Grand Traverse in Winter
In mid-January, two teams of veteran alpinists completed the Tetons’ Grand Traverse in winter for the first time. Renny Jackson and Hans Johnstone started the traverse of the Tetons’ seven core summits (plus subsidiary peaks and spires) on January 17, and Stephen Koch and Mark Newcomb followed in their tracks an hour later.
The two parties climbed mostly together over the route’s hardest section, from Teewinot over Mt. Owen and up the Italian Cracks on the North Face of the Grand Teton. Then, Jackson and Johnstone spent two nights at the Lower Saddle to dry out wet boots and gear, while the other two climbers continued over Middle Teton before bivying in a storm. Koch and Newcomb finished the traverse over the remaining peaks in one more day, taking a total of three days. Jackson and Johnstone took four days, including their layover day.
The Grand Traverse, first completed in 1963, is considered one of America’s greatest alpine linkups. Although it has been done in less than seven hours in summer, winter climbing in the Tetons is a different story altogether, with deep snow and intense cold. Johnstone and Jackson had tried the traverse in winter three times before. According to a story in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, Newcomb said completing the traverse was harder than climbing the Cassin Ridge on Denali.