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CMC Route 

YDS: 5.5 French: 4b Ewbanks: 13 UIAA: IV+ ZA: 11 British: MS 4a

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 5 pitches, 1000', Grade II
Original:  YDS: 5.5 French: 4b Ewbanks: 13 UIAA: IV+ ZA: 11 British: MS 4a [details]
FA: Paul Petzoldt and members of the Chicago Mountaineering Club, 1941
Page Views: 28,618
Submitted By: Meredith DB on May 12, 2006

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (70)
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Looking down through the Horns and the Falling Ice...


A classic climb in a beautiful location. Although the CMC Route is the most popular route on Mount Moran, it does not see a lot of traffic compared to other Teton trade routes. On a summer day there are usually 3 or fewer parties attempting the CMC Route.

While a fast party can climb the route in a day, it is more leisurely to use the CMC campground for the night before (and possibly the night after) the climb. A backcountry permit is required to use the CMC campground (available from the climbing rangers at Jenny Lake).

The usual approach is to canoe across String and Leigh Lakes to a point below the East and West Horns on the east side of Mount Moran. From the base of the lake an obvious but eroded trail leads up the hillside among beautiful wildflowers for about 1500 feet to the CMC campsite. The trail traverses left (south) just below the campsite; follow cairns and tape on some trees.

The CMC campsite is located among trees and near a spring. It has beautiful views and feels pleasantly secluded.

To climb the CMC route, first hike to the summit of Drizzlepuss, descend into the notch between Drizzlepuss and the east face of Moran, then climb the east face of Moran.

From the CMC campsite a trail goes to the top of Drizzlepuss with some scrambling. The trail can be difficult to follow in the dark, so it helps to scout where it goes before a pre-dawn start. Watch the cairns carefully to find the easiest fourth class route through the cliff bands. If you miss the easiest scramble, you may find yourself on fifth class ground and want to rope up. After this steep section, follow the scree slope, heading left around the West Horn, to the top of Drizzlepuss. This is a good location to leave extra water or packs for the descent.

From the top of Drizzlepuss, scramble down a short distance to the right (north) to find an rappel anchor. From this anchor you can rap or downclimb into the notch.

The interesting climbing starts from this notch. Initially the climb heads up a short corner, then traverses right (north) to avoid Unsoeld's needle. After the traverse pick a path up the broad east face of Moran, staying to the left of the prominent Black Dike. There are many possible lines up the face. The traditional CMC route stays near the center of the face. Several pitches of climbing lead to the top of the face.

From the broad summit ridge, it is an easy walk right (north) to the proper summit of Mount Moran.

The descent is somewhat involved. With careful routefinding it is only fourth-class downclimbing and does not require rappelling; if the correct route isn't found it may be more difficult. The descent stays near the south end of the east face of Moran (climber's left). From the notch between the face and Drizzlepuss, climb back up to the summit of Drizzlepuss. This is easier if you stay to the south (climber's right) of Drizzlepuss.

The remainder of the descent just reverses the hike back to the CMC campground and the lake.


The CMC route climbs the broad east face of Mount Moran, staying to the left (south) of the Black Dike. See above for more details on the approach.


Tetons rack: a set of nuts and a few cams.

Photos of CMC Route Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Sunrise over east and west horns near the top of D...
Sunrise over east and west horns near the top of D...
Rock Climbing Photo: Nearing the top of the CMC route on Mt. Moran on a...
Nearing the top of the CMC route on Mt. Moran on a...
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbing on the CMC Face with Falling Ice Glacier ...
BETA PHOTO: Climbing on the CMC Face with Falling Ice Glacier ...
Rock Climbing Photo: A view of us climbing the CMC route on Mt. Moran f...
A view of us climbing the CMC route on Mt. Moran f...
Rock Climbing Photo: Downclimbing Drizzlepuss to the rap station.  Barr...
BETA PHOTO: Downclimbing Drizzlepuss to the rap station. Barr...
Rock Climbing Photo: Alpine glow on the CMC Face as seen from the rap s...
BETA PHOTO: Alpine glow on the CMC Face as seen from the rap s...
Rock Climbing Photo: Traversing below Unsoeld's Needle.  During the asc...
BETA PHOTO: Traversing below Unsoeld's Needle. During the asc...
Rock Climbing Photo: Dihedral finish to the arete variation. I may have...
BETA PHOTO: Dihedral finish to the arete variation. I may have...
Rock Climbing Photo: Rapping the CMC face.
Rapping the CMC face.
Rock Climbing Photo: At CMC camp, looking south toward the Cathedral gr...
At CMC camp, looking south toward the Cathedral gr...
Rock Climbing Photo: Following one of the middle pitches. View north to...
Following one of the middle pitches. View north to...
Rock Climbing Photo: The preferred method of accessing Moran.
The preferred method of accessing Moran.
Rock Climbing Photo: My lead back up Drizzlepuss. Fun lead!
My lead back up Drizzlepuss. Fun lead!
Rock Climbing Photo: View down into the amphitheatre from the CMC route...
View down into the amphitheatre from the CMC route...
Rock Climbing Photo: Gorgeous views on high on the CMC route
Gorgeous views on high on the CMC route
Rock Climbing Photo: John starting up the face.
John starting up the face.
Rock Climbing Photo: Downclimbing the CMC
Downclimbing the CMC
Rock Climbing Photo: Summit of Moran after blitzing the CMC route in 4....
Summit of Moran after blitzing the CMC route in 4....
Rock Climbing Photo: Simul-climbing the CMC face.
Simul-climbing the CMC face.
Rock Climbing Photo: The CMC Route on Mt. Moran with the Black Dike in ...
The CMC Route on Mt. Moran with the Black Dike in ...

