A Snowy Grand Teton

The Grand Teton in Wyoming

Brr! Grand Teton is the highest mountain in Grand Teton National Park rising 13,775 feet and is the second highest peak in Wyoming after Gannett Peak. The mountain is entirely within the Snake River drainage basin, which it feeds by several local creeks and glaciers.

Grand Teton's name was first recorded as Mount Hayden by the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition of 1870. However, the name "the Grand Teton" was around much earlier. In April of 1901 the USGS 1:125,000 quadrangle map of the area shows "Grand Teton" as the name of the peak. A United States National Park named "Grand Teton National Park" was made into law in 1929. By 1931, the name Grand Teton Peak was so common that it was recognized by the USGS Board on Geographic Names. The Board shortened the name on maps to Grand Teton in 1970.

Where it got its name is disputed. The common explanation is that "Grand Teton" means "large teat" or "large nipple" in French, named by either French-Canadian or Iroquois members of an expedition led by Donald McKenzie of the North West Company. Other historians disagree, and claim that the mountain was named after the Teton Sioux tribe of Native Americans.

There is a disagreement over who first climbed Grand Teton. Nathaniel P. Langford and James Stevenson claimed to have reached the summit on July 29, 1872. However, some believe their description and sketches match the summit of The Enclosure, a side peak of Grand Teton. The Enclosure is named after a man-made palisade of rocks on its summit, probably constructed by Native Americans.

Mountaineer and author Leigh Ortenburger researched the controversy in depth, using original source material, for his 1965 climber's guidebook. Ortenburger concluded: "Since historical 'proof' is extremely unlikely to be forthcoming for either side of the argument, perhaps the best way of regarding the problem, short of a detailed analysis of the probabilities, is to state that in 1872 Langford and Stevenson may have climbed the Grand Teton, in 1893 Kieffer, Newell, and Rhyan may have climbed it, and in 1898 Spalding, Owen, Peterson, and Shive definitely did succeed in reaching the summit."

In the mood for a climb? =]:)

Photo NPS/John Tobiason

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