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Irene's Arete 

YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 7 pitches, Grade III
Original:  YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c [details]
FA: John Dietschy & Irene Ortenburger - July 10, 1957
Page Views: 30,974
Submitted By: Buff Johnson on Mar 11, 2006

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Jim on the upper, easy (but exposed) part of the c...


This route is, by itself, worth going to Jackson. Not a bad pitch or belay station on this climb.

Pitch 1 (5.7) is marked by a tree located well to the climber's right of the arete proper. Straightforward to the belay at a good stance with a block. If traversing in from the Caves area, you won't start at the tree (nor will you be able to see the tree), you will probably rope up and traverse in about 40' above the tree then my suggestion is to make an intermediate belay as there is a flake that catches the rope which could give you fits as you try to belay your second to the start of P2.

Pitch 2 (5.8) is the most serious & sustained of the climb. You follow the natural line which is somewhat flaring & somewhat OW. There is a pin at the crux, but it will not protect you until after you move through it. Focus & be solid at 5.8, this pitch is a fight. Belay at a huge ledge, take a breather, & rehydrate. It is possible to escape this route going to the right at this point (If you wanted to get a couple of pitches in while camping @ the Meadows before heading to the Grand - this is a good venue). There are 2 raps, we used 60M, I don't know if a 50M will allow for you to escape without burning gear.

Pitch 3 (original - 5.7) Cross over the arete back & forth on a roofy pitch with a black rock band; really cool face climbing with roof pulls. Reminds you of Eldo. As I was moving across the arete, what was a calm morning became a gusty alpine day. Scared the shit out of me, as my position was on the edge. Finish at an obvious good belay ledge.

(variant 5.9, is climber's right and follows up a natural line going back left into the black rock band. I think R. Rossiter has a picture of the 5.7 in his guide book. I wish I took a pic of the 5.9 variant, totally committing section right off of the ledge.)

Pitch 4 (original 5.8) traverses left, protection available before a leader moves around the arete, but for a second, a fall will be a wild ride (it is a clean traversing fall) out & off of the arete. Then climb up through black rock on good holds. This next section is really wild, face climbing traverse back right on quartz (this is where that 2" white crystal is); just trust the feet, it's all a sequential section. At this point it hits you, this route is a classic. There is a fixed piece that you probably should back up with a cam to preserve its placement due to vectoring of a second fall traversing on this section and the pin is looking not too good. Belay is at a sloping ledge with a fixed pin and gear seam.

(Variant 5.8: natural line climber's right of the arete, this looked good and really sustained. I may have to give this section a go.)

Pitch 5 (original 5.7): climb climber's left of the sloping ledge up cracks & face moves up to a horizontal knife edge.

HOWEVER, right in front of you is an excellent 5.9 slightly overhanging fingers-to-hand crack through a short quartz section. With jugs available to help you escape out of this section (an off-balance move, just do it - also, take a look down over your left shoulder, oh man!). Once at the horizontal knife-edge, do a short leapfrog over to a tree.

Pitch 6 (original 5.7): go down & right about 150' (though this looked like a shorter distance to me) and up a short weakness (R. Rossiter has this at 5.5).

BUT, natural 5.8 line right in front of the tree was my choice. A quick trip to Vedauwoo will prepare you for this pump fest; great hands in a meat grinder with poor feet. This variant looks unappealing but really has some good sustained fist crack moves. Exit & move to find easy slab belay.

(Variant 5.9+/.10a: I didn't climb this variation. From comments received & reading R. Rossiter's description, it may very well be a good variant. This variant is located climber's left of the 5.8 handcrack, taking on the arete crest more directly.)

Pitch 7 (5 nothing): solo, simul, or belay, similar to East Face Flatirons climbing, but on igneous rock (good quality rock also), for a couple hundred feet up & left (then moving climber's right - just follow the easy line). We also saw some minute garnet crystals along the way.

The walk-off will appear and be obvious to the right.

Find a bush, take a leak, & a drink; take it all in you just climbed a classic!!

If I left out/misinterpreted anything on the variants, please comment, I'll go climb it again; it's a fine route. I also went to the AAC Library to research printed history, but not much else was offered other than to say something to the effect that 7 pitches of difficult climbing were accomplished on the FA.

