Trip Report
Mt Moran Direct South Buttress plus Bonus Accident Report
Wednesday April 3, 2013 5:08pm
Iím posting this long-belated trip report at the repeated request of Brian Smoot. Hope it entertains. Warning of graphic content (itís not too bad, really).

So,
On Friday July 8, 2005, Allen Sanderson, Brian Smoot, and I drove from Salt Lake to Jackson with the intent of climbing the entire Direct South Buttress Route on Mt. Moran in a two-day effort. We arrived in Jackson early Friday afternoon and picked up a canoe from Armando Menocal. Jackson was experiencing its hottest day of the year, in the low 90's.

We stopped in at The Jenny Lake ranger station and talked to George Montopoli about the route. Amongst Georgeís ascents of the DSB was a one-day solo climb to the summit where he roped just two pitches. Impressive feat by George. By mid-afternoon we were canoeing across String Lake, doing the portage, and then across Leigh Lake to Leigh Canyon on the south side of Moran.

crossing Leigh Lk, Moran with DSB on left skyline
crossing Leigh Lk, Moran with DSB on left skyline
Credit: ddriver

route view
route view
Credit: ddriver

The approach up Leigh Canyon is a bit more primitive than most Teton Canyons, as there is no longer any maintained trail to the mouth of the canyon. Faint trails through heavy undergrowth quickly play out and the hiking becomes mostly scrambling across boulder and talus fields, not too difficult. We ascended the ramps to the base of the buttress, got water, and found a bivy site at the base of the route that Brian knew.

the hike towards the base
the hike towards the base
Credit: ddriver

looking at the lower walls on Moran's south side
looking at the lower walls on Moran's south side
Credit: ddriver

first night's bivy
first night's bivy
Credit: ddriver

On Saturday we ascended the South Buttressí lower 12 pitches of steep technical rock, leading mostly in blocks. Each climbed with a pack including bivy gear and ice axe for the planned descent from the summit. We stashed nothing.

Brian leading somewhere mid route
Brian leading somewhere mid route
Credit: ddriver

finishing the pillar pitch
finishing the pillar pitch
Credit: ddriver

from the top of the pillar looking at the crux free pitch
from the top of the pillar looking at the crux free pitch
Credit: ddriver

me leading the money traverse
me leading the money traverse
Credit: ddriver

contentment after the traverse
contentment after the traverse
Credit: ddriver

Allen's turn to traverse, the last roped pitch
Allen's turn to traverse, the last roped pitch
Credit: ddriver

Around 2:00 we completed the lower buttress, stopped to unrope, and ate lunch. We proceeded unroped up the initial bowl and onto the ridge line above the South Buttress, climbing unroped until the exposure increased dramatically.

after lunch soloing to get on the ridgline traverse
after lunch soloing to get on the ridgline traverse
Credit: ddriver

At that point we tied into a single rope and simul-climbed across the ridge line with running belays. We reached a point on the traverse where the climbing became much more difficult and stopped to assess our situation. Heavy snowpack for early July had suggested we should find water on the route but our position was on exposed ridges and there was no water to be found. We were very low on water, it was hot, and we were in need of a bivouac site. The standard bivy on this route is on ledges above and past the midway descent gully, a good distance away. The immediate prospects ahead on our route for either water or a good bivy site were both questionable, so...

We spied a second bowl below our ridge with running water and chose to descend into it for our bivy site. A short rappel down a ramp led to a moderate descent and hike into the bowl. Surprisingly, there was quite a bit of evidence of traffic down into this bowl, but little evidence of where the traffic ultimately went. We did not find any established bivy sites in the bowl itself (although on the next day we would see bivy sites along the Black Fin ridge on its other side) and were obliged to build our own sites adjacent to a stand of dwarf trees.

