Have you climbed in the Tetons?


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Social climber
An Oil Field
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 31, 2015 - 11:25am PT
I made two trips to the Tetons when I was very young. First, right after I got my driver's license at 16, and another time just after high school. I turned 18 on that trip. Both times I went with my childhood partner.

Coming from Oklahoma, and it being the late 70's, we knew very little about how to actually climb. It was hard to get info back then, so everything was an adventure.

I remember leading my first 5.8. A route on Baxter Pinnacle, on the 1st trip. We also did the Exum Ridge (a 5 star route for its grade) and other routes. Chuck Pratt must have been guiding there, because we saw him every evening at the Jenny Lake Boulders. He was a quiet man. I can't recall him ever speaking.

I turned 18, and we celebrated my new drinking age at the Moose Bar in the afternoon. Pratt was there, at the end of the bar, sipping on red wine. We were paralyzed with hero worship and didn't say a word to him. He might have been the quietest person that I have never met.

The Tetons are beautiful, and one of the only places in the lower 48 where you can do real alpine routes. The view from Jackson Hole, looking at the east faces of the Tetons, was one of the classic views in all of climbing. The winters are cold, so winter ascents have a more modern feel to them.

They had the AAC run Climber's Ranch, and for all I know, it is still there. It was like Camp 4, but not so raucous. You could meet partners and socialize in the evenings.

The difficulty of the routes wasn't up there with other areas, but the routes were big and spooky looking. One time we hitched a ride across the lake to Mt. Moran from a couple of true Vulgarians. The canoe had about 4 inches of freeboard. We could have sunk.

Devil's Tower isn't that far away, and you gotta go there. Tons of great routes.

I've thought about going back there this or next summer to do some routes that we were too afraid of back in the day.

I went a third time, just after I got married. I guided my wife up the easy route on the Grand, the Owens-Spaulding route. Allan Bard died guiding that route, although it is only 5.5. It has great exposure, and the belly crawl pitch may be the most exposed 5.5 in the country.

So who else went to the Tetons and were baptized as alpine climbers? What did you do? What were your recollections? Anyone been there recently? There is a lot of rock there.


Trad climber
No. Tahoe
Dec 31, 2015 - 11:50am PT
Direct Exum on the Grand. Beautiful route, clean rock. And the best easy-access backcountry skiing anywhere, imo. Making my annual pilgrimage there in Feb.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
Dec 31, 2015 - 12:06pm PT
Did some backpacking there. Went up Paintbrush Canyon and spent 5 days near the summit of Paintbrush Divide. Hiked the whole loop back down to Jenny Lake. Woke up one morning with a bunch of Elk walking through our camp.

Beautiful area. I need to go back and try some of the routes.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Dec 31, 2015 - 12:15pm PT
I grew up in a era when the Tetons were the epicenter of American climbing. The Nose and the NW face of Half Dome had just been done, California free climbing had begun to surpass Colorado and Teton standards (Teton Grade VI's in Ortenburger's guides were typically 5.7, occasionally 5.8) but US climbers were mostly ignorant of the granite revolution going on in the Valley and at Tahquitz, mountaineering still held the place of honor in the climbing world, and everyone passed through Jackson Hole on their way to other ranges. The Tetons were where it was at.

My first climb, in 1957 as a 14 year-old client of the Exum guide service, was the Owen-Spaulding route on the Grand, and for a while I labored under the quaint misapprehension that the Tetons were the only climbing area in the US. Even after I knew this to be false, it remained for my friends and I the hub of our summer climbing trips through the 60's, during which period I must have done somewhere between 50--100 climbs there (depending on whether or not you count repeats), including a few utterly inconsequential firsts or variations and almost all of the "classics," (the North Ridge of the Grand be a notable exception that got away).

A few Teton shots from a very long time ago:

Jenny Lake Campground:

On the way up to the North Face of Cloudveil Point:

About to get started on Cloudveil Dome:

On Cloudveil Dome:

Rebufattian pose on the Guide's Wall, Storm Point:

High on the Guide's Wall:

Jensen Ridge, Symmetry Spire:

On the Lower Exum Ridge:

Black Face, Lower Exum Ridge:

SW Ridge of Disappointment Peak:

North Face of Disappointment Peak:

High on the North Face of the Grand:

Bivouac below Skillet Glacier, Mt. Moran

On Skillet Glacier, Mt. Moran

Summit, Mt. Moran (after Skillet Glacier route):

Crossing Leigh Creek on the way into Leigh Canyon for South Buttress of Moran Routes (real men do not take canoe!)