An interesting bit of history printed in the Alpinist 16 from Irene's perspective about this route. If it's a classic, who am I to argue??


This route is a beacon from the Climbers Ranch (If you can take your eyes off of the Grand; it's at a lower elevation along Disappointment Peak). It's almost impossible to miss this razor-edge arete. It's located well to the right (East) of the Caves camping area & is so imposing from the Meadows Campground, that you just know, you gotta head to the base of this. To get to these campgrounds, start at the Lupine Meadows TH, and take the fork going into Garnet Canyon.

You can head from the Meadows to Caves CG on the main trail to a right fork, as this is established you can just follow this trail. OR - for a car-to-car outing there is a 4th-class weakness well before the Meadows that approaches this climb from the East. This approach sucks, but does save a bunch of time. There is no trail or landmark for this.

To get down, if you are camping in the Caves or Meadows, scramble down the SW Couloir, Rossiter took a variant to the right (climber's left) that raps a chockstone. There is also another way that has a downclimb, which is not trivial, that empties just below the chockstone area.

OR - go car to car and just hike down the SE Ridge of Disappointment, there is a trail, but not so obvious is another downclimb, but if you can't find it, just use an established short rap station. Then hike out by Amphitheater Lake & trail. This hike out (Amphitheater) is much better than dealing with a bunch of loose scree.


Pro to 3" with a few fixed pins. Tape gloves not really needed but can be helpful for the final 5.8 fist crack variant. A single rope is all that is necessary (we used 60M - but others may know if 50M is ok, hell, the route was probably established with a 50M. How the they got through that second pitch in '57 without aid is beyond me - solid climbing in America.) No bail stations were seen along the way.

Photos of Irene's Arete Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: A rainy view of the Arete from Petzoldt Caves
A rainy view of the Arete from Petzoldt Caves
Rock Climbing Photo: Route Overlay for Irene's Arete.
BETA PHOTO: Route Overlay for Irene's Arete.
Rock Climbing Photo: Some dude soloing Irene's Arete! This is the 5.9 s...
Some dude soloing Irene's Arete! This is the 5.9 s...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 3 variant. You'll find moderate quartzy-type...
Pitch 3 variant. You'll find moderate quartzy-type...
Rock Climbing Photo: Irene's Arete in profile from the Caves-Lower ...
BETA PHOTO: Irene's Arete in profile from the Caves-Lower ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Descending the SE Ridge / Lake Ledges route down t...
BETA PHOTO: Descending the SE Ridge / Lake Ledges route down t...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking at the 5.9+ option for Pitch 6. This opton...
BETA PHOTO: Looking at the 5.9+ option for Pitch 6. This opton...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 3. We took the original route which starts j...
BETA PHOTO: Pitch 3. We took the original route which starts j...
Rock Climbing Photo: The tree at the base of the route. If coming from ...
BETA PHOTO: The tree at the base of the route. If coming from ...
Rock Climbing Photo: AB getting some. On p3, I reckon. This route kicks...
AB getting some. On p3, I reckon. This route kicks...
Rock Climbing Photo: Irene's Arete in evening light
Irene's Arete in evening light
Rock Climbing Photo: Profile of Irene's - nice view of the good ledges
Profile of Irene's - nice view of the good ledges
Rock Climbing Photo: Entrance into the 4th class weakness for Irene's a...
Entrance into the 4th class weakness for Irene's a...
Rock Climbing Photo: Profile of Irene's in the morning...bring 'er on!!
Profile of Irene's in the morning...bring 'er on!!
Rock Climbing Photo: Start of the climb, located near a big tree on a l...
Start of the climb, located near a big tree on a l...
Rock Climbing Photo: Irene's upper pitches - when that wind hits you, i...
Irene's upper pitches - when that wind hits you, i...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 2 - solid, sustained 5.8. Follow the line th...
Pitch 2 - solid, sustained 5.8. Follow the line th...
Rock Climbing Photo: Frosty Weller leading the .10a direct finish.
Frosty Weller leading the .10a direct finish.
Rock Climbing Photo: The exposure is fantastic...the view's not bad eit...
The exposure is fantastic...the view's not bad eit...
Rock Climbing Photo: 5.7 face on pitch 5
5.7 face on pitch 5
Rock Climbing Photo: Pat Mac leading the "hanging tooth" pitc...
Pat Mac leading the "hanging tooth" pitc...
Rock Climbing Photo: Approach to Irene's Arete
BETA PHOTO: Approach to Irene's Arete
Rock Climbing Photo: Erik Wellborn descending Irene's
Erik Wellborn descending Irene's
Rock Climbing Photo: Pitch 1. Sarah is at the first belay in the photo.
BETA PHOTO: Pitch 1. Sarah is at the first belay in the photo.

