A spring day in the mountains with the Johnstones

To climb the Grand Teton in late winter or early spring and ski back down from the top is something relatively few people have ever done.

It was first and famously accomplished by Bill Boggs of Jackson, Wyo., in June 1971. People questioned whether it was possible and whether Boggs was truthful. Then someone flew by the Grand Teton and saw his tracks in the snow. He became a celebrity in the ski mountaineering world.

Once everyone knows a thing is possible, others follow — and add on.

On May 24-25, Hans Johnstone, of Jackson, took his wife, Nancy, 54, and 15-year-old son, Sasha to the top of the Grand and skied back down.

“Sasha is possibly the youngest (to ski off the Grand) and Nancy is possibly the oldest woman to ski the Grand,” Hans said in an email.

Sasha comes from good stock. Hans was a six-year member of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team and competed in the Nordic combined event in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada. He is also an Exum Guide who has skied off the Grand summit 10 times. His wife Nancy was also a six-year member of the U.S. Ski Team and competed in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France on the biathlon team.

“We go climbing as a family quite a bit,” Hans said, “so the technical part of the ascent was familiar to everyone. Sasha knows the fundamentals of rope work, belaying and rappelling, etc. Sasha grew up skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, so all the mountain terrain is nothing new.”

Hans said the entire family spent spring break in the European Alps and skied part of the Houte Route. “That turned out to be great prep for the endurance part of the Grand,” he said.

As for Nancy, Hans says “She is very comfortable on skis.” She grew up a part of the skiing life in Stowe, Vt. But this year, she only had two downhill ski runs: The Town Downhill event in Jackson and skiing off the Grand Teton. Most of the time she is busy running the affairs of the couple’s Alpine House Lodge and Cottages, and chasing after their three children.

The trio were joined by several guide friends and ascended the mountain via the Stettner, Chevy and Ford couloirs. They skied down the Ford/Workman Sneak (a variation of the Ford Couloir route. These couloirs often have snow in them year-round. Parts of the route are nearly vertical and must be rappelled. That’s a neat trick with skis strapped to your back.

So, what’s next for this super skiing/climbing family?

“No immediate plans,” Hans says, “but Sasha has mentioned Mount Rainier as a future possibility.”


On Saturday, I found myself doing stupid things.

At the last minute, I decided to enter the Tour de Lava — a road bike ride from Lava Hot Springs to the tiny town of Chesterfield and back. The ride is a 50-mile loop of picturesque farm land, mostly flat with some rolling hills. The appeal for me was to ride with several other bikers, rest stop/food stations along the way, and a lunch at the end (all for $25).

It was a good turnout with a few hundred riders.

I showed up, paid my fee and went to change into cycling clothes. I forgot to bring my cycling shorts. I left them sitting on a chair at home where I wouldn’t forget them. So, I rode the 50 miles looking like a goofball in my canvass shorts. My butt didn’t complain too much, but would have preferred the extra cushion for my sit bones.

The other stupid thing I did was to blow right past the turnoff at the small town of Bancroft. I was busy watching the railroad tracks and missed the small arrow pointing north. I rode about a mile and a half before I realized it couldn’t be the right way. On the way back to Bancroft, I met another cyclist who also missed the turn.

My main goal was to treat the ride as a warm up/training ride for the Rockwell Relay Race coming up on Friday. It’s a race from Moab, Utah to St. George, Utah (516 miles).

I was pleasantly surprised by the lunch at the end. I expected a dried-out sandwich, but was treated to Thai beef stir fry and a variety of salads. Great stuff.

Put this ride on you calendar for next year.


Speaking of rides, there are a number of great rides coming up in the next few weeks. Here’s a sampling:

Mountain View Hospital/Eagle Rock Century Ride on Saturday. A 25, 50, and 100-mile options. View the course at www.eaglerockcycling.com/mvh/erc-century. Cost is $50, and free to Eagle Rock Cycling members. Food and rest stops provided.

Lemhi Valley Century Ride on June 21. It’s 60 or 100 miles following the majestic Lemhi valley along Idaho Highway 28. Fully supported with rest stops and a barbecue celebration at the end. Shuttles will get you from Salmon to the start. http://lemhivalleycenturyride.weebly.com/

Spinderella 2014 on June 21 is sponsored by Pocatello Women’s Cycling. There are five ride options for women. Cost is $75. Go to http://www.spinderellaride.com.

Rigby Lake Triathlon July 12. Two distances are included: Sprint and Olympic. Cost varies depending on categories and events. Go to http://www.pb-performance.com/events/rigby-lake-triathlon-at-murtaugh-la....

Snake River CycleFest, Idaho Falls, part of the Great Western Cycling Series June 28-29. This includes to races, a criterium and a circuit race. The start/finish lines are at the Snake River Landing. This race takes the place of the Alan Butler Criterium. http://www.racedayeventmanagement.com/project-14-idaho-falls-idaho-area-...


While most of the region’s hiking/mountain biking trails are good to go, expect to find a lot of snow in the high country, especially above 9,000 feet. Mountain passes in the Tetons, Lost River Range and Lemhi Range are still snow covered. Dress appropriately for the mountains and take an extra layer if you’re going high. It’s still freezing at night at the higher elevations.