Comments on CMC Route Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Aug 24, 2016
By Andy Leach
From: Denver, CO
May 30, 2006

This was my first big alpine route - I had a blast! You can read a detailed trip report, view lots of photos, and watch a movie my buddy Alan shot on my web site:
By Tyson S Arp
Feb 6, 2007

Here's another trip report with a bunch of photos.
By Michael Schneiter
From: Glenwood Springs, CO
Dec 5, 2007

Here's another trip report. We also have a short video from the day. Last year my wife and I climbed the CMC with her 59-year old dad in a day from their home in Jackson. Needless to say, he was pretty proud!
By kevinhansen
From: Albion Idaho
Aug 1, 2009
rating: 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a PG13

Want Advice?
2) Leave camp no earlier than 4am.
3) As always watch out for thundershowers around noon.
4) Pack yer gear after you check in at Jenney Lake and get your required bear can and permits.
5) Early in the season means melt water near camp.
6) Sticky rubber trail shoes are perfect. Sport shoes are good for beginners. Take comfy shoes for the walk off and rapp's.
The other trip reports are worth while to read, but the "in the Alpine World" one was more story than trip report.
I'd say this climb was similar to Upper Exum with respect to the amount of climbing vs hiking. Both are 75% hiking and 25% rock climbing. That said I found the trad climbing some of the funnest, easiest, Alpine climbing I've ever done. Imagine moving fast over easy ground, plenty of places to place gear and set up a belay where ever you want.
I took my Dad and 2 brothers which ment 1 first time climber, 2 professional beginners, and me a seasoned intermediate. I'd lead, then bring 2 up to me on a reverso, then 1 would belay me up the next pitch while the other would belay the 4th up. The 4th would break down the anchor and clean while I was leading the next pitch. This method is faster then a 2 man team. This is also a great simo-climb on 1 rope, but two are needed for the rapp's.
By Brian B Ballard
From: Laramie, WY
Aug 2, 2010

This is a great climb. For a little more sustained climbing try the arete variation heading up just past the unesolds needle and then up a steep dihedral to finish. Made this work in 2 long simulclimb pitches and the dihedral at the end was beautiful with monster steep 4" ledges.
By Buzz Burrell
From: Boulder
Mar 5, 2011

Love this route; done it twice, both solo IAD.

Unless I've really been messing up - which is possible - the route description has a problem: "(the descent) is only fourth-class downclimbing and does not require rappelling;" Since the route is 5.5, and the descent is the same route, something isn't right here.

Hardest section is probably downclimbing Drizzlepuss while on the way up. There's opportunity for massive scrambling on quality rock here; I once traversed over to the East Horn, did that on the way to the summit, then came down via West Horn and the other two spires in a fun loop.
By Daaave
From: SLC, UT
Jul 13, 2011

Are double ropes necessary? It from reading descriptions it seems like the raps would be down low angled terrain where long raps may be harder than downclimbing?

I currently don't own doubles and don't like the idea of carrying two 10.2 ropes...
By Michael Schneiter
From: Glenwood Springs, CO
Jul 13, 2011

You need two ropes for the rap off the Drizzlepuss. It's steep and slightly overhanging most of the way. There may be a way to work it out with one rope and by rapping in a different direction or finding a midway anchor (I can't remember if there was one). If you don't want to carry two 10.2s, you can carry a tag line to pull your rope, usually made with cord as small as 6 mm and then you would add a pretty minimal amount of weight and low cost. Plus, it will help with rapping down the face after topping out. If you don't know how to rap with a tag line you should be able to look it up.
By doligo
Jul 13, 2011

