Climbing closer to departure and the Middle Teton

This week we are going to catch up with Mark and his training. The epic journey we have all been waiting for will commence in less than a week.  Mark has been persistently training for the past two months and now, his training has taken a whole new level both tougher and more exciting. Mark says, “This weekend I decided to change things up with my training.  I have been on the bike every day for the past few weeks and honestly, I needed a break.  There will be plenty of time in the saddle starting July 24th.”

Mark drove to Jackson Hole, WY with his girlfriend Carrie to meet his parents, Gary and Libby.  At 6:00 a.m., they set off to summit the Middle Teton.  After about 4 hours of hiking Mark said they found themselves trudging through the snow up the side of the mountain.  As they pushed forward, they were met by many fellow hikers that expressed their concern for them and recommended that they turn back, not because they were not fit but because they didn’t have the proper gear. With all of the snow in the mountains this year, ice axes and crampons were a must.  Here is a statement from Mark about his experience hiking in the Tetons.

 

 “We had hiked to what is known as the lower saddle.  This location on the Teton’s is an area where very few casual hikers ever see.  It was absolutely stunning.  The magnitude of these mountains is one of the more incredible things I have ever seen.  That is saying something considering I have hiked all over the world including the Southern Alps of New Zealand, the Swiss Alps, volcanoes in Guatemala and Hawaii, mountains in France, Italy, Spain, and many other places here in the United States.  I would never pick a favorite but the Grand Tetons are right up there with some of the most majestic places I’ve seen.  We made it to the lower saddle with minimal equipment but as I looked up from the saddle to the top of the mountain, I was struck with summit fever.  I had to keep going.  After a MacGyver moment, I came up with the idea to make two ice axes out of two sticks, a Leatherman, and a knife.  It wasn’t pretty but it worked for a while.

Mark shows off his homemade ice axes

Carrie, Gary and I made it to the upper saddle where we were met with an ascent that far exceeded my homemade equipment. The trail steepened to nearly vertical and was completely covered in snow.   I had never seen a route quite like this that didn’t require ropes to climb.  There were two things running through my head at this point.  One was, the route looked terrifying but I knew I had to reach the top.  The other thing haunting my mind was the fact that my gear was completely insufficient to make it to the summit.  I needed an axe and crampons to complete the hike.  I was crushed.  I wanted it so bad and it was so close.  After meeting a few people resting at the upper saddle, I discovered that one person wasn’t going to finish the climb.  A light bulb went off in my head.  I asked her if I could borrow her ice axe and crampons and she generously said yes.  I was back on the trail (if you could call it that).

The last 1500ft was by far the hardest

  It took about 3 hours to climb the last 1500 ft. but it was worth every step and second that it took.  The summit was 12804ft with a complete 360 view as far as the eye could see.  The only obstruction was the magnificent Grand Teton Peak which seemed like only a stone’s throw away.  I was speechless as I ate an orange at the summit of my 7500 ft. gain hike.  I had pushed my limits, taken a few risks, and got lucky by borrowing the equipment.  Everything had worked out.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves but even they can’t do justice to what it felt like to be on top of that mountain.

Mark sits at the summit of the Middle Teton

A helicopter can get you about anywhere these days but that’s not how I got to the Middle Teton and that’s not how I’m getting to Laramie from Pinedale.  I think distances should be measured in two ways.  The first way is exactly like we do now, using some kind of standard unit.  The second way should be by how you get there whether you drive, fly, walk, or ride a bike.

The summit marker. 12804ft

I hiked back down to the upper saddle to meet the rest of my party and we hiked out.  The hike ended up taking 13 hours when it was all said and done.  It was a long day but one I will never forget.  This brings me to the week in which I will depart on my journey.  It will be just over 600 miles but how I am getting there is what puts it into perspective.  I will be riding my mountain bike with 100lbs of gear.  I am riding my bike on this journey to bring a different perspective to the film.  Like I mentioned before, how you get somewhere can have more meaning than the actual destination.  I can’t imagine the feeling I will have when I return home but I am guessing it will be similar to the one I had at the summit of the Middle Teton.”

 

In our previous blog we promised to reveal details about the bike Mark will be riding throughout the 600 miles. The bike is a 2003 Yeti Kokopelli, full suspension mountain bike with Avid BB7 Mechanical disc brakes, a Fox shox rear shock, a Manitou fork, and Mavic Wheels. In order to carry 50 pounds of camera gear and 50 more pounds of other supplies, he will be pulling a Burley Flatbed trailer, which has a 100lbs weight limit.

 

We have a lot of fascinating things to share with you as Mark’s journey is approaching, so stay tuned and keep following the blog.   Find out about the events Mark will be attending on his journey in the blog on Wednesday!

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