REI Community
Grand Teton
Routes Sorted
L to R R to L Alpha
Bean's Shining Wall of Storms  T 
Beyer East Face I T 
Black Ice Couloir T 
Collins-Coombs T 
Collins-Hume T 
Crystal Right T 
Direct Petzoldt Ridge T 
East Face Direct T 
East Ridge T 
Emerson Chimney T 
Ford - Stettner Couloir (Ski Descent) 
Gold Face T 
Golden Pillar, Direct North Face T 
Grand Traverse, The T 
Jackson-Rickert Crack T 
Lower Exum Ridge T 
North Face Highlight Tour T 
North Face Standard T 
North Ridge T 
North Side Lowlight Tour (path of least resistance) T 
Owen Spalding T 
Perception Traverse T 
Pownall-Gilkey T 
Psudo Emerson Chimney T 
Underhill Ridge Original/Direct T 
Upper Exum Ridge T 
West Face of the Exum Ridge T 
Wittich Crack T 
Unsorted Routes:

Black Ice Couloir 

YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b AI3-4

Type:  Trad, Ice, Alpine, 8 pitches, 1600', Grade IV
Original:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b AI3-4 [details]
FA: Herb Swedlund, Ray Jacquot July 29, 1961
Season: winter/early spring, late summer/autumn
Page Views: 20,176
Submitted By: Andrew Carson on Jan 8, 2010

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (14)
Your todo list:
Your stars:
Your rating: -none- [change]
Your ticklist: [add new tick]
Your opinion of this PAGE:    [3 people like this page.]
The ice crux on the BIC, about 60 meters below the...


The Black Ice Couloir is the Teton's most renowned alpine ice route, a compelling mountaineering challenge that in recent years has melted out and reformed, depending upon weather and seasonal precipitation, more than once. It's first ascent represented a significant step up in American climbing, and in the ensuing years it has attained classic status. Though Swedlund and Jaquot chopped steps through some of the upper part of the route, nevertheless, this was a bold effort and opened the door for further development on the wild side of this iconic peak. There are rock pitches in addition to approximately 1,200' of alpine ice, with a short crux of 70 degrees. (At this time MP provides only the option of rating ice on a "Water Ice" scale, i.e. "WI3". Water ice can and does occur on the BI, but it would be more accurately rated on an "Alpine Ice" scale.) Rock pro to the side of the ice is available, along with ice gear if one chooses to carry the latter. Many parties find comfortable pro with rock gear. The very real rockfall danger is most serious in the lower portions of the route.
Considerable thought should be given to conditions on the upper mountain as well as temperatures at various elevations. Generally, the best conditions occur in the latter part of the summer, after the snow has consolidated or sloughed off and freezing temperatures are observed above 11,000 feet. Both natural and manmade rockfall is possible, with parties on the Owen Spalding directly above the route. Winter, spring, and late autumn can alternatively offer favorable conditions. In essence, any time, with the possible exception of early to mid-summer, could offer reasonable conditions, and good alpine judgement will determine the correct course of action.
Even in recent years, when reports have indicated that the route no longer existed, it has received spring and winter ascents, underscoring the elusive nature of "good conditions" and the vagaries of alpine ice in the 21st century. Ask for an update from the Jenny Lake Rangers as well as local climbers, examine recent weather patterns, and then make your own call. It's not a bad idea to have an alternative route in mind so that, once around the corner of the Northwest Ridge, you can complete a successful climb if prudence dictates bailing on the Black Ice idea. The Northwest Couloir is an excellent alternative, among several.