South Buttress, Mt. Moran

South Buttress Right, Mt. Moran

South Buttress Right:

Jenny Lake Boulders: Cutfinger Crack one-handed:

Jenny Lake Boulders: the Master, John Gill, at work:

Trad climber
Washington DC
Dec 31, 2015 - 12:36pm PT
Climbed the Snaz in the mid 70's and it was great. We did some other stuff that I can't remember. We were staying with Keith Hadley at the Jenny lake ranger cabins. Lots of bouldering around Jenny Lake.

Been back many times, generally for riding. One of my favorite parks for sure.

Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Dec 31, 2015 - 12:52pm PT
I learned to climb out on the East coast - places like winter on Mt. Washington and summer at Whitehorse. The day after graduating from high school in New England my brother and I loaded up the Pontiac LeMans and drove 3,000 miles back to our beloved California.

On the way, we stopped in the Tetons for a our very first "real" mountain experience. It was a helluva lot bigger than we had imagined, after putzing around in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We wanted to climb the Grand and ended up summiting Fair Share Tower.

Alpine starts, young teenagers, it was still a "grand" time for all.

This was 40 years ago. Fell in love with the High Sierra and subsequently never had any desire to return to the Tetons.

My wheels from the 70s
My wheels from the 70s
Credit: Sierra Ledge Rat

On Fair Share Tower
Tetons, 1970s
Tetons, 1970s
Credit: Sierra Ledge Rat

Tetons, 1970s
Tetons, 1970s
Credit: Sierra Ledge Rat


Anchorage Alaska
Dec 31, 2015 - 01:27pm PT
Just found this stuffed in a book...

Credit: johnkelley

Dec 31, 2015 - 01:41pm PT
Many eastern climbers in the mid 60's did indeed think the Tetons was where something really good
was happening. I think it was on my first trip we met two climbers running down the mountain. One of
them had a smile at least 18 inches wide. You know from this, of whom I speak. Don Storjohann. His
partner was Pete Cleveland. His facial expression we will not, here, go into.

On the second trip I was tasked with provisioning for a trip of 8 people lasting a month. Being an
orderly type I had eight different numbered breakfasts, four of which involved pancakes. Being first up
I would yell out, "It's a number 6 today." I kept getting back moans that sounded like, "Oh gawd! Not
pancakes again." I was not again tasked with provisioning anything.

A most welcome result.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Dec 31, 2015 - 01:51pm PT
Guided a n00b up the Grand in October. It would have been considered full winter conditions
most other places but there it was business as usual, if you like verglas. It was a nice day,
when you could stand up straight. Anyway, it got so windy on the descent that I had to tie
rocks to the rope ends otherwise I'd have been pulling them down as I rappelled. The funny
part was that the night before we shared the hut with two of the head guides for Outward
Bound. They bailed on Middle. LOL!

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Dec 31, 2015 - 02:55pm PT
Added twenty or so pictures to my original post...

Anchorage Alaska
Dec 31, 2015 - 02:57pm PT
Here's one of me and three of Sune Tamm-Buckle on the FA of Prospect of an End on the North Face of the Enclosure in the late 90's.

I remember he made it past the overhang and onto the slab above, got some pro in, lowered off and handed me the rack. That was the first (crux) pitch after exiting the Enclosure Couloir.

In the Enclosure Couloir on the approach
Credit: johnkelley

Heading out of the Enclosure Couloir to the base of the route
Credit: johnkelley

The start of Prospect of an End
Credit: johnkelley

First of the rock pitches
Credit: johnkelley

Credit: johnkelley

The mixed pitch exiting the head wall
Credit: johnkelley

Near the top of the line right before it joins the upper part of the high route
Credit: johnkelley

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Dec 31, 2015 - 03:05pm PT

Awesome photos, Rich! Is that RR?

I climbed there for my first mountain experience in 1974 (not a great
trip, as I blistered terribly). Howie Doyle saved me from drowning
in a creek up near the top of Garnet Canyon. . . Did the Guide's wall and
a couple of other minor climbs--tried the Petzold Ridge and my partner dropped a large rock on my head. . . then were weathered off. . .

My next trip, in 1977, was much better, though we got lost on the
North Ridge of the Grand and ended up climbing up the west face, missing
the top due to zooming winds that knocked my partner down. . .

