4 Night trip in the Tetons, Grizzly Bear Lake, Paintbrush Divide, Littles Peak

Joey

walking somewhere
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Apr 1, 2014
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878
Last Thursday I started a trip into the Tetons. My friends Ryan and Ria, who work/live in the park, were celebrating their 1 year wedding anniversary, and managed to get 4 days off. It was also Ryan's birthday, and he wanted to go to Grizzly Bear Lake. Ria had never hiked over paintbrush divide, so we decided to make a loop out of it.

We literally pulled our permit at 3pm on Thursday. I had to wait for the other 2 to get off work. It was 6pm by the time we got to the trailhead. Thunderstorms had just finished dumping on the mountains, and everything was wet. This helped clear out the trail, and we didn't see another person at all. Huckleberries were everywhere, and I helped myself as we made our way up into Paintbrush Canyon. Our first nights destination was the lower paintbrush camping zone, which was only a few miles up from the String Lake Trail Head. We found a campsite just before dark, with a nice view overlooking Leigh and Jackson Lakes.


I'm on the left, Ryan on the right. Right after I discovered the ripped open beer in my pack.

Now I had packed in a few beer for the first night, since it was a short hike in. Upon reaching our campsite, I took off my pack, and discovered one of the beer cans had just ripped open, and was pouring down the inside of my pack. Everything got soaked with beer. A hoppy Pako's IPA at that, with a sweet piney smell. It was all over my tent, sleeping pad, rain gear, and bear canister. Thankfully I keep my sleeping bag and clothes in a dry bag, so they were ok. I left everything out to dry over night, and just used my tent without the fly for the night.


Morning of day 2

A short narrative of the situation night one.

Day 2, Friday, started off sunny. With no fly on my tent, I was up at the first light. Our destination was Grizzly Bear Lake. We hit the trail before 9am, beginning the climb up towards Paintbrush Divide. People were everywhere today, as its a popular canyon to hike. This was Ria's first time backpacking in the high country, at high elevation, so we took our time. She did great though, keeping a great pace. We stopped at Holly Lake for a lunch, and made it up to our off trail spot around noon.

Looking down Paintbrush Canyon, above Holly Lake

Grizzly Bear Lake is off the established trail, and located in Leigh Canyon, on the west side of Woodring Mountain. You can see it from some sections of the trail. There is an old use trail heading down to the lake, but you really don't need it. Open terrain. As we began our decent down to the lake, clouds started rolling in, and forming darker, larger clouds. The weather forecast had been "sunny and 0% chance of rain", but it became obvious it was going to rain.


Leaving the trail, heading down to Grizzly Bear Lake


Our first view of the lake


Hiking down to the lake


Another view of Grizzly Bear Lake


Our camp on the lake

We hurried down to the lake, and set up camp just before the first storm hit. Several storms blew over, including a monster of a thunderstorm that dumped large hail on us. By the time the clouds cleared, it was 6pm, and noticeably cooler. I had hiked in a bottle of champagne to celebrate the other 2's anniversary, and we drank it sitting on a ledge overlooking Leigh Canyon. We went to bed with nothing but stars in the sky. At one point in the night, I woke up to what I though was something running into my tent's guy line. I could hear something breathing heavily, and after a few minutes I jumped out to look around, but saw nothing. In the morning I found out Ryan and Ria had a similar experience, and Ryan also jumped out of his tent to look around, but saw nothing.





Me drinking Champagne apparently for the very first time ever, overlooking Leigh Canyon


The 3 of us at Grizzly Bear Lake

Popping the Champagne

Day 3, Saturday, was sunny and wonderfully cool. There was that fresh smell of mountain air, and I could of sworn it was October. We packed up and retraced our steps 1000ft back up to the trail, then another 700ft up to Paintbrush Divide. It was windy at the pass, but amazing views.


Hiking up to Paintbrush Divide

Video clip from same spot


Almost there


The view looking down Paintbrush Canyon from the divide


The Divide

At the divide

Dropping down into Cascade Canyon from the divide is one of my favorite trailed sections in the park. The views of Mica Lake, Lake Solitude, and the Grand Teton are spectacular. We dropped down steeply to Lake Solitude, stopping for lunch, and then continued on into the north fork camp zone where we set up camp. I'm not a big fan of this zone, mostly because of all the people, and how bunched up the campsites are. At one point we climbed a boulder we were camped behind to take pictures, and witnessed some guy taking a poop right in the open next to his tent, on the other side of this small boulder. I went to bed early, and it got cold during the night, definitely the coldest night I've experienced this summer.


