Trip Report: Five Mountaineers Explore Teton Crest Trail

Five Mountaineers members - Chad Freeman, Michaela Phillips, Birgit Grimlund, Jim Orsi, and Gabrielle Orsi - met in Jackson, Wyoming on September 2, excited to start a one-way three-night, four-day trek along the Teton Crest Trail. Read on to learn more about their unexpected adventures.
Gabrielle Orsi Gabrielle Orsi
Foothills Branch Leader & Super Volunteer
October 08, 2023
Trip Report: Five Mountaineers Explore Teton Crest Trail
Pictured left to right: Jim Orsi, Chad Freeman, Gabrielle Orsi, Birgit Grimlund, and Michaela Phillips.

Backpacking the Teton Crest Trail in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park is a chance to experience glorious high alpine scenery like nowhere else in the United States. Highlights of this strenuous route include views of the Teton Range, alpine lakes, and a unique insight into the variety of geological structures that the park contains.

Fueled by a hearty breakfast at The Bunnery, a local favorite diner, our group started hiking under cloudy skies from the Death Canyon trailhead. Despite an unfavorable weather forecast, we were in good spirits and optimistic about our trip.

Our planned itinerary had us sojourning in Death Canyon for one night, followed by the Death Canyon Shelf, a dramatic high-altitude plateau at 9500 feet, then Cascade Canyon, before exiting at Jenny Lake. However, the mountains had other plans for us! On our second day, while hiking along the Death Canyon Shelf, a violent storm struck. Hail, thunder, lightning, and torrential rain accompanied by a steep drop in the temperature had us running for shelter.

During a brief pause in the intensity of the storm, we were able to locate a wooded spot to set up camp. Then, miraculously, the weather suddenly cleared and the sun shone brightly for about two hours, enabling us to dry out and enjoy the views. Meanwhile, a herd of mule deer wandered toward our campsite and grazed placidly nearby - an enjoyable wildlife sighting. However, this sunny period vanished as quickly as it had arrived, and the storm brought us heavy rain and fog for the next day or so.

A group discussion examining our options led to a consensus that we should abandon our planned itinerary and head for the safety of lower ground in Death Canyon and possibly beyond, in the zone near Phelps Lake. We ended up spending a soggy night at scenic and quiet Phelps Lake but were grateful for the change from the raging storm to gentle drizzle. The lower elevation and rain shadow effect of the mountains and ridgelines made a significant difference in the weather.

Luckily on our final day, we were greeted by brilliant sunshine and blue skies. Our group charged ahead, hiking past two beautiful alpine lakes along a valley floor to reach our cars at Jenny Lake. Despite the additional distance incurred by our change of plans, everyone enjoyed our final day of hiking and taking in more of Wyoming's fantastic scenery. Always leave them wanting more, eh, Wyoming?

Each party member was a key participant and contributor to the success of this trip. Everyone was well-prepared for the extreme conditions we encountered and participated in the group decision-making process. And Birgit kept us all informed and illuminated as she identified more than 50 types of wildflowers in the park! More than one person expressed the wish to return to the Tetons and further explore this gorgeous area. Primary trip leader Gabrielle Orsi would be glad to share information and trip planning details with anyone interested in visiting Grand Teton National Park. 

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