Grand Teton National Park Foundation

My Park, My Story: Exum Mountain Guide Jessica Baker

Monday, November 30th, 2015
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My Park, My Story tells the stories of people who are passionate about Grand Teton National Park and are committed to protecting it for the enjoyment of future generations. In our fourth edition, Exum Mountain Guide Jessica Baker shares details about years of guiding in the Tetons and her role in protecting the park.

Jessica Baker portrait guiding in GTNP

Jess guiding in Grand Teton National Park

Jessica Baker first visited Jackson Hole when she was 19 years old. She climbed the Exum Ridge and was immediately inspired by the amazing rock, the incredible views, and the enormity of the Tetons. At that time, she knew this was a place she wanted to be. After graduating college, she moved to Jackson Hole permanently and has now been here for 17 years. Her passion for Grand Teton National Park is clear through her profession and her desire to teach others about the area. “Guiding” she says, is “not only a way to make a living and show people the mountains, but it is also a way to share and preserve how special this place is.”

Jessica with clients on top of the grand

Jess with clients on top of the Grand Teton. Photo: Ski Divas Collection.

Jessica first started working for Exum Mountain Guides in 2006 as an apprentice for some of the classic guides, such as Rod Newcomb and Peter Lev. She was immediately inspired by Exum’s unique and deeply rooted history. It is the oldest guiding service in North America beginning in 1929 when Glenn Exum and Paul Petzoldt formed a partnership that became the Petzoldt-Exum School of American Mountaineering. Glenn Exum established the Exum Ridge solo climbing when he was 18. It is now the most popular route to summit the Grand Teton. Jessica loves every aspect of Exum as history is passed down through each guide. It is a rich company, she says, not just in the guiding craft, but also in its history and the history of the Tetons.

During her excursions, Jessica shares the history of Grand Teton National Park with her clients. She marvels in the fact that, 90 years ago, mountaineers were doing the same thing, on the same rock, in the same places. In these moments, past and present become one as Jessica teaches the same techniques used by the original Grand Teton adventuers. With the passion that Jessica shares, she encourages her clients to connect to the landscape and “come away with more than a mountain climbing experience, but also with a deeper association to the whole place.”

Jessica portrait in the Tetons

Photo: Ski Divas Collection.

While she is not climbing in the Tetons, Jessica enjoys spending time in the park with her husband and her daughter. Climbing and skiing may be a big part of her life, but some of her other favorite things to do are to hang by the lakes in the summer and listen to elk bugling in the fall.

One of Jessica’s fondest memories in the park was her first summit and ski of Mount Moran. The night before, she and her friends paddled across the lake and set up camp at the bottom the skillet glacier. The next day they hiked up to the summit and as she put on her skis and looked down she remembers thinking, “I get to ski all the way from the top of this mountain all the way down to the lake’s shore -- where else can you do something like this.”

As a steward to Grand Teton National Park, Jessica shares her love for the landscape with as many people as she can. In turn, people fall in love with it too and find their own way to preserve and protect this special place.