Hiking down into Cascade Canyon with Mica Lake in the background


The view looking south


Mica Lake in the upper left, Lake Solitude to the right


Along the trail, near our 3rd nights camp

A view hiking down into Cascade Canyon. Clicking the HD button helps

Day 4, Sunday, I woke up at 6am to Ryan blasting Iron Maiden from his Ipod speakers. So much for sleeping in. I immediately noticed I had a cough, and chest congestion. I'm not one to get sick often, and I was hoping it was just nothing. Today I would part ways with the other two. They headed on down Cascade Canyon and out. I was off to do some off trail exploring. I headed back up to Lake Solitude, and then climbed up the back wall behind it, getting on top of the ridge. I circled around Leigh Canyon, climbing Littles Peak on the way. (On the park map, there appears to be 2 names for this peak. Littles Peak is printed in bold letters, but then their is another, lighter colored marker for Leigh mountain. Possibly its the same spot, I just haven't asked about it yet. Regardless, its the highest peak at the end of Leigh Canyon.)


Me on top of Littles Peak, the grand in the background


Looking North from Littles Peak, Idaho is to the left, Wyoming to the right, as you look at the ridge running north, nw. Cleaver and Maidenform peaks are to the right. I attempted to go up between them.


Looking down Leigh Canyon

A 360 degree view from the top of Littles Peak. Click the HD

It was a perfect day weather wise, and I decided to try to get to Cirque Lake, which is in Moran Canyon. From the saddle between Leigh and Moran Canyons I attempted to reach the low point between Maidenform Peak and Cleaver Peak. First I cliffed myself out going to high, and then I ran into slick snow fields below the low point. I carefully crossed the first one, about 20 feet wide, before reaching the 2nd one, which was much larger. The snow was really hard, and I had nothing with me other than a trekking pole. When jamming the pole into the snow, it would only go in about half an inch. I decided it wasn't worth it, since a slide here was serious, and I wasn't going to be able to self arrest with my pole. At this point, I decided to just turn around and pick another camping spot. I could have dropped down several hundred feet to go below the snow field, but it would have been tedious, and it was already 5pm. Not to mention the 1000 feet of up I would still be left with. I ended up backtracking to the saddle, overlooking Mink Lake. I set up camp here, and enjoyed a peaceful night.


Me at camp above Mink Lake and Leigh Canyon

Day 5, Monday, I woke up sick. I couldn't stop coughing, I had a sore throat, and just felt "off". I was also worried I might have contracted the hantavirus (long story), and didn't want to go farther into the trail less backcountry. So I decided to hike out. From my camp, I could have dropped down and gone out Leigh canyon, but I had already done that a few weeks ago, and had no desire to do that bush whack again this year. So I circled all the way back around the canyon to the south, and dropped down to Lake Solitude, and out thru Cascade Canyon. I hopped myself up on vitamin c packets and energy drink mix, and made it out in great time. I did slow down to eat Thimble berries as I hiked around Jenny Lake though.


Me standing above Lake Solitude


What I packed for food. I was planning to spend 2 more nights out before I got sick.

THE END!!!


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Chuck the Mauler

Formally known as "kcwins"
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Aug 20, 2014
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418
Great report. You know they make dehydrated beer, right?
Personally, I LOVED the hike out of Leigh Canyon. But to each their own.
 

Joey

walking somewhere
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Apr 1, 2014
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878
LOL, you puked coming down Leigh. Read thru it again, I fixed it. Some pictures got left out the first time.
 

Bob

Trailmaster
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Mar 3, 2013
Messages
2,589
NIce report...
Description of the crowds is why I stay away from the south end of the Tetons.....

Hey KC....welcome...
 

scatman

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Dec 23, 2013
Messages
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Great report and pics! Tell Ryan and Ria that I said "hello" and "happy anniversary" when you get a chance.

Looks like you could use a resupply in the food area! :)
 

BJett

Member
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May 3, 2013
Messages
519
Mmmmmmm...twizzlers.

