Trip ReportSnaz Grade III/IV 5.9+ - 5.10a - Death Canyon - Grand Tetons
So this is a year late. Better late than never I suppose.
Jim Donini and I got together for this Grand Day Out last July 2012.
In the interests of brevity, sportsmanship (and faulty memory) rather than recap every move of the climb I'll give some beta from my notebook.
This was the only day I forgot my camera, so no pics. Go Figure!
The classic "A Climber's Guide To The Teton Range" 3d Edition (Ortenburger and Jackson) (OJ) has a good description and topo map (page 89).
There is a new, excellent guidebook "Teton Rock Climbs" by Aaron Gams (AG) with photos/topo on pages 36-37.
These topos correspond well but number the pitches differently which can be confusing.
The climb goes directly up a prominent, steep dihedral and continues up and left when the dihedral ends.
The rock along this wall is very solid. As good as Yosemite Valley.
Park as far in as you can on the Phelps Lake dirt road. There are a large number of parking areas, go to the end if you're early enough.
Finding the start of the approach is the first problem. Stay on the Death Canyon trail well past Phelps Lake (resist the urge to leave the trail early) and past the prominent Snaz dihedral to where the trail first comes within about 50' of the creek. Up about 3 switchbacks a rough climber's track takes off to the right and goes horizontally to a large alcove directly beneath the Snaz corner. Good place to hang your packs (essential varmint protection). There are a couple of 3d/4th class bits on the approach where you want to be careful.
Allow 1 1/2 hours for the approach to the rope up point which is just to the left of the alcove.
I'll use the Ortenburger/Jackson pitch numbering.
OJ guide starts P1 on the ground below a small fir and a left leaning crack, then diagonals up and right on grassy ledges to the base of the obvious dihedral. A sling around the fir is a good idea. AG guide starts P1 at the base of the dihedral.
From the base of the dihedral the route is obvious. Straight up. This climb was put up in 1964 (Chouinard/Hempel) so the pitches are max about 150'. Some belays have bolts (useful for the rappel), some are fixed pins, some are place your own.
Lieback/jam/off-width/face/stem/overhang. You name the technique, you'll use it. It is steep all the way. Belays are good, all on stances. Take your time, save your strength.
OJ pitch 8 ends on a narrow ledge below a large cubical overhang. You'll know it when you get there. Now you have to make a choice.
The original goes up a crack from the left end of this ledge, bypassing the overhang and ends on a large hidden ledge above. This is rated 5.7. We didn't do it.
Donini led me into the "Cousin Leroy's Uncle" variation which goes steeply up and right into and beneath the overhang. Getting out of the right side of the claustrophobic yet airy overhang is the 5.10 crux. USE YOUR FEET! I combined fingers on tiny holds, feet stemming the corner, smooth face and knee-jam in wide crack to thrash, grunt and thrutch out of this stunning spot. Very glad I had a toprope for my fall out of the leaning off-width crack (although the protection is excellent)! Then 2 or three more steep moves and you're on the top ledge. Serious rope drag for the leader and follower.
The Real Route now (apparently) continues up 300' of fourth class and across brushy slabs to the top of the lower Death Canyon switchbacks. We didn't go this way, rather we rapped the last pitch on one rope. We brought a second rope which we tied off at the belay below the big corner at the bottom of P9 (P8 in AG). 5 or so doubled 60m rope rappels took us to the base of the dihedral then a scramble down to the alcove to retrieve our packs. On rappel you realize how steep this route is!
Helmet (a good idea anywhere in the Tetons)
2 60m ropes if you want to rappel.
Set of nuts and cams 1/3" - 3 1/2". 4" cam useful for off width OJ P4.
Approach/rack up 120 mins. Climbing 3 1/2 hours. Rap 1 hour. Walk out 90 mins.
On the climb we caught up with another team of three (plenty of places to pass if you're polite) and had a snack. The average age of the four of us was a bit over 60! They urged us older gents to go ahead as we were moving somewhat faster than they (thanks to rope-gun Donini).
The other team finished the climb the Proper Way, up the summit slabs and then left through the woods to the trail. When they got back to the Climber's Ranch they reported it had taken them till dusk to get back to the car and that the upper slabs were steep with many fallen trees and steep scree. They didn't like it much. By dusk I was brewing up back at the Climber's Ranch.
This was perhaps the best Grade III I've done (both guidebooks rate it Grade IV). I guess it's IV if you complete the climb over the top. A terrific climb. We were lucky with the weather. It rained hard in the afternoon 2 days before and the day after.
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