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Grand Teton in August for a new leader


Original Post
Mashanya · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 0

Hi, Guys! I'm planning to attempt to summit Grand Teton in mid August with my boyfriend and after talking with some friends I'm not sure we are ready to do it. We are both climbing for few years but only started trad climbing few month ago. We both can sports climb 5.8-5.9+, but leading on trad is about 5.6 currently (we climb in Gunks usually). We do have some mountaineering experience so high altitude and cold shouldn't be an issue, really. I was planning to hike up to Lower Saddle and next day climb Upper Exum. Is it possible on our level?

Jason Todd · · Cody, WY · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 998

Of course it's possible.  Route finding will be your major hurdle.

Mike Womack · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 1,545

I'd recommend doing a 1-day push for the grand, but maybe try practicing a bit more trad climbing. Alpine grades are different for example:  Owen spalding, the classic 5.4 up the grand, is accurately a 5.4 climb in perfect conditions.  If there's some ice covering many of the holds, maybe it turns into a 5.6 or harder.  Getting to the upper saddle however is not be taken lightly though.  Exposed, chossy, and slow are thw key words here.  

That being said - You should do it!  It's an absolute blast 

crackatoa Spiesbach · · Boulder,Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 70

I Climbed it when I was just a 5.6 5.7 Gunks leader.. there really is only a few tricky moves on the whole upper Exum.. if that.. We only roped up for maybe 2 pitches and just scrabmles the rest.. the Crux is the approach.. woof! but a night on the lower saddle is super memorable and that's the way to do it...

Also don't' ask internet forums if you can handle something.. research it.. plan ahead and just go for it... but know how and when to bail as well... no one here knows you and thus no one here can say if we think you can handle it...  As long as you're smart about what's going on around you and you do y ou're research you should be able to keep yourself safe.. If you don't think you're capable of that then you shouldn't even be asking us. 

I can't help but feel our society is causing people to lose there sense of adventure

Mashanya · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 0

Thank you! We will be climbing outdoors as much as possible till August. Not sure 1 day push will be good Idea for us coming from area with 0 elevation. I was thinking hiking up in the morning and taking the rest of the day to look around for access trail and acclimatizing. 

JohnnyG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 10

Absolutely totally possible. Plus it makes a good training goal.  

Do some trad routes in the Daks to get ready.

Joe Prescott · · Fort Collins · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 15

I would think it is easier for a 1 day push and dealing with a little headache than trying to sleep at 11,600'. I've only done 1 day pushes, and every time I see people slogging their heavy packs down in the morning, I'm glad. UE at 5.4 is much easier than Gunks 5.4 IMO and only a few moves here and there. Hiking mileage on steep terrain would be the best training.

Brian Shaffer · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 40
Joe Prescott wrote:

I would think it is easier for a 1 day push and dealing with a little headache than trying to sleep at 11,600'. I've only done 1 day pushes, and every time I see people slogging their heavy packs down in the morning, I'm glad. UE at 5.4 is much easier than Gunks 5.4 IMO and only a few moves here and there. Hiking mileage on steep terrain would be the best training.

I did an overnight last year and this recommendation is on point. It is so damn windy in the saddle, I think I slept 30 minutes all night. Plus you are walking up in the heat of the day with a heavier load.

Don't miss the V-pitch, its fantastic!

mark felber · · Wheat Ridge, CO · Joined Jul 2005 · Points: 28

I remember the step from Wall Street to the Upper Exum Ridge being the only challenging move on that route. Most of the challenge was psychological, since the exposure was pretty impressive. 

Spending a night at the Lower Saddle would definitely help with acclimatization and give you more time for route finding on the climb itself. If the ascent doesn't go as fast as you planned (crowds, route finding, weather), you'll have bivy gear waiting for you at the Lower Saddle instead of having to head all the way down to the trailhead. Try to get a bivy site in the Moraine or the Lower Saddle. If you have to bivy in the Petzoldt Caves or Garnet Canyon you'll have a long walk just to get to the climb. Check the Grand Teton National Park website and see if you can reserve bivy sites.

Mashanya · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 0

We might stay at Moraine, since I heard it's really windy at Lower Saddle. I thought about staying overnight mostly because we do need to acclimatize. Also because this way we will have some time to investigate approach route. I don't see any option to reserve sites online. We have 2 person tent that weighs less than 2 lb, so we will be taking it, not bivy.

crackatoa Spiesbach · · Boulder,Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 70

It would take days to acclimate to 11700 ft... one night there wont' really help very much.. But watching the sun set out over Idaho form the saddle is a sight to behold. 

grubbers · · Mass. · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 0

Don't overlook some of the other routes in the park while you're out there. At 5.6, the East Ridge of Disappointment Peak is a good warmup for climbing in the Tetons. You probably won't have much trouble with the climbing, but if you're newer to trad climbing I'd highly recommend practicing transitions and building anchors. Speed is safety in those mountains, getting caught in an afternoon thunderstorm is no fun. Definitely spend a good deal of time training for the approaches out there.

