Climbing Grand Teton

Back to my 'Grand Teton and Yellowstone Mountaineering' blog

Jackson, Wyoming, United States
Friday, August 29, 2008

Dirk and I planned to spend a week at Grand Teton National Park to do some climbing. Our objectives are the summit of Grand Teton, the Direct South Buttress route on Mount Moran, and maybe a few other classic climbs. We flew to Salt Lake City and drove from there via Idaho to Grand Teton. On the way Dirk saw a stray puppy on the highway, he rescued him. We turned back to the town of Montpelier to look for an animal shelter, which took us some time. A local highway worker lady saw that we were in a rush to get to Grand Teton before evening, but turned back for the puppy, she said "God has different plans for you!" Funny.

We made it to Grand Teton pretty late, came to the American Alpine Club's climber's ranch, a lodge inside the park with an open air dining area and cabins with bunk beds. There was also a library full of climbing memorabilia and old books. This was a great place to stay and meet other climbers and maybe even get on climbs with them.

The next day we spent quite a long time in the ranger station asking climbing rangers about conditions. We were going to get pepper spray to protect against grizzly bears, but dropped the idea after talking to the rangers. Dirk borrowed climbing guide books and painstakingly hand copied the route topos and descriptions, since the rangers refuse to make photo copies of the books for fear of copyright infringement.

We then packed up our heavy climbing and camping gear, and walked in toward lower saddle. We ended up camping at moraines camp. The trail was steep and punishing, with many difficult sections where sharp rocks and boulders are strewn in huge piles. It was a torture for the feet. Basically uneventful, we rested for the night near one of the small glaciers.

The next morning we got up early and started climbing to the foot of the lower Exum route, on the south face of Grand Teton. There was a section of fixed rope, then we're there at the start of the climb. Seeing another party ready to start, Dirk quickly made a go for it so we could be ahead of them. This party turned out from Bozeman, Montana. They climbed pretty fast and were meeting us at every anchor ledge. The lower Exum climb was fun and not too difficult, with many colorful rock types juxtaposed together, unlike in most of California's high Sierra the rock are big chunks of solid granite. At one section we caught on to another party of brothers from North Carolina who were thwarted by the difficulty. They agreed to let us pass them. We did and made it to the top of lower Exum in good time. Then we unroped for the easier upper Exum route. I was quite comfortable with the exposure which wasn't bad. However, at one place I got into a wrong place and got stuck in difficult terrain (5.8ish). I waited for Dirk to drop the rope to me while tethered by a sling to a piece of gear stuck in the rock by a previous climber. Eventually I tied in and climbed up with the rope protection. Near the summit there was confusion on which way was the right way, so we split up a little, and both made it to the summit pretty late, around 6pm. We saw another climber on the summit who just came up the more difficult north face. The views from the top were outstanding. The Grand Teton is over 2000 feet higher than anything nearby, so the view was like from an airplane.

Coming down was quite arduous. Luckily we saw others coming down on the rappels, so Dirk found the rappels without problems. As we continued downward, there was a slight confusion as to which gully was the right one. The setting sun was gorgeous as we descended the difficult terrain full of cliff bands with tired knees and ankles. When we got to the lower saddle where some guided climbers were camping, it was totally dark and we didn't know where to find the fixed rope. Fortunately someone pointed to the right direction.

The next morning we packed out. The weather was gorgeous but we were so drained from the climb that we abandoned our plans to climb Irene's Arete on the way down. We wanted to have enough rest down below before attempting Mount Moran, our other major objective. However, once we reached the climber's ranch, we heard weather forecasts of a rain storm coming the next few days, dashing our hopes for climbing Mount Moran. That evening we met a nice young local climber named Matt, he was really interested in climbing with us, and we made plans for climbing one of the smaller peaks.

The next morning the weather sucked. Matt declined to climb, but Dirk again went to the ranger station to discuss options with the climbing rangers. I didn't want to risk being caught in a rain storm, so I let Dirk go climbing on his own while I drove around the national park looking for good views. Around noon dramatic dark clouds began to envelope the Teton Range, enabling me to take many nice shots. The winds were wipped up making big waves on the normally calm Jackson Lake. About 5pm Dirk called me on the cell phone, and told me he almost started climbing the Symmetry Spire then it started raining. He caught a shot of a bald eagle perching on a dead tree.

Back to my 'Grand Teton and Yellowstone Mountaineering' blog