Since I'm too busy (lazy) to keep a blog, I figured good ol' SuperTopo was the next best place for me to post a TR for this past weekend.
As much as I wish all the TRs I posted were winners - with the ups, come the downs, and this particular TR describes the latter.
Prior to this trip, I'd been to the Tetons precisely one time. When I was four. I don't have much recollection of being there, but I do have a picture of myself on a horse in front of the Grand. Twenty six years later, having been a climber for almost six years, it was time to return.
Being as it was my first real trip to the range (and my partner's), we thought it would be appropriate to avoid the obvious choice of the Grand, and instead get a feel for the area, and do something else classic - so we could return and pick the best way to summit the big one for the first time. A friend suggested Irene's Arete, and we were sold after looking at the guide book, Mountain Project, and whatever else Google returned.
After dispensing with work (why does everything go to sh#t on Friday afternoons when you have a trip coming?), and final packing, we hit the road from Salt Lake around 6:30. I had called the Jenny Lake ranger station on Thursday to see what they'd suggest for camping. I was told Gros Ventre camp was our best bet. I also asked Merrill at IME if there were any good spots for a quick bivy in the area, but apparently free camping is hard to find in the vicinity of Jackson.
(If any of the readership has beta otherwise they'd rather not publicly share, feel free to PM me. $23 for a spot to pitch a tent for a night kinda grinds my gears.) The AAC ranch DID have availability according to their website, but being as we'd arrive on the late side, it seemed both expensive, and rude (being as it's bunks only, they don't list tent sites) to show up so late for a few hours sleep.
We made it to GV Camp with only one stop for gas (also, FlyingJs have at least semi-decent pizza, for what it's worth), and were asleep by 1. Since the weather for Saturday called for 0% chance of rain, we gave ourselves a luxe 5 and a half hours of sleep before heading to the Lupine Meadows trailhead.
The drive, breakfast, and last minute packing put us on the trail at 8:25. We could probably have been a little more efficient, but we really thought that for our objective, with good weather, it wouldn't be a big deal.
Turns out we didn't factor in the last bit of route finding. As it was, we made it to the Petzold (BTW, wtf is up with the spelling of Petzold(t)? This article - http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web07x/wfeature-1931-petzold-waters
- isn't even able to use the same spelling within the same paragraph. Is there a T or not? I need to know!) caves in under three hours.
From there, my partner and I had a bit of a disagreement over how to get to the base of the route. I thought we needed to cross the snow gully around the same level as the caves, whereas my partner thought we had to go up and around the buttress one could see, higher up the gully. I capitulated, though it turned out I shouldn't have.
I'd like to take this time to point out that we've probably all made similar mistakes. Our photo copy of the Gams guidebook showed two paths leading to the right, with the lower path being marked with the word "NO!". Unfortunately, the Xerox took out quite a bit of fidelity, and I think this is what made my partner think we needed to go higher. While I was of course, super bummed that we didn't get to climb the route, due to our mistake - I think that being upset at my partner's judgement here would be severely misplaced.
We climbed up semi-chossy licheny rock, until it became clear we were too high up, with respect to the start of the route. We did our best to rectify this without re-tracing our steps, and eventually found ourselves down climbing a mini gully, of sorts. We did pretty well, until we hit a choke spot where it seemed we'd have to trust some fairly steep grass. Now, as much as it kills me to say I wussed out on a down climb due to grass, it really looked as if it was just steep and slippery enough as to be the kind of thing that would haunt you into the afterlife as to what lead to your stupid slip and fall death. There also happened to be a rap sling at this spot, though it looked old enough to be of the "butter knife would be overkill to cut through this" variety.
The existing rap station also made use of what looked like a pretty sketchy piece of rock, to us. There was a much bigger chockstone a little lower, which I down climbed to, though I couldn't quite get my arms to reach around it. I called my partner down to help try and get the rap set up, and I have to say, I hadn't felt so excited to feel another human's fingers since one of my first middle school hand holds. We just barely touched fingers to pass along my nylon bail webbing, and it was very reminiscent of Michelangelo's creation of Adam.
After tying a water knot Leubben would be proud of, we rapped. Not long there after, we made our way to the base of the route. Unfortunately it was 3PM til we got to what I think was the traditional rope up ledge. I climbed a pitch. We then decided discretion was the better part of valor, and bailed. After a lot of (at times sketchy) down climbing, we made it back to actual trail, and had a pleasant hike out.
The Tetons were gorgeous, and I think we could have crushed the route if we didn't screw up the approach so bad at the end. I even think we could have probably finished with some light, but didn't want to deal with route finding on the descent in the dark.
Side note, on the way home the next day, we stopped in Jackson for some food. I think it's definitely more bourgeois than anything I've encountered in Tahoe. Feel free to weigh in.
Anyway, in closing, great range, fun 10+ mile day anyway, and look forward to returning. I suppose if every trip worked out perfectly, it wouldn't be much of a sport!
(had to upload at least one photo)