Trip Report
Enclosure Couloir with Jimmy Newberry
Tuesday March 20, 2018 8:57am
In the 1970’s the Grand Teton’s black ice couloir had a pretty stout reputation, only heroes need apply. I applied twice and had my application rejected both times. The first time I was a total newbie to grand alpinism in the tradition of the Tetons, as well as new to ice climbing. My partner Harvey and I got lost on the west face of the Grand looking for the black ice couloir, and after wondering about for 17 pitches of rock, snow, and ice, found ourselves bivying on some ledge on the northwest corner of the Grand. We spent a chilly but otherwise safe, sleepless night watching the Milky Way rotate over our heads. The following morning we rapped down to the Grandstand, then down to the Teton glacier below and hiked back around to the lower saddle. No black ice, but an education to be sure.

Several years later Jimmy Newberry and I were back for a rematch, but with better gear, better beta, and much more experience. We got an early morning start on the Valhalla Traverse and were around to where the ice climbs started by fairly early in the morning.

Jimmy Newberry on the Valhalla Traverse.
Jimmy Newberry on the Valhalla Traverse.
Credit: Nick Danger

The weather was clear and beautiful, but we were still way too late by black ice standards, as one needs to be above the crux mixed pitch by the time the sun strikes the upper portions of the Grand and starts melting things out. As we were deciding on whether to commit to it anyway we heard the distinctive “wop, wop, wop” noise of a helicopter. “Seems awfully early for the rescue bird to be out, doesn’t it Jimmy?” It wasn’t the rescue bird, it was the Grand Teton’s own bird of prey. This 6 ft by one ft needle of rock was falling through the air, and as it rotated it sounded just like a helicopter. This was followed by the sound of incoming artillery as the thing hit near the base of the black ice and exploded into a thousand pieces of Precambrian shrapnel. Jimmy and I looked at each other and decided that we really had no pressing engagement in that particular couloir on that particular day, and went up the enclosure couloir instead.

Jimmy, maybe we should climb something that is not in the impact zone ...
Jimmy, maybe we should climb something that is not in the impact zone of an artillery range.
Credit: Nick Danger
Jimmy looking up at the options.
Jimmy looking up at the options.
Credit: Nick Danger
Looking down at Jimmy as I head towards the start of our couloir.  Mt ...
Looking down at Jimmy as I head towards the start of our couloir. Mt Owen in the background.
Credit: Nick Danger
Jimmy coming up the first pitch of the enclosure couloir.
Jimmy coming up the first pitch of the enclosure couloir.
Credit: Nick Danger
Jimmy approaching our first belay in the enclosure couloir.
Jimmy approaching our first belay in the enclosure couloir.
Credit: Nick Danger

The lower half of the enclosure couloir was mostly snow but it turned to ice the higher we got. The setting was spectacular, with an alpine feel beyond anything we were used to back home. Best of all, it was completely free from falling rock. We were able to swing leads, making good progress and staying warm.

I am leading up one of the lower snowy pitches.
I am leading up one of the lower snowy pitches.
Credit: Nick Danger
Jimmy coming up.
Jimmy coming up.
Credit: Nick Danger
Jimmy looking back at his faithful partner.
Jimmy looking back at his faithful partner.
Credit: Nick Danger
Jimmy is bringing me up.  The setting is truly spectacular.
Jimmy is bringing me up. The setting is truly spectacular.
Credit: Nick Danger
Jimmy coming up where the snow covering the ice is much thinner.
Jimmy coming up where the snow covering the ice is much thinner.
Credit: Nick Danger

Near the top of the enclosure couloir where it narrows down, the ice had started to melt out and we scrambled up the rock. All of this snow, ice, and rock scrambling comprised another full measure of alpine wonderfulness, for which we were immensely grateful. We were living celebrants instead of dead heroes, for which we were also grateful.

Jimmy scrambling up the rock near the top of the couloir.
Jimmy scrambling up the rock near the top of the couloir.
Credit: Nick Danger
Jimmy fixing to top out.
Jimmy fixing to top out.
Credit: Nick Danger
Our conquering heroes at the top of the enclosure.   Mostly we had con...
Our conquering heroes at the top of the enclosure. Mostly we had conquered our penchant for making poor route-finding decisions.
Credit: Nick Danger

It was early afternoon on another bluebird sky day and we ambled back down to the lower saddle. Had beer been available we would have had one…. or two or three. As it was we hung out enjoying all there was to enjoy at that exact moment.

