6. Take the Hard Way

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming; Denali National Park, Alaska; Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

Carving the Grand Teton     Photo: Photo by Mark Fisher

Those who dismiss the parks as tourist traps obviously haven't spent much time around the Grand Teton, Mount Rainier, or Denali, three unforgiving peaks that host some of the hairiest, most rewarding trips in the country. The big snow year in the Tetons means skiers have until June to decide whether the time has come to make turns on the 13,770-foot Grand. Every year since Mark Newcomb first guided the trip in 2004, Jackson-based Exum Mountain Guides has run the three-day tour. It starts with one guest and two guides climbing the Grand, skis on their backs, and ends with them jump-turning in the narrow Ford and Stetner couloirs. $2,500; experts only; exummountainguides.com

Fred Beckey put up the tough northwest-buttress route on 20,320-foot Denali in 1954, but it's been climbed fewer than 20 times since. After a 20-year hiatus from guiding the buttress, Ophir, Colorado–based Mountain Trip will lead a 27-day summit attempt this May. Over six miles, climbers gain 12,000 feet of elevation, crossing glaciers in Peter's Basin and ascending to the summit through stair-like cornices. $7,000; May 3–30, trips also available in 2012; mountaintrip.com

RMI Expeditions' new six-day seminar gives nine climbers a shot at bagging 14,410-foot Mount Rainier, but not until they learn the requisite skills: rope work, anchor placement, and crevasse rescue. Instruction consists of a day in the classroom and three on Rainier's Paradise Glacier; guests crash in tents and a bunkhouse. $1,668; departures July 6, August 7, and in 2012; rmiguides.com

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