Sunday, August 12, 2012

East Ridge, Mt. Owen

Mt. Owen
East Ridge
5.6 Trad,  Steep Snow, Scrambling
Grade II

Mt. Owen is the Grand Teton's northern neighbor.  I had only heard of it and known it was in the Tetons but I never really had any ambitions to climb it.   My first goal was always the Grand.  Then I heard from a friend/professor of mine from BYU and he mentioned wanting to do the East Ridge on Mt. Owen.  So we planned to climb Mt. Owen the day after I climbed the Grand....

What I carried to climb both the Grand and Owen back-to-back:
60-L pack
Mountaineering boots
Mountaineering ice axe
GPS, map
Rock shoes
60 m 8.1 half rope (my partner carried another rope)
Harness, ATC belay device, PAS
Single trad rack (cams up to #3 and a set of stoppers)
5 slings
4 quickdraws
3-L camelbak
Extra socks
Beanie and gloves
Climbing pants
Long sleeve quick dry climbing shirt
Tent, Pad, Sleeping bag

Monday morning we drove to the Tetons from Salt Lake City.  Monday evening we camped in the meadows in Garnet Canyon.  We summit the Grand on Tuesday around noon.  From the summit of the Grand we rappelled and down-climbed off the Grand and back down to the meadows, we packed our overnight gear and made our way down, around and back up to Amphitheater Lake, the typical base camp for climbing Mt. Owen.   We met two other friends at Amphitheater Lake, set up camp and got ready for the climb the following day.

We left Amphitheater Lake at 7 am Wednesday morning and followed a climbers trail north into the Teton Glacier canyon.  Once into canyon we crossed 2 huge moraines.  From the top of the 2nd moraine we could see our route up the Koven Couloir, the rocky East Ridge, the upper snowfield and the summit block.  We crossed the lower section of the Teton Glacier (no crevasses, very flat) and started making our way up the Koven Couloir.  The lower half of the couloir was class 3/4 scrambling on rock (in August 2012), the upper half of the couloir was half snow, half rock.  The upper half of the couloir took us 2 hours!  It required routefinding with snow, wet rock, blank rock, ice, etc.  The unusual winter made this route quite a challenge.

From the East Prong Col (top of the couloir) we turned west and made our way up into the chimney.  The chimney was wet, wet, wet!  There were several waterfalls cascading down the chimney, melting from the snowfield above no doubt.  We belayed this pitch, due to the wet conditions.  At the top of the chimney, we climbed through a hole in between a large chockstone and the chimney.  We got totally drenched.  Once on top of the chimney, the summit was in sight!

We unroped, strapped on our crampons and started scaling the steep snowfield to the East Ridge rock.  We got on rock at the easiest point, about 300 meters from the top of the chimney.  Once on the rock, we scrambled up a bit until we reached slabby, featureless rock.  We climbed 2 pitches of 5.6 slab until we reached the final pitch.  The final pitch looked very intimidating; steep, unprotectable, slab.

We chose not to climb it.  It was a tough decision, with the summit just 50 ft away.  Overall, it was probably a wise decision.  2 of our group had stopped half way up and were waiting on us in order to rappel down.  If we were to get hurt on the summit block, we would have all been in trouble and stranded.

The decent required 5 rappels and lots of downclimbing.

We were back at Amphitheater Lake at 7 pm and then packed up and were back to the car at 10 pm.  Day 1 we climbed the Grand in 17 hours, Day 2 we climbed Mt. Owen in 15 hours.  In summary, we climbed for 32 hours, gained over 13,000 ft in elevation and we were tired.  After driving 80 miles to Pinedale, Wyoming we slept, showered, ate and backpacked 14 miles into Island Lake in the Wind Rivers the following the day.