Aug 18, 2011

Climbing the Grand Teton For My Birthday

Photo: Ron Niebrugge /

This one really isn't going to have anything to do with filming other than I'm glad the only camera I took was a GoPro.  So I recently had  a birthday, the number isn't as important as what I tried to do.  My old friend, Taylor Morgan, challenged me to something rad for my birthday.  I was thinking, go to Costa Rica and chilling he suggested to climb the Grand Teton. 13,770 feet of sheer rock faces, snow fields, large animal life and thin air.

We drove through the night from Salt Lake to get to Grand Teton Nation Park by 1am.  Our goal was to get there by 9pm on Thursday but work keep us both later than expected.  We arrived, started packing our gear and by 1:30am we were on our way with a 22 lb. pack on each of us.

The climb started nice.  The gradual grade of the first four miles was pretty manageable, especially for a dude climbing a 13,770ft mountain cold turkey.  Every mile I found my body complaining about something.  It started with my calves and then my hamstrings, after that my gluteus awesomeness... You get the idea.

The higher we got the slower I went.  As the sun rose and kissed the peaks of the Tetons at 6:40am we were reaching 10,500 ft.  This was where slow became really slow.  We were heading up a snow face, probably 500-600ft of vertical with crampons and an ice ax.  After that, we stowed them and made our way up to the lower saddle, which sits at 11,200 ft.

This is where really slow ends up getting ridiculously slow.  My heart began beating ridiculously fast with every 30 yards and by the time we were at 13,000 ft every vertical foot caused my heart to go into overdrive, taking minutes to calm before the next foot.

At 13,200 feet, just 570 feet from the peak I had to conceded to the mountain.  The last 500 feet required technical climbing with ropes and all over 1,500 cliffs.  I was in no capacity to even attempt such with any tide of safety.  It was a very hard decision but one that had to be made nonetheless.  I was actually very worried that I'd even be able to make it safely back the the lower saddle, let alone the 10 miles down the mountain and back to the car.

At 7:30pm and with a very sore knee and weary legs, we arrived back to the car, 18 hours after we set out.  In all, we ascended 7,200ft, 20 miles round trip and a max altitude of 13,200ft.  So aside from the surrendering short of the goal I did break any other record I had previously had, climbing more altitude, traveling more distance and maxing higher than I ever had, and I did it all in one day, with no prep.

I should give most of the credit to Taylor.  He is a fantastic climber and he is what kept me on the path every mile that I wanted to turn around.  He had a fantastic knowledge of things to eat, ways to handle situation and in the end he took me farther than I ever could have on my own.  And all along the way was my Heavenly Father watching over me.  He's the reason I got as far as I did and made it back safely too.

If you stuck with this and read the whole thing I'd like to offer you a reward so how about a pat on the back.  I'll be returning to the Grand Teton to finish what I started and I hope you're with me Taylor.


lisa marlowe said...

Wow! looks amazing. Am jealous quite an accomplishment cold turkey and all. Happy birthday Todd. Very impressed a god physical challenge is such a great thing in our lives, not to mention the spiritual enlightenment we achieve along the way.

Todd Sansom said...

Thanks Lisa. It was amazing and I can't wait to so it again...all the way to the top. Thanks for the birthday wishes. I hope all is well with you and your new adventures. Best of luck over there.

Taylor said...

Just read this, Todd. You're a stud! I'm looking forward to getting back on the Grand with you!