North Face Standard
Avg: 2.7 from 11 votes
|Type:||Trad, Alpine, 3000 ft, 12 pitches, Grade IV|
|FA:||P. Petzoldt, J. Durrance, E. Petzoldt, 1936|
|Page Views:||12,232 total · 93/month|
|Shared By:||George Bell on Mar 22, 2007|
IntroductionAguably this is not "the best" route on the North Face of the Grand, as the "North Face Highlight Tour" steals the best pitches from various routes and avoids all the grungy ones. However there are several things to recommend the Standard North Face route. The first is that the approach is simpler. This route does not involve climbing the Grandstand and all the complications this entails (Valhalla traverse or Valhalla Canyon or direct assault from the east). Strong parties can do this route in one day from the Lupine Meadows Parking Lot. Those opting for a more "leisurely" ascent can bivy in the Moraine at the toe of the East Ridge. If you do this, you can employ the "Black Dike Traverse" to get back to your bivy site to avoid carrying everything over the top.
The second nice thing about this route is that the technical climbing is much longer than any route beginning from the Grandstand (although some may see this as a disadvantage!). You really get the feeling that you are on a big wall, whereas the North Ridge for example can be escaped after only 4 or so pitches. For years I avoided this route due to the unpleasant sounding "Guano Chimney", but when I did the climb there was nothing disgusting about this pitch. Apparently the birds (or bats?) have moved on.
Early ascents didn't do the pendulum pitch simply because this is not the easiest way to go. Modern climbers can keep the difficulty at 5.6 by escaping via the second ledge, and this is a good escape for any party in the event of bad weather. However, this route is much more serious than, for example, the Exum because there is often ice or snow present, and rockfall is common. You must be able to climb this route relatively quickly due to its length.
DescriptionBegin by climbing up the right side of the Teton Glacier and then move back left to the base of the Grandstand. This is a real glacier and contains some giant crevasses. Ortenburger warns against climbing the right of two chimneys which begin the face left of the base of the Grandstand. However I believe we may have started too far left because of this warning. Crossing the bergschrund may be a problem, but was not during our ascent.
Ortenburger calls the start a chimney but we climbed a steep face with lots of ledges and rubble. Then climb up and right a few ropelengths to the base of the Guano Chimney, which leads directly to the lower left part of the First Ledge. The First Ledge is several hundred feet wide, but slopes at about 20-40 degrees and usually contains some snow. We found no guano in the namesake chimney.
Follow the First Ledge up and right until it ends. This is several pitches but mostly easy scrambling, and the main difficulty is snow, melting snow, or verglas. If completely dry this traverse is 3rd-4th class. We experienced melt water flowing over slabs and definitely stayed roped up for the lower section. From the far right end of the First Ledge, climb up steeply to reach the Second Ledge. This pitch and the Guano Chimney are rated 5.6 and form the cruxes of the lower part of the route.
Follow the Second Ledge right until it is easy to climb upward to the Third Ledge. If looking for an easy escape, the easiest is to keep traversing the Second Ledge all the way to the Owen Spalding. However by far the most classic line is to reach the Third Ledge and traverse up and right to the base of Pendulum Pitch. The top section is the same as for the North Face Highlight Tour, see that description. The pendulum pitch looks intimidating from below, this may be helpful in recognizing the correct place to start upward off the 3rd ledge.