Direct Exum in Winter


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Topic Author's Original Post - May 2, 2007 - 11:04pm PT
Lack of response at has prompted me to post this over here while I sit at work wasting good climbing weather. Perhaps one of the grizzled veterans on this site has been on the route in winter or at least to the lower saddle in winter and might have a photo or two.

"Anybody know anyone personally that has climbed the direct exum in winter? Someone whose contact information they can give me or provide a couple of route photos?

Been up it in summer and it looks like it might be iced enough to make it a fun--if strenuous-- mixed-ish climb, but I'm hoping to find some actual info from someone whose done it, or has pictures from the lower saddle or thereabouts. The south-facing aspect throws me, since I'm not sure how that would affect ice formation in the chimneys low on the route."


Mountain climber
Templeton, CA
May 2, 2007 - 11:56pm PT
Jeff Lowe posts here as "Jello". He might see this and answer up.

Good luck.

Trad climber
Salt Lake
May 3, 2007 - 02:12pm PT
The rangers at park headquarters might be the ones to ask about current conditions on the lower Exum Ridge. During the cold months of winter the high winds usually blow the ridge free of snow. However, as the weather warms during spring, wet snow can fall and freeze immediately to the rock and leave a rime ice or hoarfrost that may last for several days. My brother has climbed the lower Exum during May and reported needing crampons to negotiate chimneys and a small patches of verglas on the Black Face pitch. He also said there was more ice on the upper Exum, ie; the V pitch and the alternate route to the right of the Friction Pitch.

If there has been wet weather just prior to your ascent you may well run into icing. But if things have been dry for several days you may have a relatively dry ascent.. The wind blows loose powder and granular snow off the holds but supecooled water in spring months will freeze immediately to the rock and leave a very dangerous glaze.

The rangers generally have a good idea about conditions on popular routes. The lower Exum, of course, is popular and has been done many times in May, conditions permitting.

The first photo shows the approach to Exum Ridge from Garnet Canyon during May. The Lower Exum ridge is on the left skyline and looks to be in good condition. The second photo shows the Grand after a spring snowstorm with rime and snow covering much of the rock.


Topic Author's Reply - May 3, 2007 - 11:51pm PT

thank you for the pictures. While I am actually looking ahead to next winter (gotta do something when I'm stuck in class and work all summer, right?) the pictures were helpful. I'm guessing snow accumulation even in the middle of winter won't be too bad as long as its been a couple of days since the last storm....allowing snow to blow off the ridge.

Ice conditions interest me though. I might call the rangers anyway. I think the AAJ that was put online is from 1966 on and the first winter ascent of the lower exum was sometime in the years prior to that if I recall correctly from the ortenburger guide. So that's out, unless I can find old copies of the AAJ.

In that last picture you posted, does the top arrow point at the black face pitch, or is that just below the arrow? It's a different perspective on the route that I hadn't seen before.

Jello? You out there?

May 4, 2007 - 12:12am PT
Renny Jackson is the guy to talk to.

His wife CathC posts on this site, in the search box type in CathC to get their email address.

Topic Author's Reply - May 4, 2007 - 12:52am PT
I was 1976, and the AAJ doesn't mention it.

I will look into Mr. Jackson's email. Thanks.

Trad climber
Salt Lake
May 4, 2007 - 04:28am PT
This pic might give a little better perspective although it's taken at a distance from the Cloudveil Dome area. This was taken in late winter after a period of good weather. (And it's looking across the slopes of the Middle Teton).

I can email you a higher resolution bitmap version. Also I can email pics of individual pitches on the Lower Exum taken in summer, if you want them, but I don't have anything more taken in winter (unless my brother has something).

Yes, Werner's right about Renny probably being the foremost authority. He's also available through the GTNP website (I believe). You may want to also try Tom Turiano at


Social climber
No Ut
May 4, 2007 - 11:00am PT

I think mostly you'd find the lower Exum free of snow outside the cracks, and mostly loose snow with just a little harder stuff, and ice, in the cracks/chimneys. I do have a photo somewhere of it completely rimed up in 1971, taken from the lower saddle. Looked like Scotland or Patagonia. Useless stuff for climbing, though - frost-feathers the consistency of 700-fill goose down.

