Type: Trad, Alpine, Grade III
FA: Jim Beyer, solo - August, 1999
Page Views: 3,895 total · 54/month
Shared By: Vic Zeilman on Jul 8, 2018
Admins: Mike Snyder, Taylor Spiegelberg, Jake Dickerson

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Description Suggest change

In the 2000 American Alpine Journal, Jim Beyer wrote, "In August, I soloed the Crystal Tower (III 5.10) on the Grand Teton. This overhanging tower of golden rock with a white serrated summit is located at the base of the Underhill Ridge. This six-pitch route is similar in quality and difficulty to Caveat Emptor and is located in the heart of the Tetons." Indeed this route is classic and easily on par with Caveat; superb rock, varied climbing, outstanding position on the Park’s most iconic formation, and a few spicy sections that will keep you honest. It should be high on the list of the best 5.10s in the Tetons.

From the Lower Saddle, traverse along the base of the Lower Exum, Petzoldt Ridge and Underhill Ridge, arriving at Glencoe Col. Leave the bulk of your gear, pack, ice axe, and whatever else you wont need for the actual climb, and scramble up 4th class terrain to a giant ledge below the tower.

P1 - This 50' pitch climbs an obvious hand crack to another ledge on the crest of the arete and puts you in good position for the longer second pitch. The hardest moves (5.9) are off the ground then it backs off to easier terrain.

P2 - Locate a piece of weathered, sun baked tat hanging from a piece of fixed gear on the exposed face above. Climb excellent rock up to the fixed head, which you are now wishing was a solid bolt and not a bubble gum-sized piece of aluminum mashed into a shallow crack. Anyway, at this point, per the Gam's guidebook, look for a "delicate traverse (5.9) down and left into the dihedral on the left (south) side of the arete." I found this traverse difficult to pinpoint and ended up climbing above the fixed head, further suckered in by two more fixed heads from the original ascent. I found myself on fairly gripping terrain that was poorly protected at best. Not recommended.

Once the tricky traverse has been completed into the dihedral on the south side of the arete, continue up 5.9 terrain as the crack system meanders back across the right side of the arete. From here, continue up fun 5.8 climbing with wild exposure. End on an obvious ledge with a perma-anchor (two nuts and a fixed rigid-stem cam).

P3 - Locate the massive, left-leaning overhang/roof, up and left on the steep wall above. This is what you're aiming for. This burly crux pitch begins by following a foot traverse left off the belay.  Stay along the arete for 15-20' as the wall drops away below you, then move straight up the face. Pull through some airy 5.10- layback moves in flakes and face holds to enter a more defined crack system leading up toward the ominous roof. Once you've arrived at the roof, jam and undercling the large feature, moving up and left to the final bulge (5.10). Pull through this lip, clip a fixed pin, and continue up and left. Eventually, unprotected 5.6ish terrain leads through huge quartzite crystals to a comfortable belay stance below a large, left-leaning wide crack.

P4 - Climb 5.6ish face just to the left of the wide crack and exit onto a large ledge system above. Move back right, scrambling up easy terrain toward the northeast side of the tower. Complete an easy but exposed traverse (#4 cam) around the rightmost edge of the tower, ending at another large ledge.

P5 - Continue up fairly nondescript 5.7/5.8 terrain on excellent rock. Cracks, knobs and chicken heads eventually deposit you on the summit of the Crystal Tower where you can use the rap station bolts as the final anchor.

The descent off Crystal Tower is as full value as the climb itself. Start by completing a single rope rappel from the summit then swing right (if you're looking back up the wall) into a little notch that puts you on a ledge. If you are using a 60m rope be extremely cautious of your ends!  From here, complete an exposed move around a boulder (there is a sling to clip into while navigating to the other side) and continue along the ledge to the beginning of a lengthy, exposed 4th class downclimb.  Downclimb for several hundred feet (or utilize another rap station that you pass in the process) eventually arriving at a large terrace system near the base of the tower. Locate a final rappel station (two fixed pins) and rap back to the ledge where you started your climb. Reverse course back to your bags at the Glencoe Col.

Location Suggest change

The best approach is from the Lower Saddle between the Middle and Grand Tetons. Crystal Tower is the southeast corner of the Underhill Ridge, which is visible from the Lower Saddle. Follow a faint trail in the loose scree along the base of the Lower Exum, Petzoldt and Underhill to Glencoe Col. This could mean crossing some steep, firm snow fields depending on the time of year and time of day. Be aware of rock fall flushing out of the Stettnor Couloir as you get close to the base of the route.

Protection Suggest change

Double rack from fingers to #3, some small tcus, (1)#4, and plenty of long runners. Ice axe and possibly crampons may be warranted depending on the time of year