Perhaps the crux routefinding issue will be successfully completing the Valhalla Traverse in the dark, almost mandatory as you'll want to be well established on the climb as early as possible. A conspicuous cairn on the skyline of the Southwest Ridge, visible from the Lower Saddle, marks the Traverse and its continuance across the West Face of the Enclosure on obvious easy ledges There is nothing technical until turning the corner onto the north side of the NW Ridge. At that point, it's all serious terrain with considerable exposure.
Getting to the aforementioned cairn is tricky, as one must cross several gullies and small ribs moving from the L.S. to the SW Ridge. A scouting mission the evening before might be in order. More detailed information on the Traverse can be found in the indispensable A Climber's Guide to the Teton Range, Ortenburger and Jackson.
Once around the NW corner, follow rotten ledges until the peak is fully visible, then aim for the base of the main icefield below the upper West Face. Ledges and short headwalls, the last one involving some awkward 5.6-7 on uncertain rock brings climbers to the start of the ice. From here, the number of pitches will vary greatly, depending upon rope length, party stamina, belay choices, and other specifics of each party. In general, expect about 8 pitches, hugging the wall of the Enclosure on the right. The route steepens with each rope length, with the short crux coming as one enters the final, most narrow portion of the route.
Finally, attain the Upper Saddle and the end of the Black Ice. To continue to the summit use any of several routes that start from the Upper Saddle. Or, descend via the OS.
Consult the accompanying photo for additional perspective. Expect an adventurous day. The further one goes, the less pleasant becomes the prospect of retreat.


A standard rack to 3" cams will do. There are occasional fixed pins along right wall and belay stances are at the discretion of the leader. The rock will not win many fans.

Photos of Black Ice Couloir Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: A view from the north, showing the approximate lin...
A view from the north, showing the approximate lin...
Rock Climbing Photo: Chuck Crago exiting the crux of the Black Ice, Sep...
Chuck Crago exiting the crux of the Black Ice, Sep...
Rock Climbing Photo: On the BIC
On the BIC
Rock Climbing Photo: On the Valhalla Traverse
On the Valhalla Traverse
Rock Climbing Photo: Gina B. nearing top of the BIC. 1994.
Gina B. nearing top of the BIC. 1994.
Rock Climbing Photo: Heading up the Black Ice in July 2011..fantastic s...
Heading up the Black Ice in July 2011..fantastic s...
Rock Climbing Photo: Following the final approach
Following the final approach
Rock Climbing Photo: BIC end of Sep 2011
BETA PHOTO: BIC end of Sep 2011
Rock Climbing Photo: Where does that route go?
Where does that route go?
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down into Valhalla Canyon somewhere on the...
Looking down into Valhalla Canyon somewhere on the...
Rock Climbing Photo: Gina B. starting up the Black Ice Couloir 1994.
Gina B. starting up the Black Ice Couloir 1994.

Comments on Black Ice Couloir Add Comment
Show which comments
By Quino Gonzalez
Aug 15, 2011

I climbed the route on Sunday (August 14, 2011) with Chaz Langelier. All the reports we had before we climbed the route were either wrong or not accurate, simply because it doesn't get climbed very much. I heard it was "smaller" than 2 weeks ago, but how can people know that if the same person hasn't done it since then? The route is as it is, a full alpine ascend with unforgiving and extremely brittle "water ice" and a moderate angle, some rock protection on the side (hard to find good rock protection). We climbed the route with 3 ice screws and a few cams. We soloed, simu-climbed and pitched it when the ice fall was too dangerous to the second. It is in good condition. The variability factors are heat (more rock fall), people on O-S sending rocks down the gully and weather. But I think the ice will be the same as it is now for the rest of the season. To do the approach on the Valhala, just follow the cairns (if you can see them when it is dark). Just before the bottom of the gully, go up on the 5.6 slab, don't go down the chimney.
By iceiceice
Jun 18, 2012

Does any one know what the conditions are or will be around July 23, 2012?
By Nahom
Jun 23, 2012

Best way to find out route conditions is to call the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. they have the most up to date condition reports.
By iceiceice
Jun 26, 2012

Thank you!
By ozman
From: CO / NM
Jul 31, 2012

condition photos
By jon jugenheimer
From: Madison
Jul 14, 2014
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b AI3

Climbed the route on 7/5/2014. Wrote up a little post for current conditions pics

Mountain Project

The Definitive Climbing Resource

MTB Project

Next Generation MTB Trail Maps

Powder Project

Backcountry Ski Maps & Secret Stashes
FREE Stickers · Gyms · RSS · School of Rock · Contact · About