I marked on this topo our bivy sites and the approximate line the route follows to and on the ridge traverse. The standard bivy site is in the photo somewhere on ledges at the ridge's end (did not get there).

bivy sites
bivy sites
Credit: ddriver

During the night there was an unexpected frontal passage and a storm system that dropped an inch or so of rain. My bivy gear consisted of a sack, a very light half length pad, some pile, and some shrubs. It was a cold wet night. On Sunday morning, Brian woke first at 6:00 and started looking for descent options, without luck. After the storm had subsided around 10:00 the three of us started a concerted effort to figure out our descent options.

drying out
drying out
Credit: ddriver

We had a copy of Renny Jacksonís entire description of Mt. Moran at our disposal, but were unable to locate supposed rappel routes on either side of the bowl we were in, and with wet rock travel became too dangerous. We considered the traverse to the CMC route descent but this traverse was located far above us. We figured our best option was to ascend back to the ridge line we had descended from the previous afternoon to reach the DSB ďtraditional descent.Ē

Within 20 minutes we were nearly back to the point of our rappel from the ridge. As I prepared to step from the grass slope onto the rock ridge, I reached up to a large embedded flake for balance, and it immediately released from the ground and went airborne. My right foot was planted to the ground as I was starting to step up with my left. In an instant I watched the flake land on my foot and roll right past Allen as he hiked up behind me. It was probably 3 feet tall, 2 feet wide and about 3-4 inches thick on average. I envisioned my foot being broken, or worse, cut off as it rolled across, and the immediate pain was intense, but my climbing boot wasnít cut through and I found after a couple minutes that I could walk. The time was about 1:30. My boot was a Dolomite Edlinger wall boot with fairly stiff lug soles and provided support enough that was key for my coming self-evacuation. Allen roped up to lead the ramp past the rappel station and I soon followed. It was immediately obvious that my right foot would support no weight on the toe, but I was able to outside edge and stand on my heel. Perhaps my foot isnít broken, I thought. The things youíll tell yourself.

We quickly returned to the technical traverse, similar to Wolfís Headsí East Ridge but seemingly more intense and exposed. Brian gave me a Motrin and my pain was tolerable. We simul-climbed the ridge, double-roped, as the weather built into an afternoon electrical storm. Soon the Grand disappeared under black clouds and lightning. By 4:00 we reached the end of the traverse and the start of the standard descent gully towards the west. We were about 2,500 feet below Mt. Moranís 12,593' summit, but we still had 2,500 feet to descend back to its base, and this was no easy descent.

somewhere on the ridge traverse
somewhere on the ridge traverse
Credit: ddriver

looking south
looking south
Credit: ddriver

end of the traverse looking to where the canoe waits before descending...
end of the traverse looking to where the canoe waits before descending the opposite side
Credit: ddriver

The initial gully involved a lot of down-climbing until it came to an abrupt stop at a huge dropoff. The escape involved climbing a ramp to a roped traverse of the right-hand buttress and a rappel into the next gully. This gully also dead-ended, requiring another traverse out.

descent topo
descent topo
Credit: ddriver

Ultimately we were on scree and talus slopes on the Thor Peak side of Moran and working our way back into Leigh Canyon, a typical loose Tetons descent, though not so well used. I experienced sharp pain whenever I made a poor foot placement or lost my balance in the scree, but made fairly rapid progress for being the gimp in the group. Allen and Brian were ahead and cut a course across the base slopes of Moran, but that course required me to place a lot of weight on my injured downhill foot, so I headed lower into the drainage alone seeking flatter terrain. By 8:00 we had made it back to the canoe. At this point, the lower half of my boot was showing blood. When we reached the truck at 9:30, it had been 8 hours since the injury, and our planned return to Salt Lake was off.

We returned the canoe and went to Armandoís house to stay the night. I removed my boot for the first time to assess my foot and shower. It was fairly swollen by then and bruised top to bottom, but the pain was still manageable. I dressed the wound and went to sleep. Armando was up early to guide for Exum, and we shared coffee and then were eager to head home. I drove the 5-hour drive back to Salt Lake with an ice pack on my foot and arrived home just after noon on Monday.

