By Lucas Onan
Every part of it was so surreal to me. I’ve spent a good amount of time in the Tetons so they hold a special place for me. I was pretty giddy the whole time. I was having way too much fun.
(Editor’s Note: The “Teton Picnic” is biking from Jackson’s town square to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park, swimming across the lake, climbing the Grand Teton and then doing the whole thing in reverse for a total of 42 miles of biking, 2.6 miles of open water swimming, and 20 miles of hiking and climbing.)
As we drove into Jackson square that morning, there were still people hobbling along from bar to bar. Their night was still going strong. Ours was just beginning. After meeting our two lovely support ladies and Lewis, Ryan’s friend who had decided to join us just the night before, we hopped on our bikes and were off. Start time: 2am.
It was good getting our legs warmed up on the bike ride. Just 22 miles to Jenny Lake with the silhouette of the Tetons looming over us to the west. I hit it off with both Ryan and Lewis from the start as we all have the same sense of adventure and love of the mountains. It was as if we had been long lost friends (even though I had met both of them only within the past few hours). We knew we were embarking on this crazy adventure but it was something we all enjoyed so much that it honestly just felt like another day to play in the mountains.
Arriving at Jenny Lake we grabbed our wetsuits from our support team, stripping down naked in the vacant parking lot to slowly get the sticky neoprene suits on. Jokingly this was probably the first of two cruxs of the day. The other coming when we had to put our wetsuits on again for the swim back.
The swim out was simply surreal. It’s not everyday you go for a swim at 3:30 in the morning… across a 1.2 mile lake. It was a rather lovely swim. We chatted with our support girls, Cherene on a ducky and Christy on a SUP. This made the time go by quickly. Every now and then I would catch a beam of light from their headlamps through the water illuminating a streak of light into the dark depths of the water below. The lake is 250+ feet deep so I was looking into deep dark blue.
Once we arrived at the other side we hopped on the dock and ripped our wetsuits off, quickly changing into our running clothes to stay warm. We stashed our suits with our support angels and were off running. Dawn was breaking as we ran around the west rim of Jenny Lake. It was another surreal moment as we watched our support crew paddle back across to the east shore. After running the relatively flat 3 miles to the Lupine Meadows trailhead we finally began our ascent. Over the next 8 miles we would run/climb 7500 feet to the summit of the Grand Teton. As we climbed the switchbacks into the depths of Garnet Canyon we saw the sun peak over the horizon and disperse its rays over Jackson Hole.
Running/power hiking all the way up we mostly stopped just to fill our water bottles by the many natural springs – no need to carry much water as it was always about a bottle’s drink away! I used two body bottles inserted in the shoulder strap pockets of my Ultimate Direction Fastpack 25. One for water and the other for water with electrolyte tablets.
Climbing the Grand was a blast! Cruising up the rock/scree we quickly made it to the exposed climbing. We roped up just in case and zoomed across the very exposed Belly Roll, looking down about 1,500 ft. of air below. The chimney section made for a bit more of a challenge but we flew up it with ease. To the summit we went! It was a perfect day with perfect weather. From the summit we could see our entire path from Jackson. So cool! As soon as we were up we had to make the long trek back down. Halfway done. After descending the technical parts of the Grand, we cruised the rest of the trail down. Running the entire way to lupine meadows trailhead. I was definitely feeling my knees after the 7500 ft descent. We took the last three miles to Jenny Lake a little easier and arrived back at the dock to find our lovely support angels waiting with our wetsuits. I was pretty beat at this point but was eager to hop in the chilled water. With our suits (finally) on we were off! Had to fight the wind and swim through a heavy rain storm but it was incredible with the views of the Tetons to the west. It still felt so surreal to me. As tired as I was I didn’t want it to end. Once we arrived at the other end all that was left was the 22 mile bike ride. And I love biking. I was on such a high that I didn’t really even realize how tired my body was; just my heart beating out of my chest. Even with the headwind we flew through the ride. 16 hours and 35 minutes later we arrived back at the iconic antler arches of Jackson town square.
What an incredible adventure! I’m already itching to do it, or a variation of it, again! Simply loved every bit of it.
About Lucas Onan:
I was born with a condition called arthrogryposis. This caused my left arm to remain underdeveloped and with not much use. I can use it to clamp things against my chest as all my range of motion comes from my shoulder. I mainly use just my right arm. I love the idea of endurance and pushing my body to its physical limits. And I love doing things outdoors! The more time spent in the mountains (running, biking, swimming, skiing, climbing, etc.) the happier I am! One of my dreams is to help other people realize their potential through physical activity in the outdoors. I am a ski instructor in the winters at Vail Resort. I have been a mountaineering guide in British Columbia for two summers, rode my bike across the county for affordable housing last summer, and am currently a Wilderness Ranger in the Holy Cross ranger district.
Lucas, you are a very special, amazing person. I can hardly believe I know you, let alone that we are related. Your love of nature and of life is truly inspiring.