Ascent of Mount Moran on 2018-07-20

Climber: Alex Lennon

Date:Friday, July 20, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Moran
    Elevation:12605 ft / 3842 m

Ascent Trip Report

Surely one of the craziest days I've ever had in the mountains, with some of the highest highs and lowest lows. I had wanted this summit for years ever since my failed late-season attempt in 2014, and several factors lined up perfectly to make this an ideal day for a summit bid.

The day began early- my alarm went off at 3am. The car was already packed and the kayaks strapped to the roof. I choked down a mini muffin for breakfast, all I could stomach at this hour. I met Kevin outside our neighboring park service cabins and we drove the short distance to the String Lake trailhead. Front row parking! We quickly got our kayaks in the water and our adventure was under way. We quickly crossed String and made the short but tedious portage over to Leigh. The early morning paddling was surreal- the stars were brilliant, both above us and reflected in the lake in front of us. The Milky Way shone brightly directly over Moran's massive summit.

By 4:40 we began hiking, and made quick progress. We had ascended the 3,000 vertical feet to the CMC camp in a little over an hour, and passed through the camp right around 6. We were slogging, for sure, but moving quickly nonetheless. A while later we found ourselves most of the way up Drizzlepuss. Here we ran into another climbing party, two young women around our age. to pass the time as we hiked, we talked briefly, and we summited the small tower around the same time. Kevin and I rappelled into the notch first, and the girls followed. We decided that the two of us would climb the face mostly unroped, but would stick close together in case one of us wanted to pitch something out at any point. It turned out that the climbing on the face was just fine unroped- 1,200 feet of low-to-moderate angle face climbing and every hold was an amazing jug. Needless to say, we flew up to the summit plateau and topped out before 9.

Even though I still have a few Teton objectives remaining, standing on Moran's vast, flat summit felt like the culmination of my Teton climbing experience over these past five summers. Very few summits have felt this good to reach. We spent about 45 minutes up top, soaking in the dramatic Teton views in all directions, and spying peaks in the Absaroka, Madison and Gallatin as well. After a while the girls made it up and we snapped some pictures for them and discussed the descent. We figured we might as well descend together and use both parties' ropes for longer rappels.

Here's where the day got interesting. The four of us made several rappels down the face and were nearly back to the notch by Drizzlepuss. Kevin and I were getting our gear ready to climb the crux pitch. As I was flaking out the rope I heard a shout, and what I thought was rockfall at first turned out to be one of the girls careening down the face. She had slipped and fallen about twenty feet before somehow grabbing a handhold and pulling herself up onto a small ledge. If she hadn't pulled that off, she would have ended up on the Falling Ice Glacier at least 100 feet below. Her friend was more easily able to reach her, and we quickly found out that, much to our relief, she was somehow going to be alright. She had a deep laceration on her wrist, severe pain in one shoulder, and had gone into shock.

Kevin and I called the Jenny Lake climbing rangers to report the fall and put them on standby in case we were unable to evacuate her ourselves. Somehow she was able not just to walk, but given time to calm down suitably she was able to climb the crux pitch, held tightly on toprope. I can only imagine how hard that must have been for her, but the fact that she was able to meant that Kevin and I were able to get the two of them safely down the entire mountain and back to civilization before dark. We certainly weren't expecting to perform an alpine mountain rescue and evac on this particular day, but I'm just really glad that we were so close by and were able to help out. We hiked with them the whole way down, carried some of their gear for them, and Kevin was able to paddle their tandem kayak all the way back as the injured girl couldn't paddle with her hurt shoulder. It was a long descent all told, but we all made it down before 6pm, safe and very much relieved.

Even though her fall was terrifying to witness, it was actually an excellent learning experience for all four of us- it's important to be reminded that mountain climbing is not a joke and especially mountains like Moran should never be taken lightly. We were lucky that the incident wasn't catastrophic or fatal, and in fact the girl got out with only minor injuries. But it's still a valuable lesson for anyone reading this- off-trail travel in the mountains is dangerous, and appropriate caution should always be taken, especially in exposed alpine environments such as this one. In spite of this incident it was actually still a fantastic day overall. We left with two new friends and a much greater respect for the mountains. To anyone thinking of climbing in the Tetons, by all means come and experience one of the great mountain ranges of North America- but be careful out there.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5925 ft / 1805 m
    Total Elevation Loss:200 ft / 60 m
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb
    Gear Used:
Rope, Ski Poles
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:5925 ft / 1805 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 5725 ft / 1745 m; Extra: 200 ft / 60m
    Loss on way in:200 ft / 60 m
    Route:CMC Route
    Start Trailhead:6880 ft / 2097 m
Descent Statistics

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