Only Grand Teton knows

  • PEAK DEBATE: Hiking the Grand Teton

    John Brecher photo
  Who was first to reach the top of 13,770-foot Grand Teton in Wyoming? Was it Yellowstone National Park's first superintendent, Nathaniel Langford, who said he did it in 1872? Or a group of climbers who documented their ascent later, in 1898?

No one will ever know for sure, but the Park Service did not take part in the Aug. 11 celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Grand Teton ascent by the Rev. Franklin Spalding, John Shive, Frank Peterson and William Owen. Park Service spokesman Tim Bywater says his agency doesn't take sides, but he acknowledges there is a "dispute."

Climbers such as Paul Petzoldt, now 90, say they're positive Langford never reached the summit because he didn't describe the view from there accurately. On the other hand, writer Lorraine Bonney's book, The Grand Controversy, supports the Park Service's Langford. She says his altitude reading registered 13,762 at the summit - close enough to being correct - and his description of his approach to the peak squares with reality.

* Lauren McKeever