Grand Teton, highest peak in the Teton Range
One hundred miles north of Afton, Wyoming, is Grand Teton National Park which shares its northern border with Yellowstone NP. The peak for which the park is named, Grand Teton–at 13,776′ (4,199 m), is the highest peak in the Teton Range and the second highest after Gannett in the State of Wyoming. The first ascent of Grand Teton was made in 1898 and it remains a principal mountaineering destination in North America. Looking at it eye to eye like this, it’s benign until you imagine picking your way from one hand or toehold to another, hoping not to disturb loose rock or to slip on late summer ice, wishing the winds away.
Dramatic peak to valley distance
Grand Teton together with ten others over 11,000′ in height cluster to make a grand vista called the Cathedral Group. Higher mountains elsewhere in the world are much less dramatic because their foothills make a gradual slope upward. Tremendous peak to valley distances were formed as the young Tetons lifted along a tectonic fault with the east face falling to form the Jackson Hole valley. Such steep elevations rising abruptly 5,000′ to 7,000′ from the valley floor make a dramatic impression. Today’s Jackson Hole is a playground where once it was a cow town and the whole area plays host to film crews seeking landscape, movie stars and wannabees, tourists, and just plain folks.
Grand Teton, up close and personal
While I’m not especially fearful of heights, a mountaineer I am not! Thanks to a lovely little airplane named Fire Horse we were allowed our own assault on Grand Teton. On a hot August day last summer I was flying a little more than 2,000′ below the top of Grand Teton, high enough to safely clear surrounding terrain up close and personal with the mountain, near enough to feel that a little stretch would just about touch! It was a dry summer of high winds and smoky fires. You can see a layer of dense smoke below the cloud deck and above that clear blue. The white patches are glaciers. Nearly a mile below the right side of the airplane I could see Jenny Lake at the base of the mountain. Several years ago I painted a couple at their engagement on the shore of Jenny Lake with part of the Teton Range behind them. No wonder he chose that spot!