I decided to take myself to the Altaview Hospital emergency room, where I had x-rays taken of my foot. Amazingly, I told the tech that I didnít think it was broken, but she showed me the x-rays that said otherwise. Fortunately I had only broken one bone, the first metatarsal, but it was smashed into more than a dozen pieces.

the indisputable evidence
the indisputable evidence
Credit: ddriver

The ER doctor listened to my story and examined my foot. His conclusion was that I had an open fracture as well, which had gone untreated for over 24 hours at this point. In went the IV antibiotics for the next couple hours. Altaview referred me to the University of Utah hospital and orthopaedic center, and my wife Tracey arrived at Altaview and took me to the Uís emergency room where I was admitted and placed on a stretcher in the hallway. As luck would have it, friend and AirMed flight nurse James Garrett came off a flight and discovered me in the hall and inserted my surgical IV stint and took my blood samples. A surgical team member came by and probed my wound to confirm that it was indeed an open fracture (on both top and side). By 10:00 PM or so I was rolled into surgery. They cleaned and assessed the break and closed me back up. There was too much swelling to operate and they wanted the antibiotics to have more time to work.

On Thursday the 14th I returned for outpatient surgery. I was given a steel plate and 7 screws to rebuild that one little bone. The head of the metatarsal was split and offset in the joint line, and the surgeon chose to rebuild it that way to minimize long-term wear. After about 6 or 8 weeks of recovery I was able to start cycling again and then climbing a few weeks later.

hardware 1
hardware 1
Credit: ddriver

hardware 2
hardware 2
Credit: ddriver

In October I returned to have the hardware removed, as it was a bit of an irritant and made my foot volume larger in a rock boot. My range of motion is still somewhat limited, but the foot doesnít limit any activities and I rarely even notice it anymore.

The end.

Robert Price

  Trip Report Views: 2,188
ddriver
About the Author
ddriver is a trad climber from SLC, UT.

Comments
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Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
  Apr 3, 2013 - 05:13pm PT
Great TR! Glad yur healed..
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
  Apr 3, 2013 - 05:18pm PT
Casual self-evac for a broken foot. Nice job man. Did South Buttress Right once, know the terrain, whoa...

DMT
TomKimbrough

Social climber
Salt Lake City
  Apr 3, 2013 - 05:38pm PT
Nicely done. You couldn't have been with two better guys for that sort of outing.
labrat

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
  Apr 3, 2013 - 05:39pm PT
Ouch!

Thanks for sharing.
Erik
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
  Apr 3, 2013 - 06:11pm PT
Gnarly
ddriver

Trad climber
SLC, UT
Author's Reply  Apr 3, 2013 - 06:49pm PT
Hi there Tom, good to see you hanging around these parts.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Apr 3, 2013 - 08:18pm PT
Way to not epic, way to keep your cool.
Glad you are better!
-ee
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Apr 3, 2013 - 08:59pm PT
Yeow! Beautiful pictures, excellent TR, great job in a tough circumstance.

Thanks very much for this post.

John
golsen

Social climber
kennewick, wa
  Apr 3, 2013 - 09:16pm PT
Great TR Robert, hope you are doing well. Tell Brian that Gary says he looks like he is still 20!

Gilroy

Social climber
Bolderado
  Apr 3, 2013 - 10:20pm PT
TFPU such an understated TR and congratulations on not losing it in crushing d'feet.

Eternal props.

phylp

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Apr 3, 2013 - 09:56pm PT
My enjoyment of your description of the beauty of the climbing and the setting is equally offset by my nausea at imagining what that foot felt like. I'm glad it turned out OK in the end.
Gagner

climber
Boulder
  Apr 3, 2013 - 09:57pm PT
Great TR - done the DSB several times, but just to the top of the buttress and never to the summit ... way to self-evacuate. Great job. Oh, and hi Brian - long time no see....

