There was something surreal about standing above the Middle Teton Glacier. I'd seen photos and wondered what it would be like to get close to such an iconic spot; being there was a whole different story.
Adam and I had one day left in Wyoming, and we decided to hike into Garnet Canyon just below the Middle Teton. Bright sunlight, blue skies, and minimal wildfire smoke gave us a perfect backdrop for the jagged peaks of the Tetons. We navigated the switchbacks, climbing out of the wooded canyon into a rugged landscape of grey and scarlet stones, pine trees, and massive summits.
The roar of Cleft Falls, swollen with the previous days' rain, filled the canyon. Behind the falls, we could see the Middle Teton summit and its telltale basalt intrusion, known as the black dike.
We'd headed out on the adventure with 70 miles and a week of hiking on our legs, so we knew we'd take the hike one portion at a time. Whether it was glorious scenery or good conditioning (maybe both), we kept climbing, and I was glad we did!
Another massive waterfall rumbled beside us as we pushed on toward the glacier and the Lower Saddle. Unbeknownst to us, we'd began following another couple who'd taken a wrong turn, but it provided us with a breathtaking culmination of our climb.
Finding the high camp: We clamored up a steep slope strewn with football-sized rocks before popping out into the basecamp for a local Teton guide company. We hadn't intended to find the spot, but I'm glad we did.
After consulting with the guide, we sat down for lunch, soaking in the sweeping views--glaciers, barren slopes, jagged peaks, and an ever-changing expanse of shadows and light. Below us, the Middle Teton Glacier swept off the side of the mountain to the moraine below.
Know your EET and enjoy your trip. Some hikers extend the trip and climb the Lower Saddle; we'd thought about tackling the route, but after a few minutes of contemplation, we decided to head back and enjoy the views on our way out.
You see, to enjoy a hike, you need three things: experience, equipment, and time, and if you are short on any one of them, a good day can turn into an unpleasant one.
Time: We'd gotten a late start, so we knew we'd possibly be heading back to our car in the dark in bear country. No, thank you.
Experience: While we've done lots of four points of contact hiking in New England and New York, the size, scope, and elevation of the Lower Saddle were new to us. I knew we could do it, but I didn't know if our experience would allow us to do it quickly.
Equipment: While ropes and harnesses aren't needed for the climb, I thought a helmet would be helpful. We hadn't left the truck intending to reach the Lower Saddle, and so I didn't feel we had the equipment needed to complete the route safely.
Enjoy what you can do and do it well! The views of the mountains and the canyon on the descent were breathtaking; puffy clouds rolled across the sky, sending shadows and highlights scattering over the landscape. After reaching the car, we had time for a stop and a swim at Jenny Lake, and that was the perfect way to end an epic outing!