You didnt really have all that food in your pack, did you? Although I ate about that much in 2 days on the Grand Canyon...raft support is awesome.
 

Joey

walking somewhere
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Apr 1, 2014
Messages
878
Mmmmmmm...twizzlers.

You didnt really have all that food in your pack, did you? Although I ate about that much in 2 days on the Grand Canyon...raft support is awesome.
lol, yea raft support is way better than "back" support. I did carry all that food, but broke it down from the packaging. Also carried in a few beers and bottle of champagne. I also had to carry the bear canister, and somehow managed to fit everything inside :whistle:. But I was planning on 7 days instead of 5 when I packed it.
 

Joey

walking somewhere
Joined
Apr 1, 2014
Messages
878
Great report and pics! Tell Ryan and Ria that I said "hello" and "happy anniversary" when you get a chance.

Looks like you could use a resupply in the food area! :)
Ryan says "thanks and to get well soon!"
 

Joey

walking somewhere
Joined
Apr 1, 2014
Messages
878
NIce report...
Description of the crowds is why I stay away from the south end of the Tetons.....

Hey KC....welcome...
And you won't see a soul in the northern end
 

Artemus

I walk
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Jun 25, 2012
Messages
4,400
Nice report Joey!

It was especially interesting because I hike the Paintbrush/Cascade loop a month ago in three days.

Did you publish your descent of Leigh's canyon. I always wondered about it. I have only canoed to the mouth and looked up it on the way to climbing Mt. Moran.
 

Chuck the Mauler

Formally known as "kcwins"
Joined
Aug 20, 2014
Messages
418
Nice report Joey!

It was especially interesting because I hike the Paintbrush/Cascade loop a month ago in three days.

Did you publish your descent of Leigh's canyon. I always wondered about it. I have only canoed to the mouth and looked up it on the way to climbing Mt. Moran.
I highly recommend a hike to Mink Lake and back up Leigh Canyon. Nice day trip.

I'm kidding. It was tough coming out. Avalanche debris, difficult trail finding, hiking back and forth through the drainage, brush over 7' tall. Then at the bottom you have to manage your way across both the Leigh and Paintbrush drainage where they dump into Leigh Lake. No trail there either. We ended up hiking 600-700' back up to the trail at Paintbrush to hike out. It was pretty up high though.
 

scatman

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Dec 23, 2013
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I highly recommend a hike to Mink Lake and back up Leigh Canyon. Nice day trip.

I'm kidding. It was tough coming out. Avalanche debris, difficult trail finding, hiking back and forth through the drainage, brush over 7' tall. Then at the bottom you have to manage your way across both the Leigh and Paintbrush drainage where they dump into Leigh Lake. No trail there either. We ended up hiking 600-700' back up to the trail at Paintbrush to hike out. It was pretty up high though.

Just a mere taste of what the Gros Ventres have in store for next year! :uhhuh:
 

Joey

walking somewhere
Joined
Apr 1, 2014
Messages
878
Nice report Joey!

It was especially interesting because I hike the Paintbrush/Cascade loop a month ago in three days.

Did you publish your descent of Leigh's canyon. I always wondered about it. I have only canoed to the mouth and looked up it on the way to climbing Mt. Moran.
Thanks @langutah ! Yes I briefly describe it under my Moose Basin TR on day 6. I'll link it below. Probably the hardest part is getting to the mouth of the canyon at the end of Leigh Lake. Its extremely dense vegetation getting there from the Paintbrush trail. A canoe would cut that part out. There is an old trail running up it, but difficult to follow, especially early in the summer with the creek running high. Later in the year, you can probably follow the creek drainage easily, since it will be much drier. You can do this in Moran Canyon as well. Leigh canyon is very beautiful, I post a few pictures in my other trip report:

http://backcountrypost.com/forum/th...akes-northern-grand-teton-np-6-day-trip.3533/
 

Nick

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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,918
Sweet trip report!!! What a beautiful area up there. I was supposed to do my first big Tetons trip including Paint Brush last year but things came up and I haven't gotten to re-planning it. I was supposed to be up again this weekend for a different trip in GT and YNP but it got cancelled due to weather. Thanks for letting us live vicariously through your awesome trip!
 
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