The Teton Crest Trail in a day

AM traffic jam on the trail

AM traffic jam on the trail

One of my favorite places in the lower 48 has yet again, lived up to its hype. Glenn Owings and myself recently both jogged the Teton Crest Trail from Phillips TH to String Lake TH. Although finishing at String Lake, we cut off the last pass (Paintbrush Divide) due to time limitations. So instead of ~39 miles, we did ~33 point-to-point. Regardless of the deviation, it was a beautiful trail and a wonderful day in the mountains with a friend. That’s what’s up.

Warming sun and wildflowers. Glenn early on the TCT

Warming sun and wildflowers. Glenn early on the TCT

We both carried and wore similar gear for the day, with the standouts being the Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 2.0 and the Sawyer Water Filter Bottle. First up, the UD SJ Ultra Vest. Now in it’s second iteration, the SJ UV has just enough volume (7L) and compressibility for a full day in the hills. The SJ UV also has front bottle carry, ala the rest of their signature series of running vest-style packs, which allows for a well-balanced and efficient method of water carry. And as in this case, bear spray can go up front in a bottle pocket when running in grizzly country. The vest has very little bounce when loaded and fit properly, which is a key component to this style of carry. I also carried a pair of Ultra Distance Z-poles collapsed on the back of the pack for over a dozen miles and didn’t notice them there. Both Glenn and myself used the SJ UV to great success and would definitely use it again for similar long-day outings.

Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 2.0 and the Tetons

Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 2.0 and the Tetons

Next up, but no less successful is the Sawyer 24oz Water Filter Bottle. I’ve mentioned this dip/sip method before but the latest version incorporates Sawyer’s Mini Filter into the equation, thus lightening and lowering the volume of the system. The only modification that I’d suggest is doing away with the stock Sawyer bottle due to it’s stouter profile and hard plastic, and replacing it with a cheapo bike bottle of your preference. Most that I’ve found have a universal thread that mates up with the Sawyer lid. This way, the end result is trimmer for front vest carry and also facilitates being able to squeeze the bottle for increased flow. Glenn and I used this system to great success for the entire length of our Teton Crest experience. I’ve been using it for over a year now and find it to be a very time-effective solution to water filtration in the backcountry. Dipping and sipping, we carried no extraneous water weight the whole way.

Glenn demonstrating the 'dipping' half of the process

Glenn demonstrating the ‘dipping’ half of the process

So, those two pieces were the winners used for this trip. Everything else was fairly standard and trusty, with a windshirt, small emergency/FAK, LW gloves, buff, headlamp, and extra calories being carried inside the vest back. All other stuff, such as camera, gels, chews, electrolyte tabs, water, mini-map, and bear spray were carried somewhere in the external front and lat pockets. The system works pretty damn nicely.

Myself and AK Basin behind me (photo: Glenn)

Myself and AK Basin behind me (photo: Glenn)

The route went something like this: Headlamps, running, and the rising sun. Wildflowers and surrounding mountains begin to show themselves. Wildlife as well. Six moose in the course of a mile. Deer on the trail. Ten miles and Marion Lake, the day has just begun. Shelves of flowers and the first glimpse of the Tetons. Death Canyon Shelf was awfully nice. Granite, Whitebark, and elephant’s head in AK Basin. The best flowers of the trip out of said basin. Cheeky marmot and the three Tetons from atop Hurricane Pass. Schoolhouse glacier and the best of moraines. Old growth Whitebark and Doug fir, huckleberries, tourists, Jenny Lake, tired feet, no shade, String Lake, and a celebratory soak in the outlet. Pica’s in town for the best burrito and margarita combo around. Campfire back at Gros Ventre with Julia, shooting stars and the milky way to accompany. A sound night’s sleep.

Phillips Pass and one of many moose

Phillips Pass and one of many moose

Right after Marion Lake with the first glimpse of the Tetons. Oh yeah, and the wildflowers weren't bad either

Right after Marion Lake with the first glimpse of the Tetons. Oh yeah, and the wildflowers weren’t bad either

Leaving AK Basin while treated to colors and vistas

Leaving AK Basin while treated to colors and vistas

Approaching Hurricane Pass

Approaching Hurricane Pass

Marmot and the Grand. Hurricane Pass

Marmot and the Grand. Hurricane Pass

The Grand, Middle, and South Tetons in all of their glory

The Grand, Middle, and South Tetons in all of their glory

We really couldn’t have asked for a better day in the mountains. I can say it was training for The Rut 50K, but it was really just a gorgeous day out in some pretty nice wilderness. Just how we like ’em.

Glenn at the outlet of String Lake some miles later

Glenn at the outlet of String Lake some miles later

7 Comments

  1. Reply
    brian September 6, 2014

    Looks like an awesome trip all around. How nice!

  2. Reply
    Adam Elliott September 8, 2014

    Looks like a really cool hike. Although i’ve been to all the National Parks i consider of interesting in the lower 48 i have never done anything other than drive through Gran Teton NP. I definitely need to get back there. Nice to know there are still new things to do.

  3. Reply
    Paul R December 1, 2014

    How long did it take you?
    I’ve been doing chunks of the crest in a day … my favorite long hikes ever. Will maybe try the whole thing next visit. It’s really a relentlessly spectacular route.

    • Reply
      nicktruax December 2, 2014

      Paul,

      If I remember correctly, it was a leisurely 11 hours or so. We definitely took our time with taking in the views and taking photos. Fueling and hydration was mostly on the fly, but we could have knocked a hour or two off, maybe more, with a quicker pace. Best of luck on your in-a-day aspirations! It really is a spectacular trail, isn’t it?

  4. Reply
    AW March 4, 2016

    Nick – How did you work out the shuttle back to Jackson?

    • Reply
      nicktruax April 13, 2016

      I’ve got a wonderful wife who facilitated the shuttle. Hitching would be a viable option too given the amount of summer traffic.

    • Reply
      levi April 18, 2016

      AW – If you ask at the Ranger Station they’ll give you a couple of names of people who will shuttle your car for a fee.

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