A Letter to Mr. Exum


I climbed your ridge yesterday. Whew, she is a beauty. How you did it without protection so many years ago astounds me. I know people do it daily. In fact, we watched someone solo by us. But you did it without the reassurance that it could be done. Sir, you are a man with the courage of a lion. 

People from all over the world walk up the Grand every day now. I believe mostly on the OS but, the Exum too. With all due respect, I didn't think it was going to be that big of a deal. But, Glenn, I was so very wrong and for not giving you the credit deserved, I apologize.

My partner had climbed parts of your ridge before, but never lead it. He said very truthfully, "I had just followed along with my head down not paying much respect." I, myself, had never set foot on the Grand. But, we had been dipping our toes back into climbing and had bigger mountain objectives. So, of course, at 8:30pm the night before, the two of us decided that we would set out to lead the Exum, car-to-car, in a day. 

You slapped us in the face. My partner did his homework, talking to Exum Guide friends, making sure we knew what protection to bring, which sections to avoid, and how to find the correct rappel off from the OS. I mostly internalized my nerves while listening to our guidance and put more snacks into my pack.

We set out in the dark, got "lost," off course and confused several times but landed ourselves on the summit, only to then turn around and trek back to the car, again in the dark. Our efficiency was lacking and for that we were thankful of the perfect alpine weather day.

I believe it was you that blessed us with that perfect day. Blue skies, a lonely summit and enough wind to scare off the guided groups but to quickly subside just as we stepped onto Wallstreet. Thank you for that.

I'm not sure if you thrived off from the adrenaline and fear that can consume a person on your ridge, or if you too found yourself occasionally on the verge of complete mental chaos.  I myself, had moments of pure fear; fear itself exhausted me more throughout the day than physical exertion.

My threshold for alpine adventure has once again been pushed and altered thanks to your ridge guiding us to the summit of the Grand Teton. I will never again think that it is not that big of a deal, because it is an endeavor, a mental and physical challenge.

Cheers to you, Mr. Exum, for opening the doors for all of us who follow your lead. You truly are a badass.





A big thank you to Exum Guide, Tim Cohn, for his guidance on protection and for helping us rest assure we weren't going to rappel into thin air. And a personal thanks to B, for feeding me chocolate covered espresso beans, reassuring my abilities and reminding me, "We're almost there" even if we weren't.


Shop the gear I used and layered with for our day on the Grand Teton below.