National Geographic : 1956 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine Indians knew this wilderness before Colter's eyes lighted up at sight of it. And after Colter came John Hoback, Wilson Price Hunt, Jim Bridger, and others in a colorful proces sion of trappers, traders, and explorers. French-Canadian trappers gave the Tetons their name. They dubbed three towering summits the "Trois Tetons," for their fancied resemblance to a woman's breasts. These now are named the Grand, Middle, and South Tetons. Nathaniel P. Langford wrote in his Diary of the Washburn Expedition to the Yellow stone and Firehole Rivers in the Year 1870: "He indeed must have been of a most susceptible nature and, I would fain believe, long a dweller amid these solitudes, who could trace in these cold and barren peaks any resemblance to the gentle bosom of a woman." Valley Unspoiled by Change Places in the valley still bear the simple names of the men and wild creatures that have shaped the pattern of its life: Moran, Kelly, and Wilson; Moose, Elk, and Black tail Butte. Jackson Hole got its designation early. In 1829 Capt. William Sublette named the valley for his trapper partner, David E. Jackson. One meaning of "hole" to the westerner is an enclosed mountain valley. Since our first visits, Jackson Hole has been invaded by paved roads, motels, service stations, and a swelling tide of tourist traffic, but the glorious semiwilderness country hap pily remains intact. After the trappers and hunters of last cen tury took heavy toll of its animals, Jackson Hole relapsed into a kind of neglect. The westward trek of settlers washed around it to the Pacific, for the Hole was not farming or industrial country. Untapped by rails, the valley knew only limited lumbering. Much of Jackson Hole, therefore, still holds elk, moose, deer, and bighorn sheep. Beaver boldly cut aspen and cottonwood for their dams. Game birds abound, and feeding trout ripple the lakes and streams. Years before we found our way to Jackson Hole, the recreational value of the area and its potentialities as an "unfenced zoo" had been recognized. In 1897 the Teton National Forest had been created. Then in 1912 Congress set aside land in the valley for a National Elk Refuge. In 1929 it established Grand Teton National Park. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has supported the Federal agencies in programs of conservation and land management. Thus have steps been taken to preserve the Jackson Hole country for the enjoyment of Americans forever. Now and then we find it a relief to ex change the game-rich lowlands for the flower spangled meadows and inspiring peaks of the Tetons. These cliff-hung towers of naked rock have lured some of the world's most skillful climbers. The Grand, Middle, and South Tetons, Tee winot, Owen, Moran-each craggy summit offers its special challenge. People fall into two groups in their atti tude toward the Tetons. The first consists of those who somehow must get to the top. The attitude of group number two (far the larger body) may be summarized by the typi cal reaction: "Climb one of those things? Uh-uh! Not for me. I've never lost any thing up there. I'll just look, thanks." For better or worse, we Craigheads fall into the first category.* Magnificent but moody, tempting but treacherous, the Tetons are not to be tackled lightly. No one without mountain experience should start climbing them without a guide. "Climb safely" is a basic mountaineering rule. Years ago, as inexperienced climbers, four of us once defied this rule-and got into serious trouble. Saved by an Unseen Crack Close to the summit of the Grand Teton, John was leading three of us up a chimney sheathed with ice. We were tied at intervals to the same rope, he on the rock face above, we below on a narrow ledge. The mountain fell away below us in a drop of thousands of feet. Trying to find a ledge from which he could belay us upward, John ran out of hand and foot holds. Too late he realized that he had climbed too high without driving a piton and securing his rope. He could neither ascend safely nor come down. "I may fall!" he called out. His words shocked us. In our precarious position, it would be almost impossible to check his plunge. * See "Cloud Gardens in the Tetons," by Frank and John Craighead, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE, June, 1948.