It was an early start to what was supposed to be one of the last decent climbing days of the season in Grand Teton National Park. It’s Sunday, October 3rd, and the slew of bad weather was on its way with the start of the upcoming week. Tim was to guide me up one of the park’s most famous technical climbing routes, Baxter’s Pinnacle. The climb consists of 6 pitches, mostly 5.6-5.8 difficulty with the CRUX coming right before the summit that is a tricky 5.9 lieback move.
Climbing up Baxter's with the Cathedral view of Teewinot, Mt. Owen and The Grand
Tim and I packed our lunches and set out at 8am on a brisk early autumn day out of Jackson and toward the park. Arriving at the trailhead I received an unexpected pop quiz from Tim. “Hey Reubenator, you remember Covey’s 7 habits?” “Umm…be proactive?” “Yeah, I know that’s you’re favorite one but do you remember the rest?” That’s about as far as I got, with maybe an “in it to win it for a minute!” After it was confirmed that I had no idea what I was talking about, Tim gave me a great acronym for remembering the 7 habits: Be-Be-First-Win-Stu-Synergize-The Saw (Be Proactive, Begin with the end in mind, First things first, seak a Win-Win, Seek to Understand before being understood, and Sharpen the Saw. “Now repeat that until you get it!” Little did I know that this physical workout was also going to be mental as well!
Tim on the first pitch (5.10+) of Baxter's
The approach climb was a brisk walk meant to be a warm up with the intention of being the first climbers on the route as to not get held up. Our brisk walk conversation was a mix of repeating the 7 Habits and going over what they meant to me, and then Tim would add in his definition. Along the way we spotted fresh bear scat, and no joke, this bear was in the vicinity! The steam was still rising off this trail gift! Tim went on to tell me that he had previously treed a cub and was almost eaten by a mamma bear on this very trail!
Apparently I took too long on our relief break before beginning our technical climb up Baxter’s.
Tim: “You realize, on average you take 15 minutes!”
Me: “Come on man, you give me a coffee and a breakfast sandwich and what do you expect?”
Tim: “That stuff doesn’t fly when you’re in the mountains! Number one, we’re trying to be the first ones on the route, and number two, if you’re doing winter climbing, especially if you’re at high elevation, and you take more than 30 seconds or a minute, that could mean getting frostbite on your balls! Push it out, man! Haaarden up! …and you gotta start using rocks, dude!” (Tim knows I’m aspiring to colder alpine routes)
The climb started out with a quick 5.10+ pitch called Seizure Disorder, as I realized Tim was still climbing in his approach shoes! (Tim Walther, ladies and gentlemen!)
Baxter's Pinnacle from a distance
This was followed by some sweet crack climbs. I felt like I was gliding through these cracks! I began thinking that I totally get why people are addicted to this sport. We had climbed the Grand three weeks earlier and I couldn’t stop thinking about my next climb, my next adventure! There’s something about climbing that is meditative, that clears your mind, something similar to riding my motorcycle, where all I’m focusing on is the road, scanning with my eyes, watching for possible danger, while feeling the adrenalin rush! You’re probably wondering how this is meditative…Well, climbing clears my mind; it’s a mental and a physical exercise. There are systems, life dependent systems that must be paid the utmost attention. You’re focused on right here, right now; I have to be safe, I have a goal, what’s my next move? Not to mention the freakin’ scenery! As Tim would say, “It’s all happening!”
Tim schooling me on the route
…and back from my stream of consciousness…
Big time exposure
Off the cracks and onto the chimney for some stemming; and I Jack and the Beanstocked that mofo! Over and up a couple pitches and we’re almost at the CRUX. The CRUX for me was the “Catwalk.” It looked like something physically impossible because you have to twist your body away from the rock while having tons of exposure (feet below you). You’re basically using the friction from the sticky rubber of your shoes and doing a half-lieback move to stay on the rock. I couldn’t really believe that it was possible ‘till I was actually doing it. After the CRUX was the summit! What a view of Jenny Lake and the Cathedral view of the Tetons!
Getting over the CRUX and onto the summit with a view of Jenny Lake
Climbing partners enjoy the summit of Baxter's Pinnacle
After a breather on the summit we rappelled off the back of Baxter’s and then climbed back down unassisted. As we met back up with the approach trail our conversation reverted back to “Covey’s 7 Habits,” just to make sure I had them straight. During our climb I kept saying that I wanted to take a dip in Jenny Lake after the climb, but once we were headed back on the approach, the air felt a little cool and began to harp on the frigidness of the mountain water. I kept flip flopping on whether or not I wanted to jump in, so Tim being Tim, said, “Here’s the deal, we’re going to run for the next 10 minutes to this swimming hole, then we’re going to get naked and jump in, got it?!” As we were coming towards the end of our run and were almost at the swimming hole, there stood four elderly people out for a hike, right in front of our naked plunge area! Tim and I looked at each other with an overwhelming look of, “ahhh screw it!” The water was cold but incredibly refreshing, and I’m glad we didn’t give the old timers a heart attack!
Baxter’s pinnacle was amazing! What a learning experience, both mentally and physically. I had a great time hanging out with Tim, learning more about rock climbing, and of course memorizing the famous “Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.” Research shows that if you can connect education to a place or experience, especially if it’s a memorable one, taking you out of your element then it will be hard to forget. I will certainly never forget “Covey’s 7 Habits,” nor will I forget my climb up Baxter’s Pinnacle with Tim.
Yours in adventure,
Rappelling off the backside of Baxter's Pinnacle with the Cathedral View of the Tetons