On february 21st 2010 “Big” Wray Landon was killed by an avalanche that swept him off the South Teton.
In the second chapter of Lonesome Dove, Augustus McCrae asks his partner “when were you the happiest—just being a live human-being free on the earth.” For Wray, I know the answer: breaking trail before the break of dawn, in the eye of a raging Teton storm. Wray Landon was the consummate mountain man: ferociously strong, sharply intuitive, and deeply passionate.
His daily habit easily earned his nickname ‘twice a day Wray’– as the weekday morning Taylor laps were followed by evening Glory runs, often logging 5-7k feet of climbing in the pre and post hours of a regular work day.In the summer he became quietly known as the guy whose after work runs ended on the summit of the Grand Teton where he often caught sunset from the summit. Wray’s enormous athletic talent was well known to his partners and the subject of many race victories across the region. Yet not even his boundless athletic talent matched his humility. More than any I know Wray spent his adult life happy—a free human being—alive on the earth.
My friendship with Wray was marked by his ambitions in the mountains and my efforts to try follow them. Two days before he died he unleashed his latest plan—to ski the Grand, Middle, and South Tetons in a day, in winter. After his passing, it took a few months for the notion to settle in, a few more months to come to terms with how much crotch deep trail breaking that represents, and the last few months have been consumed with the fear of trying. The North Ridge Recon mission was a prep mission with AJ Linnell and Nate Brown to try and piece together part of the route that was yet unknown for us in winter.
Now, with a strong team, weather permitting, we hope to make the first attempt on Monday the 21st of February, the one year anniversary of Wray’s death, and finishing Wray’s memorial route with his final run—the south east face of the South Teton.