Show All 35 Photos

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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jul 31, 2017
By M. Morley
From: Sacramento, CA
Mar 11, 2006

Regarding the 10a variation on the final pitch (pitch 6 in Mark's description above), I led it and thought it was great - steep, with good protection.
By Ron Olsen
From: Boulder, CO
Mar 11, 2006
rating: 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

One of my all-time favorite climbs: great rock, superb climbing, beautiful location.

Every climber visiting the Tetons should have this route on their tick list!
By Trevor Nydam
Jul 5, 2006

A trip into Garnet is not complete without this tick. A must do for the grade. Perfectly placed on the approach to the Grand Teton. With a clear weather report, we left Lupine Meadows ~8:30. Dropped our bivy gear at the Meadows and were on the route by ~11:30 with a constant eye on the weather. Rap escape is possible from the ledge after pitch 2. Nothing threatening... got lucky. Back at the Meadows for pasta well before dark. Several hrs of sleep before climbing the Grand. Excellent 2 days.
By Jim Matt
From: Indianapolis, IN
Sep 5, 2006

This was a freaking great climb...but a bit of a sad memory, as I climbed it with the late Doug Coombs back in July, 2004. We had decided to do all of the hard pitches, including the awesome 5.10a variation near the top. The free solo climber that passed us was obviously a stud, but I could not watch him for very long...made me too nervous, and I still had to climb!
By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From: Bend, OR
Jun 23, 2007

Classic climb on great Teton rock. Lots of sun, but with a slight breeze the climb was perfect yesterday, while the valley below scorched in 85+ temps (hot for Jackson).

The last 5.9+ variation that goes left is well worth doing. It looks intimidating, and the rock appears to be crap, but the climbing is very straightforward, rock solid, and protection excellent. I highly recommend this finish. This finish has the added bonus of avoiding the downclimb to the other options.

A conservative rack would be nuts (including small), double cams from fingers to #2 camalot, and one #3 camalot. Bring all long slings, as the route wanders a bunch. We had a few tricams as well, which always seem to come in surprisingly handy.

To find the east descent, head down through the stunted pine forest, across the boulders, generally trending ESE. You are sort of aiming for the right side of the stunted pine plateau below. We were on a somewhat established trail that led us directly to short descent gully above the lakes. The gully was very straightforward and eventually cliffs out. Look right when it cliffs out, and you'll see a catwalk (the horizon of this catwalk was cairned on 6/22/2007). Traverse this catwalk (easy, but exposed) for 10 minutes - at one point in time you'll want to traverse a "high road" to avoid a technical "low road" option. This traverse at no time gets difficult (4th class at the hardest), so if things start to get hard look around for an easier option. The catwalk/traverse ends at a trail - which is right at the top of the Open Book route. This trail takes you to the lakes below. Then enjoy the 5 miles of switchbacks back to the parking lot. It is 2 miles to the trail junction, and then 3 more miles out.

As always in the Tetons, snow in the descent gully would make things alot harder if you are not properly equipped. On 6/22/2007 the gully was basically clear of snow, but it has been a warm spring and a dry winter. In general, one could probably expect to find snow in the gully in June.

