Archive for: August, 2015

The Grand Teton, Upper Exum

The Grand Teton, Upper Exum

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

It has been a bit since any peaks were logged on the peak of the week. So The Grand is a good one to break up the drought. The climb was going to happen several different ways, including an original plan to camp overnight in the meadow and climb the Full Exum Ridge on the second day, but I was told that the weather in Jackson has been grey for a lot of the summer and the week of our planned climb was not an exception. Since Thunderstorms were threatening on Wednesday we decided to forgo the Lower Exum Ridge and try to climb the whole thing via the Upper Exum on Tuesday.

Me and Nick started off from the Lupine Meadows trailhead at 4:15 am. The early hours in the dark always goes quick and we were rounding the corner into Garnet canyon by the time the sun was coming up a little after 5:30 am. From there we started checking off the various campsites as we went by. First the meadows, then the caves, then a detour right, up to Jackson Hole Mountain Guides camp were they corrected my course and I reunited with Nick down at the moraine camp. It is kind of hard to get off track here but I saw the guide huts up on the hill to the right and figured they were on route. As it is, the trail stays low and runs pretty much a straight shot up to the saddle.

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From the moraine it is about 900 ft up to the lower saddle at 11,650 ft where the Owen-Spalding and both the Exum and Petzle Ridges really come into view. We stopped to refill the water bottles at a garden hose that utilizes a spring and then headed north up toward a black dike in the rock. At this point you have options for what you want to attack. The Owen-Spalding continues the obvious trail to the upper saddle. The Lower Exum access cuts way right to a chimney you can see on your way up.

We continued toward the upper saddle and then cut right at 12,500 ft across a big gully to Wall Street, a big ledge on the west side of the ridge. Here we roped up for the rock section of the climb. It was around 10:30 or 11:00 am at the point and the ledge is in the shade until you come around the corner to the jump off spot. It is a fairly easy move but very exposed. While doing it, it is wild to imagine Glen Exum leaping over it in his original 1931 solo climb of the route.

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The next few pitches included the Golden Stair and the Friction, which aside from those two we simulclimbed much of. Nearing the top we cut left, and climbed the V pitch, my favorite of the day. After that we wandered around until we hit the summit, topping out around 2:00 pm.

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Vesper Peak, The Ragged Edge

Vesper Peak, The Ragged Edge

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Heading into the first weekend of August, Sam, David and I knew we wanted to climb. After heavy traffic on the Tooth and bad weather on Ingalls, we were looking for something less traveled with high quality rock, 4+ pitches and more challenging moves. On Vesper Peak The Ragged Edge route passed all criteria with flying colors.

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Sam planning happily on Friday night

We left the car at 9:15 am and even then, the hike up Trail 707 to Hardlee Pass was hot, exposed and beautiful in the morning light. We crested the pass at about 10:45 am and got a nice long look at the granite summit of Vesper Peak as we traversed the talus field directly after the pass.

The trail then crosses the outlet of Vesper Lake and climbs out of the lake basin toward the peak (scramble route). At some point, we decided that we should have left the scramble trail at the lake outlet. We could see a very direct looking couloir to our right. We down climbed to the base of the chute and powered to the top.

Looking down the couloir to the outlet of Vesper Lake

As we huffed and puffed our way out of the chute, the trail was in sight and several people we saw earlier in the day cruised by. Evidently, this “direct” grind did not save any time. That didn’t stop us from breaking from the trail immediately, veering toward the eastern flank (hiker’s right) of Vesper Peak. This turned out to be a good move.

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Sam and David head north east

After about 10 minutes of rock hopping, we arrived at a saddle on the north eastern side of the mountain where we gained outstanding views of the glaciated valley below. The rest of the approach wasn’t clear immediately. From this col, the approach traverses west under the north face of Vesper Peak. This is high consequence terrain, take your time and watch your step. You’ve reached the base of the climb when you can’t go any further without getting on rock. 2.5 hours to here.

Hugging the north face of Vesper

We geared up at the base of the first pitch and were sure to leave nothing behind. The Ragged Edge is a relatively new route (~2 years old) and while the rock is solid the climb took a bit of way finding. In some ways, this was complicated by the fact that the first two pitches trend west across the face.

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Sam takes stock at the top of pitch 2

After pitch 3, the route really starts to shine. The exposure is phenomenal. They call this The Ragged Edge for a reason. The route heads up a jagged, blocky rip in the middle of the face.

Scaling the edge on pitch 5

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David cleans the final piece

The Ragged Edge exceeded our expectations. It presented a lot of opportunities to learn without unnecessary risk. Climbing aside, this area is an absolutely spectacular section of the Cascades with plenty of exposure to alpine splendor.

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After a quick walk off the summit and dip in the lake, we were on our way. The car was a welcome sight at 7:30 pm. Another great day in the mountains.

Refer to this map to avoid our mistake: