September 23, 2007

...thoughts on alpine climbing in Idaho

After talking with the gang at Teton Mountaineering a few days ago, I bumped into another friend in downtown Jackson. We swapped stories about our various summer adventures and I expressed my congrats concerning his noteworthy accomplishments in the Tetons over the last few years. He commented in a "joking but seriously" way that I should come back to the Tetons and stop waisting my time chasing ephemeral ghosts on that chossy rock in Idaho. Not the first time I've heard this comment and as always I took it as a compliment! Needless to say it got me thinking again about my switch in motivation from Teton climbs to exploring new terrain in the central mountains of Idaho.

It is understandable that alpine Idaho is simply waiting in obscurity for perceptions to change. Although still obscure to most, and most likely to remain that way for some time to come, the greater ranges of Idaho now offer a handful of serious technical alpine climbs with other worthy plumbs just waiting to be plucked. Routes like Broken Wings (WI5, M5, 400m) on the north face of Sacajewea, the Travis Michaelis Memorial Route (WI4R, M5, 500m) on Hyndman Peak, and the alpine "cragging" routes on Peak 11,308 such as the White Line Couloir (M5, 250m) are merely the tip of the ice burg. Perhaps not as glamorous as climbing in the Tetons, often a lot more work and almost always remote, i can't begin to comprehend life without these labors of love here in Idaho.

Shifting focus from climbing in the Tetons to opening new mixed alpine terrain in Idaho required stepping outside of local ideals and preconceived notions; to think for myself, and more importantly, to act according to my own perspectives. And beyond the climbing itself, I found there is something powerful in listening to your heart and finding out for yourself what is worthy and what is not. Climbing for me has largely been a journey to avoid limitations, to explore what i am capable of achieving. I still walk that path almost every day and love every minute of it! I can't say it any better than Barry Blanchard did with his comments about climbing on Rockies choss in the recent Climbing Magazine. The adventure is pretty damn amazing and not muddied by the status of a particular route on a notable summit. For me exploring Idaho has brought climbing back to what it truly is...just climbing!

These photos offer only a glance at the many possibilities here in Idaho for new terrain. I still visit the Tetons since they are right in my backyard, but after dreaming, searching, and finding the terrain displayed in these photos, it could be another few years before i return to my Teton ambitions.