“The simpler you make things, the richer the experience becomes.”
We spend the rest of the two-week trip in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where a young girl from Connecticut once fell for a local cowboy in Wranglers, and their child would spend winters on the slopes and Halloweens dressed as a sprinkler. Yes, Keane was a sprinkler.
Keane and I unwind for a few days binge-eating huckleberry ice cream at Moos, meeting up with friends, and attending Jackson’s first music festival, Contour. But as the weather threatened to become unstable, we knew we’d have to act fast if we wanted to complete our goal: climbing the Middle Teton!
In hindsight, it probably wasn’t a good idea to read the papers. Avalanches, casualties, crevasses… what is that even and how do you pronounce it??
The four of us (Keane, his folks Calvin and Ginger, and I) set out at 4:30am for the 14 mile adventure and watch the sun rise from 2,000 feet above the valley. Since Keane and Calvin had summited before, we had a specific route in mind- traverse around the snow field, and scramble up the southwest couloir, making sure to avoid unstable snow. Sounded simple enough, right?
What I didn’t anticipate was using my hiking poles to self arrest in the snow so quickly, and I was fucking terrified. So the shoe crampons come on 4 hours into the hike, and my heeled steps along the narrow uphill ridge became more well thought-out and precise. But the soft snow doesn’t last long. After passing the numerous humps of snow fields, the blisters on my wet feet shift gears for steep boulder fields as far as the eye can see. I finally stuff my camera in my bag and try to stay afloat as my body poorly scrambles across these otherwise simple boulders. Ginger helps me with some tricky moves, and I marvel at this alpine warrior’s strength and iron lungs. So many rests, such clumsy footwork- I’m not an altitude chick.
When we finally get to the saddle, I look upwards and see that the shroud of melting June ice leading up to the summit is flimsier than I thought it’d be. Shit, a derailment in the plans. I’m not skilled enough to take this risk. And then the poisonous thought crosses my mind- “what’s the point if we can’t summit this climb?”
Then I turn around, and I see Keane, and Ginger, and Calvin. Why am I even frustrated? I’m sharing this amazing experience with loved ones, and we’ve helped each other get to this point. Ginger pulls me to the edge of the saddle, and my knees weaken even more, but for good reason:
We decide that the conditions aren’t safe enough to summit, so we hide behind a rock pile to nosh on some dried fruits and shield ourselves from the brutal gusts of wind. After bad weather threatens to loom in/I witness my first rock slide, we start heading down. Calvin introduces me to glissading down the snow, and our asses/his denim game get DRENCHED, but who cares 😀
Scrambling up the Middle helped me differentiate what I thought I needed versus what I actually needed. Perhaps the journey of getting someplace matters just as much as whether we get there. The awe, the anxiety, the reciprocal feelings you’re sharing with others.. they shift the goal of achieving to something more simple: living in the moment <3