My son turned 12 in the middle of scout camp this year. On his twelfth birthday the scouts were scheduled to climb Table Rock. I decided to climb it with him.
Table Rock is a very popular hike in the Teton Range. It doesn't require any technical climbing, just hiking. There are two major trails to the summit of Table Rock, the Huckleberry Trail and the Face Trail. The Huckleberry Trail is a switchback trail, about 7 miles from the trailhead to the summit and the face trail is about 4 miles without many switchbacks. The elevation gain on both hikes is 4000 feet. That makes the Face Trail brutal.
Table Rock is a large sedimentary rock about 10 yards wide by about a hundred yards long. It's elevation is 11,106 feet above sea level. Approximately the elevation of base camp on Everest. From Table Rock you get the best view of the west face of the Grand Teton. Once you summit and see that mountain, all thoughts of, "was this really worth it?" melt away.
I climbed Table Rock twice when I was a scout and attended Treasure Mountain Boy Scout Camp. Both times I climbed it, though we took the Huckleberry Trail. This year, however there was more snow than usual in the Tetons and the spring runoff had washed out four bridges and the streams were impassable on Huckleberry. In addition, the switchbacks for the last two miles were covered with ice. The part of the trail that was iced over has sheer cliffs dropping off over 3000 feet. Huckleberry wasn't an option this year. We climbed the face.
I was a little concerned for my twelve year old, wondering if he could make this climb. That was one of the reasons I decided to go. I also wanted to celebrate his birthday with him on Table Rock. I thought that would be cool.
We started out on the trail at about 7 AM and it didn't take very long for me to realize that my son did not need my help. Within the first mile the faster hikers outpaced us and I didn't see any of them again until we reached the summit. Rhys, my son was in that first group. Out of 17 people that climbed, my son was the fifth person to summit. I was the last.
About a mile up the trail, two of the scouts told the scoutmaster that it was too hard and they didn't want to do it. They tried to convince us to go back down the trail. He and I had to pep talk those two boys to get them to finish the hike. We took as long as we needed to and rested alot, but they finally decided that this mountain was not going to beat them. I was proud of them. The last mile and a half, they pushed ahead and summitted well ahead of the scoutmaster and me.
The Face Trail is very steep, and there is a sign at the trailhead that says it is not recommended. I have bad knees from an injuy I sustained in grad school, so the going was a little rougher for me than some of the others. The scenery was magnificent though. We set goals for how far we would go before we rested and made it up the mountain that way. Most of the elevation gain was in the first two and a half miles. The last mile and a half, the elevation gain was steady but very manageable. The problem with climbing a mountain, though is that every time you cross a ridge, it seems there's another ridge in front of you that needs to be crested.
Just before the summit, there is a field of fractured boulders that was very interesting to me. It was all sedimentary rock and fossil bearing. The neatest fossils were the worm burrows. I don't know the age of the fossils, but there are worm tracks all through some of the boulders. Among the other fossils I saw were rain impressions. Those were very cool as well.
After the boulder field were large patches of snow and at this point of the climb I knelt down several times for several minutes at a time to ice my knees. I don't know if I'd have made it up the summit if it hadn't been for the snow. When I finally got to the summit, Rhys came down to guide me up to the top. That was very cool. No one told him to do it, he came down for me. I appreciated that. When I got to the summit, all 16 of us sang "Happy Birthday" to my son on Table Rock. It was a great day.
|Rhys and I on Table Rock|