SHERIDAN — In the second week of July, Weston Heeren, a senior at Sheridan High School, climbed Grand Teton peak almost the same week as his grandfather Lynn Heeren did 50 years earlier. Weston Heeren said when they were scheduling the trip, the dates just happened to line up with the 50-year anniversary and was not originally the plan, it was the way everything worked out.
Lynn Heeren did not make the climb with Weston Heeren, but the high-schooler carried a piece of his grandfather with him, carrying the same carabiner Lynn Heeren used to climb Grand Teton in 1969.
Weather nearly prevented Weston Heeren from completing the climb. He said during his first attempt, he and his guide hiked to a cabin on the lower saddle the day before he would summit. He woke up at 2 a.m. to finish the climb, trying to reach the mountaintop before the weather became unpredictable, typically starting at 2 p.m.
Heeren and his guide saw a storm and lighting awaiting them outside, forcing them to delay. Checking again at 4 a.m., the weather conditions did not improve, bringing hail and a blizzard. At 7 a.m. the weather did not break, forcing Heeren to return to the base of the mountain, facing the possibility that he will not reach the summit.
Meanwhile, Lynn Heeren was experiencing a beautiful day in Jackson and could see a lone cloud in the sky covering the peak. As an experienced climber, Lynn Heeren knew the trip was in jeopardy. The Grand Teton range was experiencing unusually high snowpack, Lynn Heeren said.
When Weston Heeren returned to the base, his grandfather spoke with the guides trying to figure out a way to get Weston Heeren to the top. Weston Heeren was able to join the next guide and climber heading up the next day, giving him a second shot to reach the peak.
The second attempt proved successful, with Heeren reaching the summit of Grand Teton shortly before noon, two days after his original plan. After resting for an hour, eating lunch and taking in the views from the mountaintop, Heeren said they reached the bottom at 7 p.m. that night, three hours after the original plan.
The snow slowed the group down, forcing them to test the different routes and pathways, making sure the climber would not fall through the snow. Heeren said he broke through the snow occasionally, sometimes falling as deep as his hips. The rock retains heat, melting the snow above them and softening it up. After falling through, Heeren said you need to find the rock to push yourself back above the snow. Space between the rocks creates large holes the climbers could fall through and the group tested the snow before walking on it, making sure they did not fall in.
Heeren said they had to backtrack at different times to find the safest routes. The guide knew where all the routes were, but some of the summer routes were covered by snow and winter routes were not deep enough, increasing the chance for the climbers to fall between rocks.
Lynn Heeren said Weston Heeren had a much more difficult experience than his own 50 years earlier. He said when he climb Grand Teton it was completely dry and he did not have to worry about snow or ice.
Weston Heeren received training for two days leading up to the climb. He learned how to use crampons and ice axes when hiking along with the different knots he needed for rock climbing. The training was useful, as Weston Heeren had to climb up portions of the mountain covered in snow and ice.
To reach the top, Weston Heeren said he covered a variety of terrain and performed different climbing techniques. He experienced everything from bouldering to rock climbing. During the descent, Heeren had to rappel down a rock face that bubbled out before curving back into the mountain after the first few steps, leaving him suspended in the air for 100 feet.
During his 18-hour climb, Weston Heeren carried his meals, climbing equipment, ropes, crampon, ice axes, helmet, clothes and a jacket to wear in case the weather turned. Weston Heeren said the weather changed during his climb, causing him to use his rain jacket a few different times.
To train for the trip, Weston Heeren ran from his house near Sheridan High School to Red Grade Trail with a 60-pound pack on and worked out with the Bronc football team. His main focus was to build up the stamina needed to complete the climb.
Weston Heeren is a member of the outdoor club at Sheridan High School, allowing him to spend more time in the outdoors participating in activities that he enjoys such as rock climbing and mountain biking.
He said he loves the feeling of climbing; he enjoys the heights and the overall experience.
He plans on eventually climbing Devil’s Tower and the routes in Yosemite National Park along with climbs in South America and Asia.