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Mt Owen
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Koven Route 

YDS: 5.4 French: 4a Ewbanks: 12 UIAA: IV ZA: 10 British: VD 3c Easy Snow

   
Type:  Trad, Snow, Alpine, 1 pitch, 3000', Grade II
Consensus:  YDS: 5.4 French: 4a Ewbanks: 12 UIAA: IV ZA: 10 British: VD 3c [details]
FA: P Petzoldt, G Exum, T Koven, G Koven, 1931
Season: Summer
Page Views: 4,681
Submitted By: George Bell on Mar 19, 2007

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Bill Wright on the First Ledge, Mt. Owen behind.

Description 

I always thought this was the easiest route on Mt. Owen, but was surprised just now to find that it is not. It is, however, the easiest route when approaching from the east. The only major technical difficulty is the summit block. You can begin this route either from Amphitheatre Lake or from the summit of Teewinot. I recommend the former and I have not done the latter.

For the standard approach from Amphithreatre Lake, descend a ramp west to the Teton Glacier Moraine (tricky if snow-covered). You now must cross the end of this glacier, which is melted out and/or covered with unstable scree. Ascend the obvious couloir to gain the saddle west of Teewinot. This is snow-filled in early season, otherwise it is filled with loose rock. Half-way up the couloir there is a waterfall, move left to avoid this steep section. Helmets recommended for this section, watch for climbers above you.

From the saddle head west up the east ridge, easy scrambling for the most part. Your next objective is to climb a cliff to gain access to Owen's upper snowfield, just below the summit block. The easiest option is to traverse right and climb a chimney. Now you need to make a long rising traverse left and up the upper snowfield to a point just south of the summit block. This snowfield ends in cliffs below you, so this section is deceptively dangerous. If it is melted off enough, it is usually safer to follow the rocks under the snowfield to a point where it can be climbed up directly. Practice your self-arrest before attempting this climb, or wait until it is all melted off.

The final difficulty is to climb the summit block via the big chimney on the south side, which reaches the summit ridge west of the summit. Climb this chimney, and then move north to the west side of the peak where the final few feet are climbed from the west (via another wide chimney). As I recall, the entire summit block can be climbed in a single pitch.

Location 

This route follows the east ridge of Mt. Owen, although the summit block is climbed from the south and west. The upper part of this route has incredible views of the North Face of the Grand Teton.

Protection 

Small rock rack, plus ice axe and (usually) crampons, depending on the season.

Descent 

Rappel or downclimb the final pitch, then continue down the route. Be very careful on the upper snowfield.


Photos of Koven Route Slideshow Add Photo
Brandon Barlow in the Koven Couloir
Brandon Barlow in the Koven Couloir

Comments on Koven Route Add Comment
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By Robert Henderson
From: Wilson, WY
Apr 21, 2009

I don't want to offend anyone but there seems to be a lot of poor advice in this Mt Owen section. Take it from someone who lives here, the traverse from Teewinot is not a good option for most people. It involves a 5400' ascent of Teewinot, tricky route finding on a long loose ridge, ascent of 2 peaklets one of which even has a name (East Prong,) a couple of rappels, steep snow/ice patches and takes hours longer than the Koven Couloir (unless your name is Rollo.) Using the traverse as a descent route would border on insanity as you can easily rappel the slabs/ledges just to the west of the Koven.

The Koven Couloir is pretty straight-forward when there is sufficient snow (early season.) Crossing the Teton glacier is not a problem if you stay left around the moraine (hug the N Face of Disappointment) to the toe of the East Ridge of the Grand. From there, it's easy to ascend the moraine and cross to the Koven.

In late season, it's better to climb slabs/ledges just left of the Koven and avoid the nasty rockfall danger of the very loose couloir (the worst danger is low in the gully.) Mid-season, you will likely start on the ledges and then move onto the snow in the shadowed upper part of the couloir. It's possible to climb without ever getting into the couloir. It's also wise to rappel the ledges on the descent; there are numerous rap slings. IF YOU KNOW HOW TO AVOID KICKING ROCKS DOWN, the couloir is a viable option anytime; I've done this whole route in approach shoes in Sept but it requires careful, delicate moves. If it's late season and there is a party above you, I would highly recommend you climb the slabs/ledges as an approach. They are 4th to low 5th class with careful route finding. It could save your skull!! But honestly, this is best as an early season climb (to mid-July.)

Ultimately, despite the low technical rating, this is a much more serious alpine adventure than the OS or the Upper Exum, for example. That's why it was the last major Teton summit to be climbed.
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
May 21, 2009

Thanks for the info, Robert. I've changed my route description a bit. It seemed such an obvious way to go from Teewinot, but I have no experience with it and it sounds tricky.
By Charles McCash
From: Boulder, CO
Sep 18, 2012

Wanted to add another viewpoint on Koven. Having just attempted the route this past weekend, I would strongly recommend NOT climbing it after the couloir is melted out. The rockfall was incredible, the climbing very bad, and the lower chimney was a full on waterfall, with large & loose rock. The face to the left of the couloir is an option, but you need to add to your rack to better protect; same with the face to the right of the lower chimney. Beautiful country as always, but when I go back to attempt this route again, it will be in Spring and with skis!
By Kevin Bradford
Jul 2, 2014

this climb is in good early season condition right now, with one easy and mostly dry section of rock at the bottom of the koven couloir, and good snow for the rest of the way.