Local Life | My Jackson Hole Life

Tom Turiano

// by dina mishev
Tom Turiano has been exploring the mountains around Jackson Hole since the 1980s. Alex Lennon

Tom Turiano moved to Jackson Hole in 1985. His first job was teaching skiing at Snow King Ski Area, but, a mountaineer since age 15, he soon started guiding for Exum Mountain Guides. He spent days off “wandering the backcountry on foot and on skis,” he says. Turiano estimates he has summited “perhaps 2,500” mountains in his life, with as many as 500 of these being unique peaks. A lover of history, Turiano combined his interests in his first book in 1995, Teton Skiing: A History and Guide. The 221-page book was the most complete guide ever to backcountry skiing in the Tetons. Turiano’s second book, Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone: A Mountaineering History and Guide, came out in 2003. The recipient of the 2005 Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association Regional Reference Award, Select Peaks allowed Turiano to cast his net of adventure farther afield, to the 13 mountain ranges in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. From these ranges, he chose 107 as “select peaks.” Since Select Peaks has been unavailable to buy in print for almost a decade, Turiano is putting the finishing touches on a second edition that he says “is more of a rewrite than a second edition.” The 107 peaks remain the same, but Turiano dug even deeper into the histories of their names and early ascents. The new Select Peaks should be available in time for Christmas. selectpeaks.com

Feeling Wild

I like to explore new places, but the conditions aren’t always right for that. If I ever have a day when something new isn’t an option and I want to do an outing that means a lot to me, I go to Hoback Peak. Often I do it alone. I’ve done Hoback Peak about a dozen times. It just feels so wild back there, and there are great views and wildflowers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another person, unless it was someone with me. I did see a horse up by the summit once. There was no rider. (10,862-foot-tall Hoback Peak is in the Wyoming Range and it is included in Turiano’s Select Peaks. There are faint trails to a basin beneath the peak’s northeast ridge; from there it is a scramble/bushwhack to the summit.) 

Guiding the Grand Teton

As an Exum guide, I probably did 18 to 20 trips up the Grand each summer for about 15 years. I got to take my daughter up when she was 12 or 13. Just home from a trip to Africa, she said, “I want to climb the Grand.” I suggested trying Buck Mountain, which isn’t as long or technical, but she said, “No. I want to climb the Grand.” We went up a couple of days later, and she was exhausted and feeling miserable. At one point before the climbing really started, I told her that we didn’t have to do this. And she was like, “Yes we do. I’m never coming up here again.” And she did it. And she’s never done it again.

Living in GTNP

I had a cabin at the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch from about 1989 to 1992, when I was in my early time guiding for Exum. The place was awesome. We’d cook dinner in the communal kitchen with all the tourists and big-name climbers. It was a fun place to hang out, and you never knew who you might meet. People came from all over. We called our cabin the “Mouse House” because mice were just running rampant out there, but probably any cabin could have been called that. In the late 90s, I lived in Moose. Nancy, my girlfriend and then wife, was a park employee, and we lived in employee housing together. I’d run the trail from Moose to Cottonwood Creek. From Moose, it goes north to Menor’s Ferry. You’re on an old ranch road for a little bit, but then it starts to veer left and the trail stays closer to the road than the river. 

A Place to Recharge

Wherever I’ve lived in the valley, there was a nearby hike that I’d do when I just needed something short and wanted to get outside—a place that gives me a quick recharge. Since I moved to the Westbank in 2007, that’s been the History Trail from the bottom of Old Pass Road. It’s an old Indian route, and it’s cool to be walking this trail thinking you’re doing this short jaunt day hike to get a little exercise and that hundreds of years ago, people were using this route to get over these mountains. The trail goes to the top of Teton Pass, but I usually turn around at Crater Lake. (For more information on this trail, and the historical things you’ll see along the way, the Jackson Hole Historical Society and the Bridger-Teton National Forest collaborated on a 26-page point-by-point guide available online at fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3818457.pdf)

Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone

At first I was going to do 50 peaks in the Greater Yellowstone area. I pitched that idea to Mountaineers Books (a nonprofit publisher that is the country’s leading independent publisher of outdoor recreation, lifestyle, and conservation books), and they gave me an advance to write it. I wrote the history section and sent it in to them, and they were like, “Whoa, we don’t want this.” I sent the advance back and decided I was going to do it on my own. I still thought I’d do just 50 peaks, but every time I climbed one of the 50, I’d see two or three more that I wanted to climb. It was all about their visibility on the horizon—what peaks stand out from their neighbors? The ones in the book that don’t stand out from their neighbors I put in for being commonly climbed or iconic looking. I could have kept going with peaks, but when I added the 107th one, I promised myself it was the last one. When the first edition of the book came out, I had 22 select peaks left to climb to do all 107. I’ve slowly been picking those off, and now there are only two I haven’t climbed: Mt. Helen and Lizard Head Peak, both in the Winds (the Wind River Mountains south and east of Jackson Hole). JH

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