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Making the Middle Teton

Making the Middle Teton
Written by: Louie Knolle  

Who starts a hike at 3 a.m.?  If you say only crazy people, then paint me crazy.  Starting from the Lupine Meadows trail head parking lot in Grand Tetons National Park, my 8 fellow summit seekers and I had over 6,000 feet in vertical elevation to gain before accomplishing our goal.  Why so early?  As afternoons progress generally, chances for storms at higher elevations increase dramatically.  When you’re above tree line on the side of the mountain, your body is way more conductive and lightning friendly than any boring rock.

The climb began first with 4 miles of trail up the base of the Tetons through largely lodgepole pines.  With only the light of our headlamps and the moon, we were all abnormally quiet reflecting in the serenity of the early morning.  As the time neared 5 a.m., we paused for a group break having reached the bottom of the boulder field.  Finally, the sunlight began to creep over the horizon and we began the slow crawl over boulders higher than our heads.

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When climbing a mountain and hiking in general, if you’re in a group, you should do everything in your power to stay in that group. In our group all 9 of us were in good shape after hiking around Glacier and Yellowstone for two weeks, so stragglers were not an issue we worried about. After a bit of boulder hopping, two members of our group continued upward when the rest of us descended a little following the “trail”.  One of the two was used to hiking alone and the other was not as experienced, but was in great shape so we didn’t think much of it.  An hour later however, we lost sight of the two and the yelling began.  As it turned out, they continued too far to the left of the valley on the Northeast side of the Middle Teton and starting going up a different peak entirely.  We were able to catch John, who was closer to the group (the experienced solo hiker), but Brad, who was way out in front kept going, more on him later.

After reassembling and a speech on sticking together, we split up again (ironically) and left 3 members of the group to wait for our crazy friend who decided to climb the wrong mountain.  After reaching the lower saddle which would commence the final push of 1200+ vertical feet to the top, we were stopped by a breathtaking view of Iceberg Lake.  The western edge of the Tetons literally drops right down to it.  The final push is always the steepest part. (Which makes it my favorite part!)  I was not feeling the effects of the altitude at all and led the remaining 5 of us most of the way to the top.  Pausing for breaks and being careful on loose rock, the final ascent took us almost 2 hours.

teton2Near the top, 2 more from the group said they were not feeling well so they turned back and eight dropped to three.  The rest of us took this a cue to stop for a food break, but I was already consumed with summit fever.  With prowess a mountain goat would envy, I was at the top in what seemed like no time and I could see everything.  The Grand Teton looked like it was close enough to be grabbed and surrounding me were sheer rock faces and glistening blue lakes.  I was glad I continued the last little bit alone before the other two joined me.  There is no greater feeling of solitude than on top of a lone peak, no other word to describe your feeling but “infinite.”  After my hoots and hollers to tell whoever was listening in the cosmos that I had topped my mountain, I began the climb down so the others could experience their own Middle Teton.

And back to the courageous/foolish young man who summited his own peak that day, suffice it to say he got off very lucky.  As it turned out, Brad climbed a much more difficult route by hand on the way up, and once on top, was not able to find a way down.  After 20 minutes of pacing back and forth, swearing, and near self-defecation, he was able to find an old climbing rope.  He then bravely/foolishly climbed down the length of the rope,

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rocks falling on his head and everything, and went back to the trail head where he napped for 2 hours waiting for our return, utterly exhausted.  Thankfully on our way down, we had enough cell service to receive a voicemail letting us know he made it down safely.

So a variety of lessons were learned on the Middle Teton that day by the University of Cincinnati Mountaineering Club.  1) The larger the group size, the more important it is to stick together when attempting to summit a mountain on a day hike.  2) When you’ve never actually climbed a mountain before, don’t go off on your own thinking you’re Superman.  3) Drink lots of water during your hike.  As your body adjusts to altitude, you have to pee… a lot.  4) Take your time.  Start early, take sufficient rest breaks, and don’t rush yourself especially going from boulder to boulder and ascending on loose rock. 5) Most importantly, have fun!  Don’t ever get discouraged, the euphoria you feel on the summit of a mountain far surpasses as negative thoughts of not being able to complete the climb.

