.

Finally, you reach the summit of Baxter's Pinnacle, a tabletop surface of rock with spectacular views, a spot that has been occupied by only a select few who were able to climb to the top.

Those who don't choose to climb Baxter's will be tempted by dozens of hiking trails. For a moderately strenuous day, try the Granite Canyon route which takes you past fields of wildflowers and a mountain stream. Or head up to Amphitheater Lake and swim in the reflected glory of the Tetons.

For a short afternoon hike, take the tram to an altitude of 10,000 feet, then hike to the summit of Cody Peak. A picturesque hike that will help acclimatize you further for the climbing days ahead. At these higher altitudes, you'll spot wildflowers different from those found below. Taking some time to identify them can be an enjoyable break from hiking in the crisp mountain air.

Grand Teton National Park is full of wildlife. Whether you climb or hike today, don't be surprised to see a moose in the trail, or a bald eagle in a riverside cottonwood tree. Be prepared for a real treat on a nighttime stroll -- millions of stars in the Milky Way twinkling overhead.Back to Top




5: Free Day

Today is open: No activities have been scheduled but you can choose from a wide spectrum of possibilities:

A day trip to Yellowstone may appeal to you, if you've haven't been there before. Though just two hours away, and part of the same National Park system, Yellowstone offers an entirely different environment. Herds of bison roam the plains while colorful hot springs paint the landscape. (For those who have the time, our advice is to set aside several days after the trip for a visit to Yellowstone which is just 60 miles from Jackson).

In Jackson Hole, you can go horseback riding, take a hot air balloon ride, swim or canoe in a mountain lake. There are always new trails for hikers to explore.

Spend a day rafting on the Snake River. A flatwater segment gives you time to relax as you spot bald eagles and other wildlife. Then experience a wild stretch of whitewater that will get your blood flowing.

Paragliding is increasingly popular, often right from the top of the tram near our condos. Or head out for a day of mountain biking along a narrow stream with the Tetons as your backdrop. Our guide will help people with similar interests hook up and can also suggest places to go for each activity.

Want to do it all? You could spend a whole week in Jackson Hole enjoying a different activity every day. In fact, that's just what our Butch Cassidy Days trip is about. Butch Cassidy Days is often scheduled for the week before or after The Grand. Why not join us for both trips? Besides giving you a second great week, without additional airfare, the extra time in Jackson Hole will help you more fully acclimate to the higher altitude.Back to Top



Rock climbing in Wyoming's Tetons

Grand: Free Day



Rock climbing in Wyoming's Tetons

Grand: First Day Of Our Climb


6: First Day Of Our Climb

The next morning, we begin our ascent of The Grand. We'll have a high ratio of one experienced guide for each 3 or 4 climbers. Our first day's hike starts out in a mountain forest. It's not uncommon to see black bears here making a meal of the berries that grow wild.

Soon the trail opens into a wide valley strewn with boulders the size of log cabins. We stop for lunch atop one of those boulders as a mountain stream gurgles below.

Mountain wildflowers are abundant early in the day: The vivid scarlet of Indian Paintbrush; the blues and violets of Harebells and Gentians. By late afternoon, we've left most plant life below. But you'll still see colorful and hardy Moss Campion growing at the base of rocks, and furry marmots hustling about in their search for food.

After lunch we continue up through a shimmering snowfield. Most of today's ascent is hiking, rather than technical climbing, but there's one stretch where you'll be grateful for a rope that provides extra handholds.

We'll have dinner and spend the night on the saddle between the Grand and Middle Tetons, at about 10,500 feet, where a tent and sleeping bag await you. Unlike the first climbers here, you'll have to carry only your own food, clothing, and a camera.Back to Top




7: Summit

The summit is no more than 4 or 5 hours away. Two routes are available to us;

The Exum Ridge has about 12 pitches of technical climbing (i.e., roped climbing where you'll be belayed as you climb). You think it looks tough? This route was first ascended by the legendary Glenn Exum -- alone, without a rope, in football shoes, while still in his teens! The most dramatic point on the Exum Ridge comes as you step across a gap in the rock. If you look straight down you'll see 2,000 feet of air between you and the ground.

The Owen-Spaulding route involves only about half as many pitches of technical climbing. This offers a slightly faster way to the summit. It's also the route of preference for climbers who never want to see 2,000 feet of air below their feet!

As the sun rises, you'll have a breathtaking view of the shadow of the Teton range spread out in the Idaho valley to the west.

There'll be time at the summit for photos and congratulations. Then we head back down. Gravity does some of the work. Those new rappelling skills will let you slide 150 feet down a rope, rather than descending a tricky section of rock.

As you hike back down to the welcoming meadows and valley floor, late in the afternoon, chances are you'll agree with one of our past climbers who announced, "This was the most exhilarating day of my life. I wouldn't trade it for anything."

A climb like that deserves some special recognition. We'll celebrate with a festive dinner at one of Jackson Hole's top restaurants.Back to Top



Rock climbing in Wyoming's Tetons

Grand: Summit



Rock climbing in Wyoming's Tetons


8: Departure Day

Our trip officially ends after breakfast but, if you've got early connections, you can rise and depart as early as you need to.

An experience this intense creates strong bonds and it's sad to say goodbye to new friends. But we'll see each other again on future adventures. And if you've got a few extra days, Yellowstone is nearby. Our pre-trip newsletter makes it easy to plan a trip there with others in the group.Back to Top



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