Alaska Basin in the Tetons

August 31st, 2008


Flowers by an Alaska Basin lakeSo, I was back in the hills again this weekend. I should really have a dependable job… but I don’t… so why not go camping again??  Summer - and indeed life itself - is short. Carpe deim. This time I just went to Alaska Basin for two nights. When I hiked the Teton Crest Trail last month I had spent one night in the Basin already, but the plan this time was to spend both nights in the same place and relax and I had my good friend Martha (we go way back) along too, so it was quite different from my other stay and didn’t feel like a repeat at all.

Camp couscous deluxe!This past weekend was Labor Day weekend of course, but we set out on Thursday and I totally forgot until the Basin filled up with people the next night, Friday (it’s funny not having a job). Our original plan was a complex loop from the Jackson side of the Tetons involving Death Canyon, but we ended up just going up Teton Canyon because it’s so much easier. We had great weather, picked some huckleberries, scouted the sport climbing up Teton Canyon, saw a moose and her calf, and generally had a perfect hike in. We set up camp by one of the lower of the Basin Lakes (with two quaint islands in it) and read and relaxed. Martha cooked up an epic cous-cous for dinner, and that was our first day.

Headed towards the pass by Buck Mountain

Don't forget the butter. Or you will fail.The next day our plan was to head up toward the Alaska Basin Trail pass that goes past Buck Mountain to Death Canyon. I forget the name. Buck Pass? Anyway it takes you into Teton Park and onto the shoulder of 11000′ Static Peak. We started out the day making pancakes with the huckleberries we picked on the way in. One problem: I forgot butter/oil. And we had an aluminum Almost as magnificent as the mountainpan (read: not teflon). Needless to say the cakes were a complete and utter failure. But such is camping. We rallied and went on our hike, climbing Static Peak since it’s basically a short (if steep) stroll from the trail we were on. I was kind of hoping to climb Buck Mountain… but it would have been a big hassle to get off of and around Static to where Buck’s east ridge starts. I’d climbed Martha on top of Static PeakBuck about seven years ago with my Dad, but it wasn’t in the cards this day. We headed back to camp, but I was feeling a little unsatisfied so I decided to climb the (I think) un-named peak to the south of Buck Pass which overlooks Buck, Static and Death Canyon. Martha sat this one out, so I headed right up the steep side of Alaska Basin. I was hoping the ridge would start there and I could shoot right up to the peak, Dorkin it up on an un-named 11000' Teton peakbut the cliff band on the north side had no breaks in it so I had to go clear around to the south side. From there it was an easy scramble (a little scree) and I was over 11000′ again with an epic view of our earlier hike. I did the thing as fast as I could to get a workout and now felt quite satisfied with the day. What was cool about the peak is that I don’t think anyone climbs it. It was a pain to skirt around to the south of the peak so I can see why, but it was fun to be on a peak with no trails, carins, footprints, etc.

Alpine flowers still flowering in AugustSunset reflecting in Alaska BasinSweet sappy pinecone

Chillaxin in the TetonsThat night the Basin filled up with people for Labor Day. We now shared our private lake with two other groups of three, and more groups passed the lake by. I was a little concerned when I saw the group closest to us each had a “Travel Beam” to themselves - and started hitting it pretty early. Either they were going to be loud and a huge pain in our asses… or we would join them and be loud and a huge pain in everyone else’s asses. :) After dinner (my experiment with Freezer Bag Cooking which was not half bad) we did indeed join them. Blue gentians, I believeThey were from Maine and were spending about five days backpacking in the Tetons. Admirable, for sure. One of them - by far the drunkest already - broke the cap to his Beam and so implored us all to help him finish it. We obliged. The other group of three eventually joined us as well (they were drinking Scotch I think). It ended up being a pretty decent party, made better by not expecting it.

A moose on the loose at the neighborsMore Teton mooseA moose in Alaska Basin

Buck Mountain reflected off of Basin LakesThe next morning we enjoyed watching two moose refreshing themselves at the lake while we broke our fast, and then we shouldered our packs. On the way out we took a brief side trip out onto the Death Canyon Shelf, and returned to our car via Devil’s Stairs (I always like to mix up the return route when I can). All in all it was another perfect camping trip. Beautiful weather, epic sunsets, wildlife, bagged a couple of peaks, great company, an impromptu party… amazing. Glad I snuck it in when I did too, becuase the weather appears to be turning… :)

I think these butterflies were doing it

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