Thousands of lightnings, torrential hail, rock slides,… – but I made it. And back.

[ …If you landed on this post because you were searching for “the Enclosure” stone circle atop Grand Teton, see also my post …]

– — — — — — –

” series of storms unleashed more than 6,700 lightning strikes in Grand Teton National Park over the weekend and started at least three new forest fires.” [Jackson Hole Daily – August 30, 2011]

And I was hiking up to the Lower Saddle aside the Grand Teton as the storm let loose all its ferocity.  As the rain started, I began looking for a place to hide and luckily found a mini-cave my backpack and I could fit in, and then with the thermarest pad wrapped around me, I was able to stay mostly dry.  The temperature plummeted as the ground turned white from what was easily a half hour of unrelenting hail.  Lightning strikes all around.  Deafening thunders. Massive boulders rolling down the mountain sides, creating gunshot-like sounds on bouncing.  To tell you the truth: I was a little freaked out.   A Mountaineer guide from Exum told me it was “the worst storm I’ve seen all season.”  So much for waiting for the thunderstorm probability to have dipped to only 20%…

That “This hike has an elevation gain of almost 6,000 ft. so should not be attempted by anyone not in top fitness and form.” is no joke.  But if you’re not in top condition, like me, perseverance can still get you there.  Took me awhile, but utterly exhausted I made it to the Lower Saddle at elevation 11,600 ft., nicely between the Middle and the Grand Teton, with an amazing view over the Jackson Hole valley to the east, as well as west to Idaho.

As I had the camera tucked away for the hike up (so I wouldn’t be out of battery power by the time I got there), the following photos are from after the storm when I had already made it to the rim safely.  Sorta safely.  In one piece, unzapped at least.

Getting lost in fields of boulders, crossing ice fields, scrambling up a very steep path, the vistas were all worth it.

It only seems you can see "the saddle", but not just yet. The climb from the meadows, past the waterfall and then up an exhausting last stretch was surreally strenuous.

A very kind Park Ranger greeting me and asked how the climb was.  (“I’m… [out of breath from the altitude] basically… a basket case…”)  A dozen or so mountaineers were sitting beside their cabin drying out their clothes, smiling.  They were caught in the storm in an area without places to find shelter…

The next morning I watched clouds appear and disappear as they rolled over the Enclosure, the high point just before the Grand Teton and technically part of it (the Upper Saddle doesn’t come down far enough to give it “peak status”, otherwise it would be the second highest ‘peak’ in the Teton range.

Very cool morning cloud show on Monday, as seen from Lower Saddle looking up to the Grand Teton (not visible itself, highest point visible here is 'The Enclosure'.

So I decided to scramble up to the Enclosre to see if I could see that stone circle mentioned in a previous blogpost (2 posts back) for myself.  I’d been told it is possible to scramble it without ropes.

A view of the Upper Saddle from the Lower Saddle. The high point on the right would be 'The Enclosure'. Right behind it is the Grand Teton peak.

The view of the western side of the Tetons and out into Idaho is spectacular as well.  Jeans and cotton shorts aren’t exactly smart for what I did, but it’s what I have.  So… Rowed it well with the reams I had…  The jeans eventually got shredded so badly on the trek down I declared ‘m ‘beyond repair’.

This kind of activity I suppose could help me lose some weight… ;-)

My tent site on the Lower Saddle to the left (somewhere in there), Idaho to the right. I suppose that's what I looked like yesterday...

Sunset shadows of the three main Teton peaks. The optical effect shows I was right between the Middle and the Grand.

The hike down was almost equally as streneous, I found.  But, very good news: for the first time in what is now almost 11 years, my knees did NOT become so painful I could barely walk on them.  In fact, they’re fine! ;-)  Until now, usually within about an hour downhill they would start hurting extremely badly right where Czeck police had beaten them purple with batons on Sept 26, 2001.  I guess all that healing work has finally trickled down to the physical level as well.

Now time for that cold pint to toast to… the bar’s view. ;-)

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