‘World-class climbing’

Jeff Eisele/Durango Herald

A Colorado Mountain Club group ascends during a climb of Mount St. John in the Grand Tetons. The Teton Range is considered one of the premier climbing areas in the United States and home to Grand Teton National Park.

By John S. Adams

The massive snow-covered peaks of what the early French voyagers called les trois tetons make the western horizon of Grand Teton National Park one of the most distinctive landscapes in the Rocky Mountain region.

The spires of Grand Teton, Middle Teton and South Teton – or “three breasts,” as the French explorers and fur trappers dubbed them – rise dramatically out of the valley known as Jackson Hole.

Mountain climbers from around the world are drawn to the Tetons’ awe-inspiring spires, and it stands as one of the premiere climbing destinations in the lower 48 states.

Adventurer, climber and writer George Ochenski, of Helena, Mont., first climbed the park’s namesake mountain 40 years ago via the treacherous and aptly named Black Ice Couloir. Ochenski, now 63, has climbed Grand Teton many times since, including two ascents of the rarely climbed North Face.

“Those familiar with the long and storied history of the park must conclude that it is primarily famous for its world-class climbing,” Ochenski said. “While there are millions of acres of forests, lakes and rivers in the West, there are very few distinct and dramatic ranges like the Tetons with their massive and solid-rock faces.”

The mountains of the Teton Range are among the most spectacular in the Northern Rockies. Just a few miles north of the resort town of Jackson, Wyo., Grand Teton National Park is the little sister to America’s first national park, Yellowstone. The parks are connected by a 27-mile-long parkway named for John D. Rockefeller Jr. along a 24,000-acre stretch acting as an extension to Grand Teton.

Grand Teton is about a tenth the size of Yellowstone, which at 2.2 million acres is almost impossible to explore in a single visit. The smaller of the two parks makes up for its lesser acreage in abundant, accessible recreational opportunities.

“We’re the number one park in the National Park System as far as wildlife viewing of large mammals is concerned,” Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott said.

The park’s massive peaks – the highest is 13,770 feet – beckon all kinds of adventurers. Grand Teton park boasts 20 miles of paved pathways, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, fantastic fishing opportunities and more than 1,000 front-country campsites.

Adams also reports for the Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune. © 2013 USA TODAY. All rights reserved.

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