Paul
crankenstein

Trad climber
Louisville, CO
  Apr 3, 2013 - 10:19pm PT
Way to go Robert. Thanks for posting. I remeber calling you on my way through SLC right after this. Glad to hear it does not limit you.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Apr 3, 2013 - 10:52pm PT
Thanks.....great climb, best rock in the Tetons!
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Apr 3, 2013 - 11:00pm PT
Thank you for taking the time to post all the photos and story.

Those bigger Teton climbs do get complicated.

I have found much adventure---and many loose-rocks, in the few that I have climbed.
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Apr 4, 2013 - 12:43pm PT
That's a route I've always wanted to do. Thanks for the write up! I felt your pain. As I was reading that, my left foot started to throb where I broke it a couple of years ago.

And cheers for the cameo by my old friend James Garrett!
Crump

Social climber
Lakewood, CO
  Apr 4, 2013 - 09:40am PT
Pretty funny running into the Cornman in the hospital hallway...
ddriver

Trad climber
SLC, UT
Author's Reply  Apr 4, 2013 - 09:59am PT
Gary, here's a better photo of that youngster Brian.

Brian rowing across Leigh Lake
Brian rowing across Leigh Lake
Credit: ddriver

Mike Friedrichs

Sport climber
City of Salt
  Apr 4, 2013 - 10:23am PT
Great trip report. That's a route I've always wanted to do as well. If I do, I want to continue to the summit. Great self evac and keeping your sh#t together.
Grippa

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Apr 4, 2013 - 11:20am PT
Great read!
rwedgee

Ice climber
canyon country,CA
  Apr 4, 2013 - 12:40pm PT
Wow !! Great story, thanks for taking the time to share.
Tod

Trad climber
Idaho
  Apr 4, 2013 - 02:47pm PT
Thanks for sharing,
Great climb, did it back in the 90's and had similar trouble; got way off route on upper part trying to find water. Managed to top out right at dark though. Spent the night on the descent, somewhere on the CMC face.
Gilroy

Social climber
Bolderado
  Apr 4, 2013 - 11:00pm PT
Badass Berto bump.

Just re-read this. ''smashed into more than a dozen pieces'' and you still didn't think it was broken...

I'll go anywhere with you.
Jennie

Trad climber
Elk Creek, Idaho
  Apr 4, 2013 - 11:49pm PT
Superlative Teton trip report, DDriver...happy your accident wasn't more grave.

The snow in those little pine thickets in the bowl area is usually gone by the middle of July, (some years portentously early). In wet years or early season snow can also be found on the descent just before rappelling the Blackfin.

Thanks, Robert...
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Apr 5, 2013 - 12:42am PT
Whew! Great TR RP.

Figures that Brian had the drugs...ha ha!

Tip o' the grappa to ya's!
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Apr 5, 2013 - 01:22am PT
Well done on the evac.

thx for the story and pics
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Apr 5, 2013 - 01:35am PT
"In an instant I watched the flake land on my foot and roll right past Allen as he hiked up behind me."

the graceful violence of the gravity dance...

thanks for the story... going back to tag the summit?
More Air

Trad climber
S.L.C.
  Apr 6, 2013 - 11:18pm PT
Thanks, Robert. It was great to remember our climb again. What a classic route that was, much more improbable than you can tell from just looking at a topo. I remember the descent was one of the scarier ones I've ever done. Lots of loose rock in a gully with drop offs. Steep terrain where you can either hassle with lots of short rappels or do lots of exposed down climbing. We chose the latter. I remember at one point I was downclimbing a steep section and stopped for a bit because I couldn't see any good footholds below me. Robert, who had just finished that section, helped talk me down a few moves to a ledge. This is coming from a guy with a compound fracture in his foot! Thinking back on it, I have to marvel at how well you managed the descent...what an adventure.

Brian

P.S. Hey Paul, thought I might see you at the Fishers this fall.

Gary, here's an even younger photo of us at Indian Creek being schooled by Les at hacky sack!

Les airborne and G. Olsen on the right
Les airborne and G. Olsen on the right
Credit: More Air
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