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Dec 31, 2015 - 04:00pm PT
Agree with Steve. Stellar photos, Rich. Wonderful history.

Trad climber
Dec 31, 2015 - 04:50pm PT
Tried to solo Tewinot and Moran but just ran out of gas. The approaches were brutal; I was off the couch and was just too out of shape.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Dec 31, 2015 - 05:18pm PT
I fantasized about the Tetons for years. Then went there in '74.

Yeah, did the direct Exum with a few new minor variations, Baxter Pinnacle, check.

Then I became a desert climber and it took years to return.

from out where the anecdotes roam
Dec 31, 2015 - 05:32pm PT
i owe a debt of gratitude to the late and esteemable mr. rat hole for providing me with tent space for the entire summer of 1985? next to his cabin on guides hill. it was a treat to partner up with members of the crew who had ambitions to climb off-menu fare of substance on their days off. thank you ratty, many a fine memory your generosity provided

Anchorage Alaska
Dec 31, 2015 - 05:37pm PT
Here's another short photo TR from the FA of Mr.Glass (aka Three Shots in the Dizzy Wind) with Kevim Mahoney on the North Face of the Enclosure in early fall of 2000(?).

Approaching up the Enclosure Couloir
Credit: Kevin Mahoney

Heading out of the Enclosure Couloir to the base of the route
Credit: johnkelley

Credit: johnkelley

Looking up at Mr. Glass (aka Three Shots in the Dizzy Wind)
Credit: johnkelley

Kevin on the first pitch
Credit: johnkelley

Me on the second pitch
Credit: johnkelley

Credit: johnkelley

Kevin on the third pitch
Credit: johnkelley

Social climber
Elk Grove, California
Dec 31, 2015 - 06:19pm PT
I climbed with and stayed in Jackson with local Steve Quinlan while in the area for about eight days during a late summer in the early eighties. Two years before that, in 1981, Steve and I had climbed the Zodiac. We had a really great time on the route (our 3rd El Cap route for both of us) so he left me an open invitation to come out to Wyoming and climb with him. I was about 25 at the time and I brought my girl friend Cathy (wife to be), our two kids Manuel and Cecily, and our dog in a '74 VW beetle. We went to Yellowstone for a few days also before driving back to Sacramento. We were gone two weeks and the whole trip cost us only $300. Of course that was a lot of money to us back then.

Steve and I went up to do the Black Ice Couloir but rain turned us around. Then we took the family with us and Steve, Cathy, and I top roped one afternoon at a local limestone crag, which was about 60 to 100 foot high, but I can't remember the name of it. Only time I ever climbed that stuff, steep with sharp in-cut holds and tiny ragged pockets. It was finger shredding vertical face climbing kind of like Owens River Gorge but on white limestone instead.

The best of our trip was after that, we all canoed one lake, portaged and then rowed across Jenny Lake. We canoed across to a base camp on the western shore of Jenny Lake for three days. The canoe was close to being swamped with three adults, two little kids, a dog, and all our gear in it. My son and daughter might not remember it well, they were only about five and seven at the time, but it was one of the most beautiful wilderness trips we ever took them on.

Steve and I climbed a grade IV on the south side of Mt. Moran, rapped the route, and got back to base in the dark. I think it was the South Buttress Right but that was over thirty years ago so Iím really not sure, I only remember there were many pitches, one or two with 5.10 and a short aid section in the middle or near the top. The position was so exposed and beautiful. My wife and kids almost lost the dog, Jack, while they were hiking back to Lake Jenny from where we left them on the approach. Jack the Dog was 6 months old then and like a son to me, he was really upset that I left him with my family as I went off to climb. It all worked out though because when they got back to camp, he was sitting by the tent waiting for them. Someday Iíll dig out my old photos of the area and post them, faded and yellowed as they probably are now

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
Dec 31, 2015 - 06:34pm PT
great thread with just a few posts so far

yeah, I've climbed in the Tetons, amazing place

one of the only places in the lower 48 where you can do real alpine routes.

if only this were so. I'm not quite a generation younger than Base (well, biologically, yeah, but in modern terms not quite), but I've hiked in twice to do the classic Black Ice Couloir only to find it a shooting gallery devoid of ice. Sad.

Anchorage Alaska
Dec 31, 2015 - 06:48pm PT
Here's the Jackson/Woodmancy on the North Face of Middle Teton in the late 90's.

Credit: johnkelley
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