Wednesday, August 1, 2012

East Ridge of The Grand Teton

The East Ridge of The Grand Teton

The 4,000 foot east ridge of the Grand Teton is one of the most eye-catching lines in the park when viewed from the Snake River plain.  For years I have sat and wondered what it would be like to be kicking steps up the summit snowfield, the exposure must be crazy;  well it is!

Bridget and I left late last saturday and hiked to Surprise lake where we dropped into Glacier Gulch and the Teton Glacier terminal moraine.    We found a nice bivy cave right at the start of the route (where the moraine butts up against the Grand Teton). 

Bridget in the first Bivy cave

I am a facinated by alpine glaciers so I had to go explore the Teton Glacier.  It didn't dissapoint.

View from the first bivy

Bridget and I awoke at 3:30am and cooked some breakfast in the darkness of the bivy cave.  At 5:00am we were climbing up the initial portion of the route.  The majority of the climbing (up to the Molar tooth) was steep walking with a few short 4th and 5th class steps.  Once at the Molar tooth we found the fun 5.6 chimney which was lead in one long 70m pitch to the notch.  From here we climbed the wide crack on the "tricky traverse".  I really enjoyed this portion of the climb, the rock was fine, the climbing steep and exposed. 

Bridget leading the second portion of the "tricky traverse".

Bridget climbing above the second tower.

We simul climbed the rest of the route from the col behind the Molar tooth.  The climbing was easy, but exposed and sometimes loose; but it was always good.  We finally got to the best portion of the route- the summit snow field.  We put our boots on, donned an ice axe and set off up the snow climbing together.  I was sucking wind and the sky was begining to darken from a small storm cell.  The knife edge of the snow arete was exhilarating as the exposure off the north and south sides of the Grand Teton dropped below our feet. 

Bridget on the summit snowfield

 We reached the summit block and sprinted left to a loose ledge and some fifth class climbing that lead us to the summit at 11:20am.  We sat on the summit for about 20 seconds as the small storm cell caused the air around us to buzz with electrical energy. 

looking down the long and convoluted east ridge from the summit

 We ran down the Owen-Spaulding route as the thunder crashed around us; thankfully for us the storm veered to our North and we missed the worst of it.  We got down to the lower saddle and met up with a friend who guides for Exum.  We ended up doing some alpine bouldering, maybe the best bouldering setting I have ever had the privilage to climb at!  We bivied at the saddle under a rock as it rained.  We had planned on linking the North-West ice couloir on the Middle Teton on this trip as well but upon inspection the ice couloir was melted out in the lower part.  We ended up carrying ice gear (and bivy gear) up and over the Grand Teton - good training.    We finished the next day by hiking out to the trailhead and swimming in String lake.  The climb was long and we never saw another soul on the route, perfect!

Bivy number 2, hiding from the rain

Swimming at String lake

Cheers, Loren

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