The Grand: How Trello Helped Me Prepare to Climb a Classic Alpine Peak

A plan to reach new heights…

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming | Credit: Mike Ross

This is not safe,” the mountain guide told my party of three, reciting the obligatory assumption of risk statement a climber must acknowledge before setting-out to climb Grand Teton.

Roughly twenty-three hours later, on August 29th at 9:11 am, we completed the 7,000 foot elevation gain, nine-mile hike, scramble, climb to the summit at 13,775 feet above sea level.

The Decision

The idea to climb “The Grand,” as it’s known, took shape the previous winter when my best man and former college roommate invited me to join in on the adventure. My bud, a retired U.S. Navy pilot who scales 14ers like they’re knolls, has climbed some of the tallest peaks in the world including Aconcagua, the tallest peak outside of Asia, Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa, and Mount Rainier, the tallest peak in the Cascade Range. He topped these peaks with a fellow Navy pilot and now the two of them were setting their sights on the highest point in the Tetons: a classic alpine peak that attracts climbers from all over the world.

I was humbled to be invited and knew that if I accepted the invitation I’d have to confront a few fears — a mild fear of heights and a slight fear of not being able to keep-up with these fellas. I accepted the invitation and set a simple goal: to climb The Grand, and climb it well.

The Plan

My first step toward achieving the goal was so automatic it was like breathing or blinking. I created a Trello board to help me prepare.

My planning board for the big climb.

I wanted the board to be functional and inspiring, so I customized it with a panoramic photograph of Grand Teton that became the backdrop of my lists: Resources, Climbers, Classes, Important Dates, Training, To Do, Done, and Pictures.

The hybrid kanban, wiki-style board quickly became my go-to resource for all-things Grand. It housed information about our guiding outfit and lodging, Exum Mountain Guides and Grand Teton Climbers Ranch. It contained a syllabus for Exum’s prerequisite two-day training course, Fundamentals of Rock Climbing & Mountaineering. It also became a checklist repository of training hikes I wanted to complete and equipment I needed to buy:

Sometime during the spring I came across a quote that I often recited while training, particularly when stressed or tired. I remember one 3k foot elevation gain, seven-mile hike in particular, when I had added 35 lbs of weight to my backpack and when my left knee was throbbing in pain with about two miles to go on the descent. During those times, this quote from Ken Doherty echoed in my head:

“The five S’s of sports training are: Stamina, Speed, Strength, Skill, and Spirit; but the greatest of these is Spirit.”

As the trip neared, I frequented Trello on my mobile device, particularly while shopping. I loved how I could access my equipment and grocery lists in the store, cross items off the lists, and add items I wanted to research, e.g. What water filtration system should I buy? Should I buy a down or synthetic jacket? Do I need to bring toilet paper? (The answer to that last one is “no,” by the way. You do your business in a silver waste bag provided by Exum that you carry in and out.)

On the morning of the ascent, our guide chose the Upper Exum Ridge route as our path to the peak. Atop The Grand we congratulated each other, snapped pictures, and spent 20 minutes enjoying the view. I took a private moment to myself to reflect and give thanks. I then called my wife, told her that I made it, and that I love her.

The Reward

At the summit!

I achieved my goal of climbing The Grand well and it’s rewarding to see my name in the Exum Summit Registry. Soon after returning home, I created a new Trello board that I call my Life Board. The board contains another quote I came across while training from Training For The New Alpinism: A Manual For The Climber As Athlete by Scott Johnston and Steve House:

“Start by asking yourself what the spine of your dream is. By spine we mean, what is the general shape of what you would most like to do?… Start with the spine, then build the skeleton.”

My Life Board is a place to ponder spines and skeletons. The Navy boys are talking Denali.


Mike Ross is an account manager with Trello who loves to help customers get the most out of the service. In his spare time, he enjoys casting flies, skiing steeps and long walks with his Siberian Husky (and of course, hiking).