I only brought 1 rope and it was sufficient for raps - tie knots at the ends of course (we had to downclimb to the next anchors couple of times). As of August 2010, there was a mid-rap on Drizzlepuss, it was a bit hidden facing towards Falling Ice Glacier. I also recommend the arete variation - makes it for a nicer sustained and exposed climb. The only drawback to doing it, is that if you haven't done the regular route, finding the descent route could be a bit tricky.
By Jonathan Petsch
From: Chattanooga, TN
Aug 2, 2011

Where could I look to rent a canoe, and about how much should I expect to spend if I rented it for 3 days? I'm driving from Tennessee and I'm wondering if it'd be cheaper to tote my canoe all the way out there.
By doligo
Aug 2, 2011

You can rent a canoe at Dornan's - around $45 for 3 days I think...
By jcast
From: Durango
Aug 10, 2012

This climb is freakin' awesome!!!
By SvenTeton
Sep 19, 2012

The CMC route is an extremely enjoyable mountaineering classic! Here are just a few bits I could add

1. I climbed this in September (9/17/12) and the spring was bone dry. Jenny lake rangers know best, so ask them if the spring still has water in it. This makes a big difference in the weight of your pack! Another note on water: For those who want to summit late in the season, the first half of the hike up to the campsite you have constant access to water from a stream. If I did it again (this late in the season), I would hike up with 3-4 empty nalgenes (each person) till the trail permanently leaves the stream. At that point, fill all your nalgenes with the stream water (treated).

2. Although I found no information in the guidebook or online about this, there is another good approach trail that gets you into the gully to get to the top of drizzlepus. It actually starts directly above the UPPER cmc campsite. We first went up the way that was recommended on We went down using the trail that went down to the upper cmc campsites. The general consensus was that the latter was a better trail. It also was marked with about 100 cairns (no joke). That said, I would still reiterate the importance of doing a 30 minute reconnaissance once you get up to the camp the first day. I was VERY grateful I had done this, as it would have been very hard routefinding at 4am on summit day.

3. Assuming you divide your trip into 3 days, expect summit day (day 2) to take about 12-18 hours! Albeit we had 3 in our party, so the climbing and descending took longer for us than a party of 2, we left camp at 5am and arrived back at our camp at about 7pm. All three of us were in relatively good physical condition.

4. If you buy 60 meters of 5mm cordellette you can use that as a tagline to pull down your rope after 60 meter rappels. This would save you quite a bit on weight for this long mountaineering journey.

5. An early start is very important. You do NOT want to get caught trying to ascend drizzlepus in the dark! Carefully ascending it with plenty of light you can skillfully route-find and make it an easy 5th class. Otherwise, it can be a difficult ascent. A party that ascended it the day before ran into this problem.

6. Overall, the routefinding is relatively easy from start to finish. I would say the trickiest part is from camp to the gully that takes you up to drizzlepus. Study up on this part and you are golden!

Just a few helpful tips
By Spencer Weiler
From: Salt Lake city
Aug 19, 2013

I understand most parties require/enjoy a 2-3 day trek to safely conquer this peak, but for those interested in doing this light and fast, here's my beta:
-doing this in one day is a cinch if you are in good physical condition. definition of "good": doing Teewinot RT in under 5 hours. start paddling at dawn. earlier if afternoon thunderstorms are likely
-if you are solid on 5th class terrain and feel comfortable soloing routes like upper exum, north ridge of the middle, or flatiron type climbing, this is very very similar in difficulty/exposure. Leave the ropes, cams, tents, etc at home. If you want climbing shoes fine, but we soloed in our treadless tennis shoes no problem. Some water and a sandwich in a small pack is all we brought.
-some people seem concerned about downclimbing Drizzlepuss. Don't be. It looks intimidating at first, but it is probably 200 hundred feet of downclimbing, with only 2 short vertical sections of easy Teton knob jugs with fat ledges below you. Easy 5.5 and simple routefinding. No raps needed.
-the actual face can be climbed hundreds of ways. The easiest is straight up from the Needle on the south face where most descend, as it is largely 4th class. Head over towards the dike and the climbing is more sustained(ie fun).
-downclimbing the face isn't any worse than going up. Lots of fat ledges, and never very hard. Avoid getting your ropes stuck on the knobs by not bringing any! Then climbing back up DP is easy as you've already done it.
-you will appreciate the simple nature of your climb if you leave the gear at home and enjoy moving quickly on some fantastic granite!

our splits for reference: add 3 hours for RT canoe time
Leigh lake canoe stash: 0:00
CMC camp: 1:03
DP summit: 2:34
Summit: 3:39
back at canoe: 6:35
By Courtney Pace
From: Sandy
Aug 17, 2014

I got confused by the beta provided on this page for start of the approach. When canoeing in, aim for the giant rockslide. Climb up said rockslide. About a mile up the trail heads straight left towards the CMC camp, so if the trail disappears you missed the turn. From here there are cairns all the way to drizzlepuss. If you're comfortable on 5.5 I would leave the ropes at home. So much faster and easier without all the gear. Classic route! Enjoy
By Scott Stevenson
From: SLC, Utah
Aug 26, 2015

My friend Kirk and I just did this route last weekend. It is great!! We had perfect weather. Trip Report is here:

However, I am a little bit confused how this route is considered 5 pitches?

