Friday, August 15, 2014

Teton Circumnavigation - 8/11/2014

Despite the name, the Fastest Known Time website makes an excellent resource for finding the best recreational trail runs to visit in an unfamiliar area, even when one has no intention of putting down a race-quality effort. For an experienced ultrarunner, it seems that every significant mountain range, canyon, or park has a must-see route to spend a whole day on and it's helpful to have one central site to catalog them all.

I recently found myself in Salt Lake City for work and Grand Teton National Park seemed tantalizing close enough to tack on to the end of the trip. Maybe calling a 5.5 hour drive "close" is a stretch, but it doesn't require getting on a plane and New Hampshire is a whole lot farther from Jackson Hole than Northern Utah is. Close enough. I'd briefly been to the Tetons once with my wife just before the Wasatch 100 back in 2011, but we didn't get to explore much and I knew I wanted to go back for a deeper look.

The Teton Circumnavigation traces a route from the valley on the western side of the range up Cascade Canyon to Hurricane Pass and Alaska Basin in the high country. There, it rolls along snowfields and alpine ridgelines, spending a few miles over 10,000 feet, to the Static Peak Divide where it descends into Death Canyon and back to the valley. By the numbers it's roughly 35 miles with 7,000 feet of gain.

The views are utterly indescribable and I found myself gaping slack-jawed for most of my time there - glaciers, alpine lakes, peaks so craggy that they look like where the Grinch would flee after stealing Christmas. With every new twist and turn in the trail my mind was blown just a little bit more. I did my best to film the experience:

With all of the filming and gawking I still managed to get back to the car in a little over seven hours. There are quite a few things I could do better and I'm left wondering how close a focused effort would get me to Evan Honeyfield's 5:34 record time. I'll be back if I get the chance.