Try Exum’s Family Rock Climbing in the Tetons
Exum Mountain Guides’ popular family rock climbing program will give your kids bragging rights that they tackled a taste of the Teton range.
Rock climbing is a terrific way to involve the entire family in a mountain adventure in Jackson Hole and Exum is the best at guiding people up and through the mighty Tetons. The family program is taught at Hidden Falls in Grand Teton National Park, above Jenny Lake.
Exum started in 1930 and its guides have been teaching rock climbing at Hidden Falls since the 1950s.
In 1931 when company founder and mountaineer extraordinaire, Glenn Exum, was 18, he climbed a new route on the Grand Teton, solo, with no rope, in a pair of borrowed leather-cleated football shoes that were two sizes too big for him! The guide service has grown since those early years, but the company still hires guides who can teach and inspire others.
The family day experience can include instruction if desired, or simply be a day of climbing and rappelling. Exum will customize the entire day around your family’s abilities and wishes — it can be a mellow climbing day including many breaks or can be a nonstop challenging activity, depending on your family.
Jackson Hole Traveler spoke with lead Exum guide Brenton Reagan about the family rock climbing adventure as well as local mom Amy Kuszak who experienced the program with her three kids in the summer of 2020.
Q: Brenton, what should families expect of the day?
A: Time frame wise the day goes from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There are no half-days as it’s logistically impossible. We meet at Exum’s base camp at Jenny Lake then ride the boat across the lake and hike to Hidden Falls.
Q: What should participants wear/bring?
A: Everyone will need their own small backpack. Bring a lunch or snacks for each person and one to two liters of water. I suggest wearing long lightweight pants or long shorts. Short shorts are uncomfortable with a harness. A helmet, harness, climbing ropes, and shoes are provided by Exum.
Q: Is there a minimum age to participate?
A: For children under 10 we request a parent goes along and those under 5 or 6 is a case-by-case basis. The kids will still need to be able to walk to and from Hidden Falls.
Q: How long is the hike to Hidden Falls? And is there one rock face area or two that climbs take place on?
A: It’s half a mile to Hidden Falls and then some scrambling to get to the rocks. There are lots of different features to work with.
Q: How does the typical day begin: teaching how to wear a harness, clipping in, etc.?
A: Correct. It’s more or less teaching and education based on the group’s desire.
Q: How long is the day?
A: 6 hours
Q: Why should families choose this unique activity?
A: It is quite unique the way we guide and teach family climbing. It may be one of the few places in the National Park system that this is possible with the ease of access and in such an extraordinary setting.
Q: Amy, what made you decide to participate in Exum’s family rock climbing program? Did you have prior climbing experience?
A: One of my kids had a little climbing experience from a climbing camp he attended a couple of summers ago. The rest of us had been in a gym a couple of times; we were all pretty new.
Q: Did your husband go along, too? What are your kids’ ages?
A: My husband was not able to come. Callum is 12, Bennett is 10 and our daughter Ellie is 8.
Q: What were the highlights of the day, both for you and your children?
A: Rock climbing in the Tetons is not something my husband and I could do without a guide, so to be able to do something that was fun, exciting and challenging for me and the kids was so awesome! We all had a great time. My daughter is younger and not able to climb some of the more difficult pitches, but the guides were able to make sure we all felt challenged and safe. Callum and Bennett did some really big climbs, I thought. It was a really amazing day!