If you have landed on this blog post you want to climb the middle Teton. This was a feat that I did two times back in 2010 and 2011 and swore that I would never go again. Well, I am approaching my 40th birthday this month and have friends who love epic adventures and the challenge of doing hard things so we made plans 2 weeks ago and made the quest to climb the Middle Teton again. My friends flew in from Missouri and Sand Diego and stayed in our RV here in Idaho Falls. Since it is a 2-1/2 hour drive from Idaho Falls to the Lupine Meadows trailhead we made the decision to camp somewhere near the trailhead. We arrived and camped on BLM land just East of Hwy 191. We went to sleep around 10:00 and set our alarms for 3:50 ( We were 30 minutes from the trailhead).
We ended up starting on the trail at 5:08 with intentions to clim the Middle Teton and summit by Noon ( this is what I did the two previous times). The first part of the hike is really quite easy with 3 miles of Switch backs. We went back and forth passing and then getting passed by a group of kids from their 20’s from back east. On the switchbacks we encountered a small black bear ( luckily no mama bear was seen). The bear seemed to pay no attention to us as we continued on the path. After the first initial 3 miles of switch backs the trail is fairly simple as you round the corner into and can see the Middle Teton directly in front of you. It’s an amazing sight and worth the hike just to enter that canyon. After this trail continues up into the canyon for a mile or so you enter the first boulder field near the creek bottom. You’ll want to stay lower near the creek as a trail will appear. ( We know this because the kids in their 20’s were up higher than us and boulder hopped for much longer than they needed to.)
The next main destination is the Meadows. You’ll encounter a few overnight campers here and some beautiful green meadows with fresh water running through camp. Next, the CHALLENGE. You have about 3 miles of hell as you climb massive boulders and rock slides. There is no REAL path up to the saddle. 10 years ago we scaled the left side of the canyon up high all the way to the summit. However after going 1/2 way up the left side of the rock slides on that canyon this time, we encountered our first massive Rock slide ( luckily one ridge over) It sounded like thunder and was not caused by humans, it came from high up on the left ridge. The terrain was much different than 10 years ago with a ton or loose rock and dirt/mud slides. So we eyeballed a good path and shot back across to the middle/right side up and over a water fall. From there we kid of hugged the middle/right side all the way to the top. We reached the saddle which is a breathtaking view of Iceflow lake and into Idaho around 12:30. The next hour and a half was spent going up the Southwest Couloir. This is a 3rd class scramble good rock quality ( however a lot of loose smaller boulders that you can accidentally kick loose), a healthy amount of exposure, and the most incredible view of the Grand Teton you could imagine. If you don’t have any off-trail peak climbing experience, then don’t attempt this peak unless you are traveling with an experienced party and are comfortable with exposure. Also make sure to wear a helmet to protect you from falling rock.
The view from the TOP is break taking and it’s the 3rd highest peak on the Teton Mountain range.
Distance and Elevation Gain
Distance: Approximately 13 miles roundtrip or 6.5 miles one-way.
Elevation Gain: The total elevation gain from the trailhead to the summit is 6,072 ft. The summit elevation of the Middle Teton is 12,804 ft. making it the 3rd highest peak in the Teton Range behind the Grand Teton and Mt. Owen.
Estimated Time: Completing this climb in a single day will take most parties anywhere from 10-14 hours, including breaks. You can also split this climb up into 2-3 days by camping in the Garnet Canyon Meadows.
We submitted by 2:00 and stayed on the top with 2 other small groups totaling 6 people who have never climbed the mountain before. They started down but started headed down the wrong direction before the saddle. I had to hustle down and turn them around before they got into an area that could have been really bad for them. Around this time my wife injured her knee which started our slower decent. We didn’t hit the saddle until just before 7:00 pm because of the pace. I was fearing an all night hike at this pace but we continued on inching our way down the mountain pumped with ibuprofen and prayers. For about 3 miles I had her put all her weight should could on my back and shoulders and we took one step at a time. I kept telling her the options were to PUSH through the pain and move faster or spend the night on the mountain in shorts with no camping gear and the STILL hike out tomorrow. With a miracle her pace got faster and we cleared the last boulder field just as it was too dark to see your hand in front of your face.
The last 4 miles of the easy trail were the longes 4 miles of our lives. We went about one mile an hour and got out right at midnight for a total of 19 hours on the trail. My wife swears she will never see that canyon again, but here I am one week later wonder WHO I can take up that mountain next. One of my friends that came has a Podcast called DO HARD THINGS and I have uploaded the video version along with photo and video clips for your viewing pleasure. If you want to climb the Middle Teton, I say do it. However, try to find somebody who has been before. The group that started out early with us, never made it to the top. As a matter of fact, they never hit the saddle and turned around somewhere between the meadows and that saddle.
– Rock helmet and mechanic gloves for scrambling
– Hiking Boots that covers your ankle (not hiking shoes and no runners ) Unless you have stable ankles, I used Soloman Trail Runners
– Hiking pants ( no jeans, no cotton)
– Hiking Backpack ( recommended min 28 L)
– Hiking poles ( bring them even if you don’t normally use them so when you break your ankle you can hike out
– Bear Spray ( we are going in very dense grizzly bear populated area my bear spray wont guarantee to save your life- Everyone must have a bear spray that is easy to access to it)
– Water reservoir ( 2 to 3 L) / Gatorade – You dehydrate faster at higher altitude
-Micro ice spikes
Suggested Gear – Garbage bags for wet clothes, rain cover – extra socks , warm jacket – Spare shoes to wear during commute) – Sun glasses/ hat – You are going to be in direct sun for 10-12 hrs – Bugs spray – mosquitoes/ horse flies/ ticks – Rain jacket – Mountain weather changes within minutes – Warm jacket – It will be cold at higher altitude ( you loose about 5C every 1000 ft elevation gain) – Gloves and toque ( or Buff) – Lunch ( take more food than just lunch ) 2 snacks , lunch and some extra if we have an incident and have to wait for help to come.
Never leaving the group is one of our biggest rules too. People have gone missing on this hike.