Wright Training recently had the opportunity to train an athlete determined to climb the Grand Teton. The athlete was Joe Albright. Joe is an 80-year-old Jackson local. Joe has climbed the iconic peak two times the past, but a he was excited for a third summit.
Late last year, I reached out to Mik Shain, the Exum guide who had taken me to the top of the Grand Teton back in 2015. Would he guide me back up there again this year, I asked.
There was a long pause.
I had been 78 years old when Mik guided me to the top two years ago. We both remembered that I’d let myself get dehydrated and had a long, difficult time down climbing from the summit.
Finally Mik said yes — on one condition.
This time I had to commit to a longer and more serious regime of physical training. He named one training outfit in Jackson he would trust to get me in shape to climb the Grand at age 80.
That’s how I was introduced to Wright Training, the conditioning gym south of town owned and operated by Crystal Wright, the retired freestyle world tour skiing champion.
I won’t claim that it was fun having Crystal and her training sidekick Max Martin punish my body three hours a week with squats, lunges, crunches and other assorted contortions. But after six months of having them push me to do better, I entered this summer in the best shape I’d been in for a decade or so.
Being in shape made it easier to climb up to the Lower Saddle on August 14 — led by Exum guide Rick Wyatt, who had taken over from Mik.
But as it turned out, my improved fitness level was not enough to propel me to the top of the Grand.
My attempt to summit on August 15 was frustrated by a night of freezing rain and snow that coated footholds and handholds with ice. No one summited that day. On August 16 I had to settle with reaching the top of The Enclosure (13,280 feet). That is a frustrating 495 vertical feet below the Grand’s summit. But my Exum guide didn’t feel comfortable taking an aging amateur like me any higher because some ice hadn’t melted near the top.
It was well after dark when I finally trudged back down to the Lupine Meadows parking lot 6,500 feet below the Enclosure, after downclimbing to the Lower Saddle and then shouldering my 25-pound pack. There was nothing elegant or swift about my descent. But thanks to Crystal, Max, Rick and Dr. Gus Goetz (who replaced by right knee in 2014), I eventually made it home.