Escape from Death
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BETA PHOTO: Belays indicated in red. The start of the climb i...
Will I do this route again? Probably not. Was it worth the tick? Probably yes.
Looking to climb something different and with short approach, we headed up to do this climb. The Teton guidebook/bible claims “good protection and good climbing”. Well, sections of the climb do have both, but unfortunately other sections have neither!
Aside from the poor rock and poor protection (unfortunately on the crux pitch), this climb did pack a fair bit of adventure in its five moderately graded pitches. So in that regard it was worth it, a good adventure.
Pitch 1 (5.6) – Begin up the crack and then into a surprisingly awkward move to enter the chimney below the tree. A chimney move or two will get you past the tree, and into a long, low angled chimney. About two-thirds of the way up this chimney, at a chockstone, I stepped left onto the face and avoided the remaining portion of the (undesirable looking) chimney. I belayed just past the steep exit to the chimney.
Pitch 2 (5.6) – The book says 4th class, but this pitch seemed harder than that, and the loose rock made it a heads-up lead. Scramble left to a blocky section, and then find the path of least resistance up this section, past a small bush/tree and then angle right and belay on the left edge of a big ledge. My wife (seconding) had a huge foothold break on her, and I watched it crash down and fall nearly 500 feet to the trail below. Use caution on this "easy" pitch.
Pitch 3 (5.7) – This is a cool pitch. Step onto the steep face and make a few heady 5.7 moves up to your first protection. Enjoyable climbing leads up and right to pass the giant roof. Traverse far right and belay at the base of a huge, yellow wall on a good ledge.
Pitch 4 (5.5) – Zoom up the fun, low angled corner until things get interesting. You’re aiming for the big, wide crack which is the next pitch. I got to the base of the crack, only to discover nothing safe for an anchor. I placed an “ok” nut, and then downclimbed about 15 feet to a sloping stance and found an acceptable anchor in a vertical crack. There was an old bail anchor here… perhaps someone didn’t like the look of the next pitch! I think this downclimb is unavoidable if you want a sane anchor, so be sure your second is confident (the protection above isn't great if you decide to keep it in).
Pitch 5 (5.9) – Ready yourself for some bad rock. From the anchor, head up through the slightly overhanging bad white rock (5.8+). I managed to find an OK nut, a lousy #3 Camalot, and a #0.75 Camalot in a dirty pocket to protect this section. I thought the protection was OK, but my second considered it horrible. Some tricams or hexes may have protected this poor rock better, but I didn’t have any. More poor rock leads to the base of the final, wide crack. The crux (5.9) is right here, transitioning from the wide crack onto better edges and good rock outside the crack. This section protects fairly well with a #3 and/or a #4 Camalot, but the stuff below doesn’t inspire confidence... so stitch it up! Steep, exposed moves on good edges around the crack get you to the top. Keep climbing about 50-100 feet to gain the descent ledge that slopes down and to the left. The climbing on this pitch is pretty cool, but the poor rock detracts from the experience.
Head up the Death Canyon trail for 3.2 miles, past the Snaz turn off. Right when the trail levels out after the section of 6 switchbacks, look for a faint trail heading up the talus to your right. The climb can be identified by a smooth walled chimney in a buttress up and right. Scramble up the talus for about 10-15 minutes, and hang your packs where convenient. About an hour and half from the trailhead to this point. Then scramble up and right to the base of the climb.
To descend, traverse left for about 10-15 minutes along the sloping, dirty ramp system above the last pitch. This traverse does have moments of exposure. Keep going further than you think until you finally get to a tree with rap slings. With a 60m rope, you'll need to rap about 40 feet to another tree with slings. With a 70m rope, you can rappel past this second tree, all the way to another tree with more slings. A final rap gets you to the bottom.
Nuts including small ones, double set of Camalots from #0.5-#3, one #4 Camalot. One set of TCUs or small cams. Some big hexes and small tricams may be useful on the final pitch.
By Jay Knower
From: Campton, NH
Oct 27, 2006
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
I climbed this a few years ago and would agree that the route is worth doing once. The crux pitch is cool and reminded me of a little piece of the Steck -Salathe. However, the rest of the route could be cleaner. We went too high on the wall after the last pitch and ended up on a tour of exposed, broken, Teton's rock. That may have tainted the overall experience. So, don't keep climbing. Traverse off when you can.