Type: Trad, Snow, Alpine, 2500 ft, Grade III
FA: Paul Petzoldt, William Ringler July 5, 1939
Page Views: 2,359 total · 32/month
Shared By: Andrew Carson on Nov 14, 2012
Admins: Mike Snyder, Jake Dickerson, Taylor Spiegelberg

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Description

This long and remote route is an excellent mountaineering outing, on generally good rock and with the likelihood of some snow travel as well. It was Petzoldt's most memorable climb on the peak, done in an early season ascent when snow climbing would have been an unavoidable feature of the day. Parties should evaluate conditions and be prepared for snow in the big couloirs and on the ledges, depending on the timing of their ascent.
The setting is unique and spectacular, and once atop the crest near Phil Smith Peak excellent views include Traverse and Bivouac Peaks to the north across Moran Canyon, the Triple Glaciers to the west, and the scabrous, repellent north face of the Moran itself.

Location

The route is inboard of the north (right-hand) skyline of the peak as seen from the Oxbows, the Jackson Lake Dam, and other common vistas of Moran in the north end of the Park. It climbs up and through the complex face left of the crest of the ridge, making some big traverses leftward on huge ledges, and surmounting numerous short headwalls and crossing small riblets on the way to the notch between Peak 11,795 (aka, unofficially, Phil Smith Peak). From the notch the route stays closely along the crest to the North Summit. The short cliffs guarding the north summit plateau are trickier than one would like, late in the day.
Expect a rough approach day. Among various options, one can put in at Spalding Bay and boat around the corner and into Moran Bay at the bottom of the drainage coming down from the north side of the Northeast Ridge. Expect savage bushwhacking, the most severe in the Park, up and into the remote cirque under the NE Ridge, and place a camp as high as possible, giving thought to water and to one's plans for descent. Continue up towards the extensive walls that form the wide base of the ridge, passing to the right of a distinct, separated buttress of darker rock below the walls. Traverse left across the top of this buttress, following increasingly narrow and exposed ledges leftward until prudence dictates use of the rope. Two or three pitches up and left, then up and back right, will get a party established on the route and onto terrain where the view upwards opens up a bit. After that, routefinding and scrambling ability will determine the flow of the day.
Descent to camp can be made via the Northeast Ridge, a long tiring piece of work but it does make a clean round trip.

Protection

A small rack of nuts and cams, and plenty of runners, will provide sufficient protection. Cams to a #3 Camalot would be adequate. No fixed gear is likely to be found, not to say that there isn't any... it's a big route with many route variation choices.
The number of pitches will vary from party to party and with the conditions encountered, but if climbers were to belay much of the route up to the notch, then the ascent would take forever. The more scrambling and third classing a party can do, the better off you'll be in avoiding a bivy. Thoughtful routefinding is important for a satisfying ascent. An excellent photo of the route with a 'line of ascent' can be found in the Ortenburger/Jackson guide book and would be worth seeking out.
jon jugenheimer
Madison, WI
  5.5 Easy Snow
jon jugenheimer   Madison, WI  
  5.5 Easy Snow
Anyone ever walk around Leigh Lake to get to the base of this route? Possible or full of bears and brush so thick that you will never see them? Jun 26, 2018
Andrew Carson
Wilson, WY
  5.6 Mod. Snow
Andrew Carson   Wilson, WY
  5.6 Mod. Snow
The old trail around Leigh continues through the forest to the 'base' of the approach, but it's mostly lost in the brush and trees. It's very wet going up into the basin below the NE Ridge and I don't think walking would pay off in any way other than exertion and some memorable bushwhacking. Bears... you'd be making so much noise they might complain about that, but would sure know you're on your way. Jul 3, 2018
jon jugenheimer
Madison, WI
  5.5 Easy Snow
jon jugenheimer   Madison, WI  
  5.5 Easy Snow
Thanks Andrew. I ended up hitching a ride from some fisherman in the am, then came down the CMC route the next day after a lovely night on top and out to the String Lake beach area. From Moran Bay, i did find an old trail that I used for a bit before I headed uphill and thrashed through the woods, and thus saw no bears, only lots of skat. Jul 8, 2018
Andrew Carson
Wilson, WY
  5.6 Mod. Snow
Andrew Carson   Wilson, WY
  5.6 Mod. Snow
OK then, well done, Jon. It's a total jungle over there at times. The fishing/hitchhiking approach was inspirational -- no need to come back the way you came. Some snow for water on top? Jul 9, 2018