Silence in the Mind & Adventure in the Heart

Silence in the Mind & Adventure in the Heart
A UCMC Goosedown Gazette Original
Written by: Louie Knolle

John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” Before coming to college, I would not have given much thought to this statement. However, that was before I ever truly experienced all that nature had to offer. A few weeks after I graduated high school in 2010, some close friends and I went backpacking for 3 days in Shenandoah National Park, located in northern Virginia. We wanted to go on some sort of trip, and one friend (a former boy scout) suggested hiking. And we figured, why not? It would be a good challenge and most importantly, it would be cheap! Little did I know however, I would be coming back from that trip with a changed perspective. Growing up, I had never camped for more than one night, and that was only car camping. My family was never one to venture deep into the outdoors, just the occasional walk in the park or visit to Eastfork State Park to go to the free public beach located there. But after returning from Shenandoah and not seeing a road, car, or building for 3 days straight, I was thrilled by the prospect of going and doing it again. And that was even with 90+ degree days, too much in my pack, and pushing myself to new limits, but that’s all part of the fun! And in the years since, I have gone on numerous weekend backpacking trips (2-3 days) and more recently a 6 day/75 miles hike on the Appalachian Trail, climbed mountains, whitewater rafted, kayaked, rock climbed, and even gone caving.

The feeling and kind of person I am when I am doing these things is hard to explain. The best way I can think of describing is that it just feels natural (no pun intended, not even sure if that is a pun). There is a sense of calm and serenity, the likes of which I have never experienced before. When you wake up in the morning, peer over the edge of your hammock and see light refracted through dew covered spider webs, dawn breaking through a mist blanketed lake, nothing compares. It’s both the small sights and the large vistas alike that draw me back time and time again. You feel ever the accomplishment when you realize that the only way to see these sights is to walk away from any road or parking lot, and nothing can take that away from you. I always like to imagine that every sight or object that I’m seeing is being viewed in a completely original manner. Whether it be because I climbed a tree to get a better look, the stream was running especially high and fast that day, or even standing two feet to the left of a friend, what I am taking in is 100% original.

Enough about me though! You can be having these feelings and revelations too! First thing you have to do, is go outside of course. One of the most positive things I find I get out of hiking is a closeness to the earth that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. In this day and age, the average person spends eight hours in front of an electronicscreen, in some form or another, each day. Ironically, that is what I’m doing in writing this article… But despite this slight hypocrisy, I am an advocate of removing oneself from these screens. All this screen time really accomplishes is separating yourself from the world around you, numbing the wonderful machine your mind can be, and not making use of each and every person’s unique skills. I know when I spend too much time on my laptop whether it is on Facebook, Netflix, Reddit, Stumbleupon, etc. I sense an inner restlessness within me and am much less productive as aresult. Not only are these websites time wasters for me, but they are motivation killers too.

One of the most therapeutic benefits of hiking is the sense of peace it brings you. You totally forget about work deadlines, trivial personal matters, and anything else that may worry you on a day-to-day basis. I know the best sleep I ever get is in a tent or hammock after a day or days of hiking. And of course you can argue, sure you sleep soundly after hiking 15 miles with a 30 pound pack on your back, but I’m referring the silence in my mind as I am closing my eyes for the night. We all have those nights where we toss and turn because it doesn’t seem like our mind wants to turn off, but rarely will you find that as a problem when you simply let your mind exist. I’m not saying you need to strap on a pack and carry 3 days’ worth of gear off into the wilderness to achieve this, I can reach the same level of inner calm by simply walking my dog in the park for an hour (a black lab/border collie mix named Korra, she’s adorable). And once you have done this a few times, you can bring this state of mind into your daily routine, whether it is through meditation, yoga, counting to 10, or whatever it is you do to calm yourself after a stressful day. And as a side note, if you don’t do some sort of meditation, I highly recommend it!

Perhaps the most important part of all of this is to be happy. Look deep down and find what makes you happy. It doesn’t have to be hiking. It could be any sort of activity you truly love doing. Every single human being is born with an adventurous spirit, it is up to you the individual to utilize it. For me, going on adventures helped me find a purpose in my life. Not that my life was destitute and directionless before, but planning hikes and other adventures with both myself alone and friends helped remove me from a state of silent acquiescent acceptance. I did not think deeply about most things, just took them as they were and did not question them. I was not able to realize all the blessings I had in my life.

I learned what it truly meant to live in the present and fully enjoy what I was doing, instead of simply going through the emotions. Without adventure in our lives, life can get stale really quickly.

And what’s worse than not using our natural adventurous nature? My wish for you reading this right now is that if you have not already found something you truly love to do, that you keep trying new things until you do find it.

And even after you find it, keep trying even more new things. No one ever loses their childlike sense of curiosity; all they need is a kick in the rump by something that truly invigorates them to clear the film from over their eyes and see the world how it truly is again, a wonderful and spectacular place.

Louie 2

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