After six years exploring Wyoming together, City Kids 2023 Grand Climbers reach new heights!
On Saturday, August 5th, three City Kids JETs – Osaro, Don’Zeal, and Rashad – became the latest team of City Kids youth to climb the Grand Teton. In an impressive display of courage, teamwork, and perseverance through challenging terrain and extreme weather conditions, this team of climbers became the eleventh team to summit in City Kids history, joining just 35 others since the beginning of the tradition in 2012 on the historic City Kids Grand Climb Paddle.
Osaro, Don’Zeal, and Rashad were joined by their fellow JET and alternate climber, Tavien, and their former counselor, Madeleine, on their grand adventure. These JETs have grown up together through City Kids, starting as Rangers in 6th grade and returning each summer to take on new challenges, explore new places, and embark on amazing adventures as a team. Their foundation of friendship and trust was essential to their success on the Grand, where they put their communication skills and trust in one another to the test.
The climbers prepared mentally and physically throughout the school year, practicing their technical skills, building strength and endurance, and learning about the Grand Teton. Then, in late July, their journey began with a challenging 40-mile hike along the Teton Crest Trail (TCT) – a rigorous five-night, six-day expedition. The purpose of this backpacking trip was to physically and mentally prepare the climbers for the Grand ascent. Ultimately, the climbers would reflect that the TCT was the most challenging part of the entire journey. Faced with discomfort, exhaustion, and dwindling patience, the climbers emerged stronger, even more united than before and ready to use what they had learned on the TCT on the endeavor ahead.
In the days before the climb, the participants trained with Exum guides, Morgan and Ryan, reviewing their knots, learning multi-pitch climbing techniques, and practicing rappelling. The poor weather conditions presented a new challenge for this year’s climbers: instead of the standard 2-day summit bid, the climbers had to attempt making it to the summit in just one day. The short notice change in plans tested their physical and mental strength, perseverance, and teamwork.
On the morning of their summit bid, they woke at Colter Bay well before dawn. Layered up in their new Stio apparel, Osaro, Don’Zeal, and Rashad began their ascent at the Lupine Meadows trailhead with their counselor, Madeleine, and their Exum climbing guides, Morgan and Bill. Around noon, the group reached the lower saddle and embraced a moment of respite before the final climb. The ascent required careful listening, thoughtful and methodical movements, and supportive communication amongst the team. They navigated through hailstorms, avoided lightning, and took shelter in a cave before resuming their upward journey.
A triumphant cheer echoed across the western summit of the Grand around 3 pm, marking their remarkable achievement. On their way down, the Exum hut on the saddle provided a hub of camaraderie, where climbers exchanged stories and laughter, bonding over shared experiences. Dice games and snack gambles forged connections among the 20 strangers who had ventured up the Grand that day. Don’Zeal reflected that a highlight of his adventure was leading the entire hut of climbers in the City Kids tradition of RACK UP (Reflection At City Kids). Each climber reflected on their “highest point and hardest point” of the day.
On Sunday morning, the climbers hiked down to the trailhead, closing the chapter on their incredible journey. That evening, the entire City Kids camp community gathered at Dornans to celebrate their accomplishments. Amidst shared pizzas and applause, the younger City Kids cohorts gathered as the climbers recounted their experiences and challenges, sharing advice and reflecting on the mentors and role models who helped them get there. Their insights and advice for future climbers resonated with wisdom – emphasizing the significance of keeping a positive attitude, listening to guides, and above all, trusting each other and oneself.
We are incredibly proud of Don’Zeal, Rashad, Osaro, and Tavien for their hard work, resilience and most of all, their teamwork throughout their training and climb. Since their Ranger year at City Kids, they have worked through many challenges as a team. We are excited for their final year at City Kids and the next adventures they take on!