Joe Prescott · · Fort Collins · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 15

I disagree with Mark (no offense Mark!). Especially coming from sea level, your going to use a lot of calories lugging your sleeping gear up there along with climbing gear, and you are not going to feel much like eating, drinking or sleeping. It's often hot lugging your stuff up and by the time you set up camp and make food, you won't have ton of time to relax and you'll still need to get up super early. You won't acclimate in one night, you'll lose energy and hydration and it would be much better to zip up and down than to be hanging out for 1.5-2 days at altitude. I'm no athlete and did it car-to-car in ~15.5 hours my first time. Route finding slowed us, as well as a 10am start - darkness setting in just after the lower saddle ropes. If you want to play is safe, leave early enough to get to the boulder field at first light. Don't get me wrong, overnighting on the lower saddle or at the other bivy spots sounds great and I'd like to do it sometime, but I think it doesn't help summiting chances for a unguided person(s).

Travis Senor · · Mailing Address in NC · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 60

Totally doable. I did in early July two years ago and there was a bunch of snow. It'd be nice to do when drier, but glissading down the lower saddle headwall was a freaking rip! That being said, the Upper Exum is totally doable. Like others have said, the Wall Street steparound is probably the hardest part (awkward and psychologically), and everything else is easy. The crux friction pitch is super short, and the granite is just so grippy. V-slot is just spectactular. Make sure you can get good beta on the Owen-Spalding decent though, as it can be a bit confusing coming down.

Mashanya · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 0

We are thinking about hanging in the park for few days before climbing and it's about 7000 average there (and it will be during solar eclipse). Also was thinking about sleeping those first few nights as high as we can get a campsite. It should help. I like idea of car-to-car, but it leaves us no back up plan in case something goes slower than we plan. 

crackatoa Spiesbach · · Boulder,Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 70
Mashanya wrote:

We are thinking about hanging in the park for few days before climbing and it's about 7000 average there (and it will be during solar eclipse). Also was thinking about sleeping those first few nights as high as we can get a campsite. It should help. I like idea of car-to-car, but it leaves us no back up plan in case something goes slower than we plan. 

If you don't have a campsite yet..  you may be way out of luck. that whole town is sold out from what I've seen because of the solar eclipse

Mashanya · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 0
crackatoa wrote:

If you don't have a campsite yet..  you may be way out of luck. that whole town is sold out from what I've seen because of the solar eclipse

I see that all sited at Lower saddle and close to it are not available, not sure how strongly they enforce it and if they have ways to reserve something by walk up. I know some sites do have 24h in advance reservations not available online. As for staying in the park, some sites are still available.

Mashanya · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 0

https://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/bcres.htm "The park will reserve up to one-third of each camping zone (see maps) in advance, and save two-thirds of each zone for those who wish to get a first-come, first-served permit in person one day before the start of a backcountry trip (walk-in permit). "

Joe Prescott · · Fort Collins · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 15

I certainly wouldn't plan on poaching bivy spots. Over the last 3 years, I've been up there several times and I almost always see and chat with a ranger or 2 and they keep a very good eye on things (I've always had great interactions). I suspect the guides help keep an eye on things too. I'm not sure of your chances of getting a first come permit, but I would guess you'd need to get in line very early? Last year there were a few folks sleeping in their cars in the Lupine lot that were hoping for a permit but didn't get one. Maybe hope for a permit but car-to-car would be a backup plan. PM me sometime for car-to-car beta for mortals if you want. I've done it twice with partners and 5-6 times solo (and The Picnic). Another reason for car-to-car that I had to take advantage of is that if you get shut down by weather the 1st day, you have another chance the next. With a 1 night permit, you really only have the 2nd day. I got to the caves one day (pretty early) and storm clouds moved in and had to bail. Was back to my car by lunch and had plenty of energy to give it a go the next day (successfully).

Joe

Travis James · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 115

I attempted to climb The Grand Teton last year and definitely underestimated the approach.  Granted it was early on July 4th, but routefinding wasnt as straightforward as I anticipated.  We turned around at the Enclosure because of conditions.  When I go back for another attempt I will go for a one day push because it seems easier logistically.

Mike Womack · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 1,545

  I only said to do a 1-day push because with proper training (steep hiking), it feels really nice to float past people carrying full 70L pack loads with your little daypack.  Just leave the trailhead at like 3am or even sooner and designate a turn around place an time - like for example making it to lower saddle by 10am?   Otherwise, 2-day pushes work just count on it being slower and definitely get a designated campsite if you're going to do it that way.  The environment up there is way too fragile to not do that.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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