Jimmy enjoying all there is to enjoy.
Jimmy enjoying all there is to enjoy.
Credit: Nick Danger

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Nick Danger
About the Author
Nick Danger is a ice climber from Arvada, CO.

Comments
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Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
Author's Reply  Mar 20, 2018 - 09:07am PT
I offer this up as a love letter to one of the most faithful companions and friends in the high country I have ever had. Thanks, Jimmy, you are absolutely one of the very best!
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Mar 20, 2018 - 01:35pm PT
Wow...old school great!
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Mar 20, 2018 - 05:23pm PT
Nick! Thanks for taking the time to post up a great BITD trip report. In 1983, Donini gave my young disciple Kevin & me beta on using the Valhalla Traverse to access the North Ridge of the Grand. He made it sound easy & simple.

The week before the trip, Kevin got word that a teen-aged climbing pal of his from Missoula had been killed that week, while trying to reach, (or was it retreat from?) the North Ridge.

Kevin & I got across the Valhalla as far as about the start of the Black Ice Couloir with no problem. When I looked up at the long & steep snowfields going to the Grandstand, I had a major moment of personal cowardence. I told Kevin, it looked much bigger, just to get to the North Ridge, than I had anticipated. He was happy to back off & then sugested the Black Ice. I shot that idea down & we didn't have any beta with us on the Enclosure Couloir.

It was so early in the day, that we still had time to do the Upper Exum route & make it back to Jenny Lake by dark.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
  Mar 20, 2018 - 06:41pm PT
It's just terrific how well preserved your slides are.
You must have stored them in a very stable environment, and well protected from heat and oxidation.

Those Super Gaiter cabling systems didn't work so well. With no crampons straps, the toes would pop up and collect snow:

Credit: Nick Danger


55 cm wood shafted Chouinard North Wall hammer? Maybe a Zero?

Credit: Nick Danger

Credit: Nick Danger

.................................

Anyhow, enough gear nerd fidgeting.
Crisp writeup and wonderful sequence of pictures!

Thanks, Nick!
Mike Honcho

Trad climber
Glenwood Springs, CO
  Mar 20, 2018 - 06:26pm PT
As good as a TR gets! Newberry's helmet is really awesome as well!
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
Author's Reply  Mar 21, 2018 - 09:07am PT
Fritz, your own adventure on the side of the Grand sounds righteous in its own way, and you chose wisely enough to live to tell about it. Good on you, Sir!

Roy, I think Jimmy was packing a Chewynard north wall hammer on that one. He later went to a pair of Forrest Mountaineering Molitar (?) alpine hammers, which Jimmy loved, except for the frequency in which they got welded into the ice.

Thanks, all, for your appreciations of my ruminations of a bygone era.
We were climbers once, and young.
Off White

climber
Tenino, WA
  Mar 21, 2018 - 09:14am PT
this is great, thanks for all the scanning work and posting this up. Love the white pile jacket...
StahlBro

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
  Mar 21, 2018 - 09:19am PT
Really nice shots Nick. Thanks for posting.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Mar 21, 2018 - 04:33pm PT
I always love your TRs nick,
First class and old Skool every time!
Woot
reason

Big Wall climber
Fort Collins Co
  Apr 2, 2018 - 02:14pm PT
Never did the Enclosure. Did the Black Ice into Vision Quest. The beginning of Vision Quest was spicey. Spindrift frozen waterfall of 1+ inch of ice with zero pro for most of the coulour.
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
  Apr 2, 2018 - 02:34pm PT
Nice!
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Apr 2, 2018 - 02:39pm PT
I love these blasts from the past!
johnkelley

climber
Anchorage Alaska
  Apr 2, 2018 - 02:55pm PT
Here one from around 2000ish. Looking down the Enclosure Couloir.

Credit: Kevin Mahoney
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
Author's Reply  Apr 3, 2018 - 07:52am PT
Righteous photo, John. thanks for sharing it.
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Apr 3, 2018 - 01:33pm PT
Great stuff! Nick, you covered a lot of beautiful territory in the western USA.
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