A Sign in the Night
Al’s sister Ann flew from Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Michigan last weekend and stayed with us for a few days. During our visit, she shared her latest adventure—scaling the highest peak in the Teton Range in northwest Wyoming. The Grand Teton is 13,775 feet high and is definitely a challenge to climbers, requiring the right climbing equipment and experience as well as stamina and courage.
The idea to climb the granite peak came from a discussion between Ann and a few friends from high school days, all avid outdoors people. First, they talked about the thrill of skiing down “Corbet’s Couloir” in the winter, a “leap of faith” run even for the best skiers. Ann and one of the women, Lisa, thought it sounded exciting. Then the same friend suggested that Ann and Lisa add climbing the Grand Teton to their “bucket” list. They liked the idea and set goals to do both!
After conquering Corbet’s Couloir on skis, they began preparing to climb “the Grand.” However, in late July, Lisa had to drop out due to an injured foot. Ann planned to continue with the two day expedition led by a local outfit, attending its mandatory climbing school prior to the climb.
Unfortunately on the morning of the ascent, it was pouring rain and snowing at higher elevations. A last minute decision was made to cancel the trip. She was disappointed and sad, wondering if there would be another opportunity.
It came sooner than expected, when an experienced climber offered to guide her up the mountain. The only drawback was that he wanted to do it all in one day. Ann had trained hard and felt that she was ready.
She and her leader started on the trail early one Sunday morning. It happened to be cold and windy that day, necessitating the choice of a different route to the top. When they reached the place where the more technical climbing began, they roped together, putting hardware into the rock as protection against a fall.
“I had no idea what it was going to be like,” she commented about the ascent. “I didn’t look down too much!” They reached the top around 2:30 pm. “It was pretty exciting. We made great time and had the summit to ourselves.”
But during the descent, Ann dropped down several feet on the loose rock, landing hard on her left foot and spraining her ankle. She and the leader parted when they reached a place called the “Lower Saddle,” thinking that she would be okay on her own if he went on ahead and that she could be back to her car before dark.
With a sore ankle however, the descent became more difficult than expected. Darkness soon crept in. Ann only had the light from her cellphone and headlamp to navigate through one steep section of boulders. Then she reached a spot where the way forward seemed to disappear with no trail markers in sight or cell phone service available to call for help.
Her only landmarks were the Tetons behind her and a patch of dirt next to a small creek where she was standing. She began walking towards the place where she thought the trail might be, making her way around boulders only to end up at that same patch of dirt.
With wet feet from accidentally stepping into the water, she started out in another direction, hoping and praying to find the way. When she found herself back at the starting point again, she began to get worried. “God please help me find this trail. Help me focus!”
It was past midnight when Ann crawled over a boulder and spotted something bright reflecting in the beam of light—a park service sign on a stake. “It was my hallelujah moment!” she exclaimed. “I had found the trail!”
About a month later, she returned and stood on the same patch of dirt. The trail was visible from there; but of course that night it had been dark and boulders had blocked the way. “I was so close. I spent three hours going in circles.”
What a story! We were grateful that it had a good ending!
Light reflecting through the darkness to show the way... a sign...a star...this reminds me of another story...
“When they (Magi from the east) saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” Matthew 2:10-11a NIV Judy Lowery lives in Michigan. The Good News column appears regularly in The Porterville Recorder. You can read more at Judy’s blog, goodnewswithjudy.blogspot.com.
Ann Lowery (Al’s youngest sister) on the Grand Teton trail.