Simple Send: Mellow Routes and Hikes to Truly Take in the Tetons
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Climbers can reset by spending a day on less challenging routes. Two experienced climbers show us how sending simpler routes allowed them time to reconnect with nature, themselves, and the essence of climbing.
We followed Manoah Ainuu, a climber with The North Face, into Wyoming along with his friend and fellow Bozeman resident Ryan Locati, himself a mountaineering guide. Climbing with the Grand Tetons as a backdrop rather than the main destination set the tone for an enjoyable few days of outdoor adventure.
“Getting off the beaten path is really a big part of why I go climbing,” Locati said. “Being able to get out in nature and disconnect from all the distractions of modern-day living and kind of reconnect with the world and reconnect with yourself.”
Manoah, Ryan, and their Chevy Silverado ventured through Grand Teton National Park to hit a few climbs that might seem easier to a seasoned climber. But the ease of these climbs allowed time for reconnection, introspection, and rediscovery.
Astonishing Views From Less Technical Routes
Climbers from around the world come to tackle the Grand Tetons, and Gannett Peak and the Wind River Range are not too far off. But here, we’re leaning into the easier days of climbing. Even those that allow for more than just climbing. Manoah Ainuu and Ryan Locati took a trip to Wyoming to climb some of the lesser-yet-still-iconic routes around the Tetons and explore more areas on foot.
“When one goes out into wild places that are a little further from civilization, for one, you need a vehicle that’s reliable,” Locati said. Leaning into such self-reliance “definitely changes the experience and makes it more meaningful, and you’re not relying on other people, and you’re just out there with your partner or your partners.”
Baxter’s Pinnacle is a one-day classic, in part because it offers a good degree of difficulty, a shorter approach, and accessibility. Climbers can use it as a warmup before tackling bigger ascents in the area.
“It was a fairly mellow route for us,” Locati said. “Sometimes you prefer to have an easy day out where you can just focus on hanging out and enjoying the views.”
For the duo, it served as just part of a playful day in the Tetons. Rather than moving on to climb elsewhere, they mixed it up with some trail running and later hiked up to Jenny Lake, which they’d seen from atop Baxter’s. There they checked out the Hidden Falls, including a 100-foot waterfall, and offers some bouldering problems as well.
If you go and want to add more hiking, take the out-and-back trail up to Inspiration Point for overlooks of the lake and the surrounding canyons. Or, if you want a big backcountry hike or ultrarun route without too much gain, you can continue into Cascade Canyon to Lake Solitude and return via Paintbrush Canyon, or turn around once you emerge on the other side of the mountains. It’s sure to be one of the most scenic routes you take.
Other short climbing routes include the fairly new Attritus, which can be a follow-up to a warmup on Blobular 5.10. Another spot popular with climbers but away from other crowds is Teton Canyon. In cooler months, when the sun isn’t baking the canyon walls, it provides several options for different skill levels and is a draw for ice climbing come winter.
Climbers Can Sightsee, Too
One of the draws of the Teton Range is its sharp rise from the valley, gaining 4,000 to 7,000 feet without a range of gradual foothills on the eastern edge. You can venture out onto the plains and see songbirds and bison and all the while enjoying the splendor of the Tetons in the background. Or you can gain altitude and enjoy the change in geology and fauna.
Ainuu echoes Locati’s sentiment on enjoying mellower routes. “We as climbers can better experience the micro-synchronicities of the earth whilst not focused on fully cranking down,” he said. “Mellow climbing opens up the Rolodex for partners that are newer and/or don’t climb harder routes. I’d hate to only climb hard routes with hard climbing partners.”
They came to climb, but the duo left themselves time to explore and take in nature and the diverse wildlife in the area. The shorter, less-difficult routes also allowed them a quicker payoff of summit views: The Grand Tetons are the most prolific part of the scenery and serve as a backdrop to many other scenic areas nearby.
The vastness of Grand Teton National Park affords a feeling of remoteness even on well-established trails, especially in late summer and fall months. The climber’s off-rock itinerary included some very doable trails for experienced hikers and runners.
For instance, Blacktail Butte Trail, a more remote 7.3-mile out-and-back, offers great views and ample cardio exercise with its roughly 1,700 feet of vert. Or, start at Lupine Meadows trailhead and hike up to one or all of Delta, Amphitheater, and Surprise lakes before returning back.
Getting outside the park can unlock equally wild, and less-trafficked scenery. East of GTNP lies the Gros Ventre Wilderness and Teton National Forest. Out there, an off-road truck ready for a few creek crossings can be your shortcut to wooded altitudes.
There are several roads to trails, where you’ll park in sagebrush flats and then have access to non-motorized trails for remote entry into the Mt. Leidy Highlands. Take note: This area is also home to wolves and bears, both black and grizzly, so have a bear spray canister accessible.
On the way out, consider a last look at the area with a scenic drive up Signal Mountain Summit Road.
Remote Climbing: Planning Ahead
The first part of remote climbing is getting there. Ainuu and Locati relied on a 2021 Chevy Silverado as their mobile base camp for climbing and exploring.
It’s important to have a vehicle with off-road capability and high ground clearance when going deeper into the backcountry — this ensures that you can tackle any rough road or terrain that may lay ahead. A vehicle with ample storage is also key, allowing you to take everything you might need with you.
No matter the route, climbing in the area counts as alpine climbing, to which Ainuu offered some advice: “Loose rock can be present — be aware and hold certain rocks in place instead of pulling straight out.”
Even accessible climbing can be quite a drive to the nearest emergency clinic. Climbers are usually safety-minded, but here’s a reminder to continue that kind of thinking into general preparedness in remote locales.
Hiking, much less climbing alone, is not recommended in the backcountry. Groups should leave their travel agenda, including expected return times, with friends or family.
Carrying a basic first aid kit, a satellite communication device (when out of cell range), and an extra set of layers is a good idea — weather can shift quickly in the alpine.
When mountaineering in the winter, an ice axe, mountaineering boots, and crampons are essential gear.
The National Park Service does not require a climbing permit for mountaineering, but climbers staying overnight need a backcountry camping permit to camp or bivouac. Visit the Jenny Lake Ranger Station for permits and weather information from June through September.
An entrance fee is required for Grand Teton National Park. The fee is $20 per vehicle for a 7-day pass, or you can get a one-year pass for $50 that’s valid at all National Parks.
Aside from camping, American Alpine Club members can stay at Climber’s Ranch, located a short drive from Jenny Lake.
Go a Little Further
Taking queues from Ainuu and Locati, you can combine visits to popular spots with a little exploration off the beaten path. Your climbs don’t have to be extreme, and you can mix a morning climb with an afternoon hike, swim, or run.
We encourage you to scope out an area on a map and look for alternative routes to new spots on public lands. You may find quiet and the smaller wonders of nature just as worthy of appreciation.
This post is sponsored by the 2021 Chevy Silverado — Find New Roads. Learn more about the 2021 Chevy Silverado and more truck models online.
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