Resiliency Field Trip: Climbing Grand Teton (or The 29-Hour Day)

Summit Grand Teton Em Capito, LCSW

In the spring of 2022, my climbing partner and I began a mission to climb Grand Teton.

The Grand stands at 13,775 feet. The expedition requires an elevation gain of 7,000 feet, the last 1,700 feet to be covered via the Upper Exum ridge climbing route.

I needed to learn multipitch, trad basics, and simulclimbing, training on five climbs before heading to Wyoming.

View from Climbers Ranch Grand Teton Stars Em Capito, LCSW

Our basecamp was Climbers Ranch.

We had a three-day window for weather, which dictated a Tuesday expedition, our last option.

Playing in the park and Jackson Hole as we waited, we felt excited. We felt ready.

Tuesday, just after 2:00 am, we headed out, anticipating a return no later than 8:00 pm.

Our support team was monitoring our progress live and ready to trigger search and rescue at midnight.

Climbing Grand Teton Garnet Canyon Em Capito, LCSW

We didn’t return until 7:00 am the next day.

29 hours.

9 hours on the approach. 12 hours of climbing. 8 hours hiking back.

29 hours moving with no sleep, just 1.5 liters of water, and 700 calories.

We had access to more water and food. We were too sick from the altitude to stomach anything. Too exhausted to be be proactive.

Grand Teton Fixed Rope Em Capito, LCSW

Climbing Grand Teton was an adventure, and a nightmare.

I cried as we entered the massive moraine field and saw that we still had more than a mile to reach the lower saddle.

I melted down when we got lost in that same moraine field in the dark 16 hours later, around 1 am.

Everything hurt. I was too tired to think, too nauseous to eat or drink.

I nodded off while hiking as the sun rose for a second time. I hallucinated a mountain man and a camel. I saw bears everywhere.

Climbing Grand Teton Em Capito, LCSW

The ugly underbelly aside, I’m proud. We climbed the Grand!

The challenge, the sunrise (both of them), the surreal sunset from the summit as we rappelled, and all of the climbing was beyond anything we could capture in pictures.

More than anything else, we overcame physical and mental challenges beyond anything we had ever experienced.

We found our outer limits and pushed through, wringing joy out of the views, the climbs, and one another.

Climbing Grand Teton Em Capito, LCSW

Death and rebirth. A hero’s journey that will forever change our trajectories in life.

At each point of total darkness, we found hope.

As we contemplated bailing at the lower saddle, another set of climbers showed up, enthusiastic to join us (shout out to Jess and Isaac!).

We needed every one of us to get to the summit.

Ravens and butterflies escorted us when we felt we couldn’t push on.

On the soul-crushing trek out in the dark, two random young climbers appeared out of nowhere on the trail and shared sour patch kids.

Sunset Rappel Grand Teton Em Capito, LCSW

Threads. Reminders. Meaning.

In every Resiliency Field Trip, we find the raw core of ourselves, and reckon with fears that transcend the direct experience.

I wouldn’t repeat those 29 hours, but I’m grateful for the experience, my tribe, and the growth.


“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! To behold this alone is worth the pains of any excursion a thousand times over.​” – John Muir

Sunset Grand Teton Em Capito, LCSW

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