Tim and Charles taking it to the top
“If you’re feeling depleted or tired, just remember all the lives you’re changing!”
These words of encouragement from Climbing for Kids and Bay Area Wilderness Training Executive Director, Scott Woolland, were just what Intrepid’s Charles Knowlton and Tim Melching needed as they embarked on the physical and mental demands of climbing to the 14,000 feet (4270 meter) summit of Grand Teton in the US.
Charles tells us more of their grand adventure: “A few months back, my good friend Tim Melching and I, committed to another of our tandem adventures. This time we wanted to push ourselves AND make a positive impact in the lives of others. Bay Area Wilderness Training’s Climbing for Kids program provided the perfect opportunity.
We hosted BBQs, movie nights and auctions; sold t-shirts and hoodies; organized costume kickball parties; and solicited our family and friends for donations in our attempt to reach our fundraising goal of $10,000. If accomplished, roughly 170 underprivileged youth from the Bay Area (San Francisco and Oakland) would get the opportunity to enjoy the wilderness with a positive role model and experienced guide – something that just might change their lives forever. And accomplish it we did! We are proud to report that with the help of Intrepid Travel and their matching funds, we have raised AU$12,940, which equates to approximately 220 youth having the chance to experience an overnight wilderness trip with BAWT’s support! Woo hoo!
In a showing of gratitude for reaching our fundraising goal, BAWT supplied some great gear and arranged our guided climb through Jackson Hole Mountain Guides, a longstanding and premium guide service.
Arriving from Australia, Tim met me in time to co-host our final fundraising event on June 27th, the day before we began our road trip east toward Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park. The road trip itself allowed ample time for us to nervously flip through the Teton Climber’s Guidebook, assess our inexcusably poor fitness levels and acknowledge our inexperience in the world of alpine mountaineering. We really didn’t know what to expect!
We met our guides and fellow climbers the morning of July 1st, loaded our already overstuffed packs with crampons, helmets, harnesses and ice axes and trudged up the Garnet Canyon trail. We would gain 4200 feet of elevation (1280m) over 7 miles – moving at a snail’s pace over the last bit through steep pitches of scree and snow – before arriving at Corbet high camp (elevation 11,000ft/3355m). We laid our heads in tents at the high camp for the next three nights and marveled at the beautiful peaks, glowing sunsets and multitude of stars surrounding us.
Day 2 was used to further acclimate to the elevation and to practice climbing techniques – foot and hand holds, rope work, rappelling (abseiling), belaying and commands. The session was a bit of an awakening to Tim and I as it finally dawned on us that we’d undertake a truly technical climb the following day.
Day 3 began with a 2.30am wake up call for breakfast. We were walking by 3.30am using headlamps to navigate the rocks toward the snowfield, where we transitioned to crampons. Trudging steeply up the face of the sheer snow and ice wall as the first hints of sunrise broke, was one of the highlights of the climb for me. The next portion consisted primarily of scrambling among rocks and stretches of steep hiking before we reached the class 5 climbing (use of ropes and climbing hardware).
Our guides chose the Pownall-Gilkey to Upper Exum Ridge route, which meant nothing to us other than we knew we’d have to complete a multi-pitch ascent. The temperature dropped significantly and we all put on every layer of clothing we had. Fingers and toes became tougher to feel as we hung from cliffs over 13,000ft (4,000m). We inched our way up the sheer faces until reaching the Upper Exum Ridge, a steep fin of rock we traversed north to the summit. Mother nature smiled upon us throughout the four days and our views from the summit at approximately 10am, were spectacular! We could see the extent of the narrow Teton Range, Yellowstone NP to the north, Jackson Hole to the east and Idaho to the west – an absolutely incredible feeling!
We rappelled (abseiled) two rope lengths off the west face and climbed down the Owen-Spalding route to the lower saddle before sliding gleefully down the snowfield back to high camp. Exhausted but smiling, we walked back into camp at 2:30pm – an 11 hour day in which we never allowed ourselves an extended stop for a meal, snacking during breaks and transitions instead to keep moving.
We celebrated over another beautiful sunset, crashed early and trekked down on day 4, which just happened to be July 4th. After a refreshing swim in String Lake we headed into Jackson to catch the rodeo and fireworks and join in the fun of American Independence day! (Or were those fireworks meant for us?!)
The entire trip was magical and we can’t speak highly enough of the guide service, their 4 day summit trip offered the perfect pace and balanced challenging technical aspects with instruction and preparation to ensure safety and success. Extremely proud of the accomplishment, we’re most excited to remain involved with BAWT and to see the fruits of our efforts exemplified in the faces of smiling children enjoying the outdoors! We’d also like to give a HUGE thanks to Intrepid Travel and The Intrepid Foundation, for acknowledging the value of experiential travel and supporting community involvement.”
A video of Charles and Tim’s adventure is here.
It’s not too late to help support Charles and Tim’s fabulous ‘Climbing for Kids!’ project. Please visit their project page with The Intrepid Foundation. All donations via The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$400,000 in each financial year and a maximum of AU$5,000 per donor in each financial year.
Bay Area Wilderness Training is a regular Community Project of The Intrepid Foundation.
Photo: Charles Knowlton and Tim Melching