The Direct Exum would be a great winter climb in any case, because of its' position, line and quality climbing.


right here, right now
May 5, 2007 - 11:15am PT
Hadda' bump this one for the couple good snapshots,
Plus, the Tetons are fairly enigmatic here on the Taco.

Mountain climber
Laramie, WY
Jan 4, 2013 - 07:19pm PT
This is great beta. I'll give a bump and ask for more info. I'd really like to hit this up this winter but my biggest concerns involve avalanche conditions on the approach and descent. Judging from the slope angle it would seem that there is going to be substantial hazard. Any beta as to how stable the slopes between the medows and upper saddle tend to be and are there alternative lines that are better protected? It seems it could be tricky to find a windows with good snow and weather conditions. I'm looking at climbing in February or March. Thanks all.

Trad climber
Las Vegas, NV.
Jan 4, 2013 - 07:25pm PT
Wow, your first post is to bump a 6 year old thread. Well done, padawan.

Usually if threads are that old and didn't have a lot of responses to begin with, then it's OK to start a new thread on the subject.

Some cool pictures here though, hopefully someone will post up some current beta on this. I was hoping to get out there this summer, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen this year.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jan 4, 2013 - 07:37pm PT
I've been to the Lower Saddle several times in Winter. People go there all the time....check on snow conditions before you go. Route faces South so should be a good objective. Winter climbs don't always mean "winter conditions."

Trad climber
Placerville, California
Jan 4, 2013 - 07:56pm PT
i only once humped an
unfamiliar chick in winter.

i done better by her,
than she done by me.

it was the sudden warmth
that sunk my substance.

it was like a pit into
which my soul anti-soared.

i was hoping for at least
an echo,
though none issued;
maybe a spark as i collided with
her magic? nope.

just an empty me,
and a disgusted her.


Mountain climber
Laramie, WY
Jan 5, 2013 - 12:51am PT
This seems like a good group here, perhaps odd, but would we be here talking about climbing if we were not? Not likely. I'm totally pumped about climbing this.

Trad climber
Elk Creek, Idaho
Jan 5, 2013 - 03:19am PT
The snow depths will be averaging over six feet above 9500 feet by Febuary. I would suggest avoiding the mountain if high winds are driving dense snow that might increase stresses on the snowpack in a rapid fashion. The slope above the meadows can be subject to deep slab avalanches in or shortly after such conditions.

The Dike or Dartsmouth Basin approaches posses greater avalanche hazards in my opinion.

Some years on the Lower Saddle there is ample snow on lee side of some larger boulders to fashion snow-caves...I would carry a sturdy tent in case that option isn't desired or proves unfeasible.

Generally, the Exum Ridge is blown free of snow although a rime icing can occur by wind driving clouds across the mountain. In late winter and spring, features like the "Wind Tunnel" can be gorged with snow and ice.

Myself, I would have anxiety about climbing more delicate pitches like the Black Face in heavy mountain boots with high winds. I've balked at climbing the lower part of the ridge in high winds more than once during the summer months, but others do ascend it in unbridled gales. An alternatrive that offers more shelter from the prevailing winds is the Petzoldt Ridge/Upper Exum combination. (slightly easier, the holds are typically more positive in soaring winds or icy circumstances)

Best wishes... hoping you have desirable conditions for your winter ascent of the Grand !
steve shea

Jan 5, 2013 - 12:15pm PT
Yup people are up there ALL the time, it's like Grand Central Station some days. You want a winter ascent? Embrace the conditions. Use your mountainsense/skills and assess. No good, turn around. I have been up to the saddle many times in winter and the conditions are all over the map. Winter does not mean winter conditions. Earl Wiggens and I did the Black Ice one January in 4 1/2 hrs round trip from the saddle. The next week you could not even get up Garnet, meters of snow had fallen. Just be patient and wait for your window.

Mountain climber
Laramie, WY
Jan 6, 2013 - 05:06pm PT
So it sounds like there typically is not enough ice for screws. Any idea if bringing some ice pitons would be a good idea? It sounds like it will usually take the same pro as in summer.
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