My friend and I simul climbed almost all of it and it was 4 simul pitches (300ft - 500ft each ). Granted, we could have done it in 3 if we managed gear spacing better...

A team that was climbing the same day pitched out each pitch and it took them 8 full 60 meter pitches...

Even if the face is "1000ft", which I felt like it was more, you must traverse right for about 400 feet throughout the climb. That's 2 extra rope lengths.

I felt that the climbing on this route is similar to the upper exum, but it felt longer and more sustained. The upper exum has portions where you are walking between pitches. The CMC stays steep almost all the way up.

Anyways.. Just some food for thought when you get there. This face was great, but bigger than I expected.

If you are a roped team, prepare for a long day. It took us about 4 hours from the notch to the summit and I feel like we were cruising relatively fast.

Based on other comments I had read and my own judgement, I thought it would take us 2-3 hours on the face. It's super fun climbing, I just felt like I needed to add a bit of perspective for the moderate climbers out there.
By JackCrockett
Sep 21, 2015

We did this route a week or two ago. The descent turned into a real pain in the ass and we had both the guidebook and MP beta with us. I wish there was a topo available in either of these showing the descent. As you climb there're multiple slinged horns spaced in a seemingly random way and cairns everywhere. The climbing ranger suggested not descending directly the way we came up as a few have mentioned.

Our descent consisted of following some random cairns, generally traversing climbers left, finding some webbing to rap down to a ledge, finding no more webbing on that ledge, doing some sketchy downclimbing, and in at least one case slinging a horn. Just doing that over and over getting more gripped and dehydrated.

In all it took way longer than the climb.

But the ascent itself was quite enjoyable. One of our 4 bailed so we were unwilling to simo with three and ended up pitching a lot of it out. It was the fastest, least frustrating party of 3 I've been in. I think we did something like 7 or 8 pitches in like 5 hours.
By CTdave
From: Victor, Id.
Jul 23, 2016

2 ropes made the descent a breeze, worth the weight in my opinion. Like others have said stay to the south of the cmc face and you can easily link rap stations w two ropes. We only downclimbed some easy stuff near the top to the first rap station. Again worth the weight. One traverse at the bottom of the face led to a single rope rap into the DP notch. Dunzo
By scottso
From: St. George, Utah
Aug 3, 2016

Some beta if you are not canoeing. Which idk why you wouldn't...

I hiked around the North end of the lake to the intersection of the cabin (1 hr). Head into the forest looking for elk trails and gain some elevation as you won't have to when in the avalanche rock slide path once you hit the route and this will save time. There are many grassy slopes about 1000 feet above the lake that are easy walking. Pay attention to where you come out to the rock slide as you will enter back here when going down.

When going down, I went all the way to the canoe stash and headed south. This is not the way to go. It is shorter in distance, but very frustrating as you either have to walk in water up you your waist or severe bushwacking. Maybe if the lake is 8 feet low this is the way to go.

Summit in 5:34 RT 11:40
By Andrew Mayer
From: Driggs, ID
Aug 24, 2016
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c

This route is a great in-a-day solo for those with the requisite fitness and soloing comfort. Spencer's soloing in-a-day beta described above is GREAT.

Also, to elaborate on the bushwhack beta from Scottso - I ran the initial 4 flat trail miles to just before the W shore of bearpaw lake. approx 100ft past the small footbridge, turn W off the trail and follow intermittent game trails (some bushwhacking necessary but never too bad) up to approx. 7700ft. then begin sidehilling climber's L onto and across the S face to the rock slide gully. It took me 1:50 from the TH to reach the trail in the gully at approx. 7800ft (so arguably faster than the canoe approach if you are willing to run the 4miles of trail). Summit in 5:15, past CMC camp at 6:45, back to TH in 9:00.

Traversing the S face slightly lower on a bit of a flat bench (perhaps 7500ft) looked better. Maximize your usage of game trails to limit the amount of actual bushwhacking you have to do. Due to the amount of sidehilling without a trail, this approach would be less enjoyable with a heavy pack (camping or climbing gear). All in all, don't let your lack of watercraft keep you from getting on this great cruiser route!

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