Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lower Exum Ridge - Grand Teton

Route: Lower Exum - Grand Teton Trad, 5.7, 6 pitches, Grade III
           Upper Exum, Trad, 5.5, 12 pitches, Grade II
Can't beat it
Brent and I left Utah Thursday evening with the intent of climbing the complete Exum Ridge on the Grand Teton.  We arrived in Jackson around 11 pm and found a place to camp for free in the national forest.  Friday morning we went to the climbing ranger station first thing and got a permit to camp at the lower saddle.  We packed our things, split the weight between our tent, rope, and climbing gear and headed up Garnet Canyon towards the lower saddle.

Hiking up Garnet Canyon
It took us 5 hours to get to the lower saddle from the trailhead.  We found a well-protected campsite with a great view of our intended route.  We spent the afternoon talking to the climbing rangers, eating chips and queso (Brent carried), resting, and watching Argo on Brent's iPod.  We were asleep by 9 pm.  

The Grand from Lower Saddle camp - Exum Ridge follows the shadow line to the summit 
Teton shadows from Lower Saddle
We got up at 4 am and were hiking by 5 am.  We were roped up and climbing the first pitch by 6 am.  I led the first pitch up a 5.7 chimney and it was chilly and windy!  Weather seemed like it would hold for awhile.
Me leading Pitch 1 up 5.7 chimney
Brent had very cold hands and had a hard time gripping the rock with his stiff, immobile fingers but he warmed them up and led the second pitch up a series of cracks and flakes to large shelf.

Brent leading 5.6 pitch 2 up a series of cracks and flakes to a big ledge

Big shelf at top of Pitch 2 with Middle Teton in the background

Looking east from Lower Exum Ridge
We now both acknowledged that a potential storm was in the distance and was coming in our direction.  We hoped it would miss us and continued to climb.  I led pitch 3 up an awkward 5.7 left-leaning crack.  At the top of the pitch, the dark storm clouds were 15 miles out and it was time to bail.  I belayed Brent as he quickly climbed the pitch and we rappelled onto a ramp to the top of pitch 2 that allowed us to walk off the route into Wall Street gully.  Luckily we were off the route and on fairly safe ground before the rain, snow, and thunder began.  We got back to the tent and feel asleep as the storm blew over.
Me leading weird 5.7 crack on pitch 3 

Currently scared, impending storm
Unfortunately, the weather remained unsettled the rest of the day so we did not make a second attempt and hiked back down to the trailhead, got a burger in Jackson, and drove home.    

Double rainbow on the drive home