While many were enjoying picnics and BBQ’s with their loved ones at family gatherings and block parties I went north to Grand Teton National Park for the first half of the USA-Iran climber exchange hosted by the American Alpine Club (AAC) and the Alpine Club of Iran (ACI).
As the camp chef responsible (during the first half of the exchange) for cooking for the 25 members of the group I arrived ahead of our guests to go grocery shopping and do some meal planning.
The first morning was cold and clear with a beautiful view of the Grand beyond my cabin. Fall was certainly evident with the aspen trees starting to show their gold—and it was only the first of the month! Having never climbed in the park I was looking forward to exploring it later in the week.
The first task at hand was going grocery shopping, which is something I do not like to do. Thankfully with the help of several new friends we filled four shopping carts to overflowing with enough supplies to kick off the exchange. The receipt was over six feet long! It was enough for two days of meals.
The eleven Iranians arrived at the Climber’s Ranch in the middle of the night after two days of travel. Several hours later the brunch buffet opened allowing the ACI members to meet their AAC member guides and fellow exchange members. Naturally when you put this many climbers together climbing is the first thing talked about after the polite questions about travel, ones health and the weather. Since the ACI contingent arrived in the dark they were amazed at the natural beauty surrounding the climber’s ranch. The rest of the day was unplanned allowing for everyone to get to know each other and to rest up after such a long journey. I on the other hand started prepping and cooking dinner for 25.
The Climber’s Ranch is an old church and scout camp with rustic cabins at the base of a huge ancient moraine at an elevation of 6700 feet. The primary building in camp is the library which is the gathering area for any guest. Shelves of books, a wood burning stove, a PC and several couches make for a cozy place to relax between climbs or during poor weather. Attached to this building is the kitchen with a 1946 Magic Chef stove in one corner. This behemoth, with 8 burners, two ovens and a griddle, resembled a retired boxer whose body was not working well and what worked was often a bit unstable. This required me keeping a close eye on the temperature and state of doneness of anything being cooked, fried or baked.
In planning the meals I designed themes to allow for variety and some ease of meal planning with an unknown kitchen. Our welcoming dinner was an Italian spread including a salad bar, garlic bread and meat lasagna with homemade sauce. For dessert there was watermelon and a fresh fruit salad for anyone still hungry.
The next day was a climbing day! So after breakfast we gathered our gear and promptly left the camp to make the 0800 boat across Jenny Lake.
Once across the group divided into two teams of climbers and one of hikers. All were soon welcomed to the park by two large male moose grazing mere feet off the trail. Plenty of photos were taken by all.
I joined the climbing group with Bo, Molly, Ben and Majid. Our destination was the Guide’s Wall about an hour hike up the canyon. I could not put my camera away as new mountains and vistas showed with every turn in the trail.
I tied in with Bo and Majid leaving Molly and Ben as the duo. Bo effortlessly led us up three beautiful granite pitches. In preparing for our final pitch we unanimously agreed we did not like the color of the clouds quickly building and turning darker ever minute. So we promptly changed direction and three raps later we were back on the ground. The front’s bark was worse than its bite but none of us would have wanted to be four pitches higher when it came through. Either way it was a successful outing.
Once back at camp I returned to the kitchen to make dinner after securing a few volunteers to help with the prep work. The evening’s repast was baked potatoes, fruit salad, baked fish on a veggie pyre and a pineapple walnut cake for desert.
As an added bonus we had a slide show of amazing climbs around the world by past president Jim Donini. Everyone was tired, full of good food and enthralled by Jim’s stories and beautiful pictures. It was a very successful day.
After several amazing weather days we woke to grey sky and clouds obscuring the peaks. Without the sunshine the temperature was noticeably cooler. With these conditions plans were reworked where the majority of the exchange went for a hike directly from camp. Instead of hiking we, the same group from the day before, with Greg instead of Majid, went rock climbing at Blacktail Butte located on the valley floor. Composed of limestone this single pitch wall provided different challenges from those we had at Guide’s Wall. The day flew by as quickly as the clouds streaming across the valley and before we knew it we had to return to camp.
Dinner this evening was ‘outsourced’ to a guest chef, Jim Williams an Everest guide and world culinary explorer, who prepared a lamb shank BBQ with all the fixings. Delicious! After dinner we were treated to a private showing of ‘180 Degrees South’ presented by Yvon Chouinard. The movie is done in a classic adventure story model of exploration and adventure opening the authors’ eyes and minds in ways they could not have imagined when the set off on their journey.
After a dawn breakfast and picnic lunch preparation I said goodbye to my many new friends as they headed to Yellowstone National Park for the day on a photo safari while I returned to Denver. The exchange was a very enjoyable experience with climbing and conservation being the common love between two diverse, yet same, teams. I look forward to the ACI’s hospitality next year when the AAC team heads to Tehran.
Thanks to Tom Bowker for some of the pictures.
Get out and explore the World!