We did the climb car-to-car comfortably in a little over 10 hours. I even got offroute some which cost us some time. If you leave your packs at the trail junction for the descent, DO NOT leave food in your packs. Apparently a bear got into a pack two weeks ago there and found food.
By Ian McEleney
From: Mammoth Lakes, CA
Jun 24, 2007

If you're descending to a camp in Garnet Canyon (Caves, Meadows, etc.) take the second gully to the west (climber's left) of the top of Irene's. This gully forks, the western fork is a little easier. There's a short rappel from a slung horn about partway down. This descent dumps you into Garnet Canyon just uphill of the Caves. I've seen big rocks come down this gully, watch out.
By erik wellborn
From: manitou springs
Aug 1, 2008

Phil Wortmann and I did this route while hiking in to do the Grand.Great way to break up the hike-in.
This route is superb, not a bad pitch on it. The direct finish is very wild,exposed. Highly recommended!
By reddirt
Oct 3, 2008

Approach from caves: aim for the lower set of pines. Sounds vague but might make more sense when looking at the route from the caves. I'll try to post a picture of what I mean.

Descent: go for the 2nd gulley (a leisurely 30-60 min walk)& try not to let the sight of rap rings lure you into the 1st gulley (annoying, somewhat bushwhacky & can take twice as long). However, if you end up in the first gulley, you won't be the 1st nor last to make this little faux pas as there are raps down this way too. I think we might have added one of them.
By Sauce
From: Golden, CO.
Sep 6, 2009

Fantastic climb, with plenty of grade variation. The 5.10 variation at the top seemed well worth it with good pro,a fairly short crux and great exposure at altitude. We were able to avoid the descent gully and enjoyed a different hike out past Amphitheatre lake. It required that we climb with packs rather than cache gear and water purification for the lake. I brought home a stomach virus to verify that.
By Chris Graham
From: Bartlett, NH
Apr 13, 2010

Did this climb about 4 years ago, just an amazing day out in one of the most spectacular settings I have ever seen.

70 degrees at the start, dropped to 50 when the winds picked up and then witnessed lightning snapping off of Cloudveil directly accross from us. Needless to say we set a speed record for the last two pitches on that climb as we raced the storm to the top!

I hope to get back out there to climb it once more. What a fantastic line.
By Bart Young
From: Jackson, WY
Aug 1, 2011

Climbed Irene's recently on July 28th, 2011. Great route! A great multi-pitch for climbers still perfecting their trad skills. Sling placement can be crucial. Jammed a cam low on pitch four due to extreme rope drag (orange Alien, please return if recovered!). This made the upper quartz section of the pitch sketchy as well. If doing car to car, I would try to avoid the downclimb and hike to Ampitheater.

Another great day in the Tetons!
By CBW Warner
Aug 9, 2013

Car to Car Descent: If you are walking off, towards the lakes. Look for trails through the trees, boulder fields and the thick forest, always staying on the ridge crest heading East. This ridge line ends, where the trees end (don't get suckered into the left trending gullies). At the end of this ridge crest, you will find a steep gully (3rd class) with views of the lake (we found several cairns leading to the top of this gully). Descend a few hundred feet. Where it gets cliffed out, traverse skier's right. Cross an exposed section. Where it gets cliffed out again, traverse up and right, through some trees. A short downclimb (3rd class) leads you to the trail. You can now walk back to the car, hands in pocket.
By Michelle Lynn
From: Moab, UT
Aug 30, 2014

There's a fun, slightly overhanging hand crack (10-) in a left-facing dihedral in the middle of pitch 4 as described here (pitch 3 in Gams's book). Half way up the pitch, traverse left on a good ledge to belay below the dihedral in dark rock. Protects very well. With all the available variations, only two out of our 6 pitches were below 5.9! Super fun route, highly recommended.
By Steph Abegg
From: Bellingham, WA
Sep 4, 2016

As a group of three moving at a relatively relaxed pace (i.e. enjoying conversation but no en route siestas), we climbed the route car to car in about 12 hours. We approached via the Caves (3 hours from car to base of route) and descended via Amphitheater Lake (a little less than 3 hours from top of route to car).
By Rusty Lalkaka
Jul 9, 2017
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b is a pic of the Amphitheater Lake descent on 7/2.

Ice axe is definitely required for the Gams approach and either the gully or Amphitheater Lake descent. We glissaded to the lake.
By ewak
From: Denver, CO
Jul 31, 2017

There is an option to bail after the 3rd pitch on this route. My climbing partner and I decided to bail due to incoming bad weather (it turned out to be fine after we were half-way down). There is a gully on climber's right that you can easily descend then take two 60m rope rappels off trees. We ended up at the Caves campground after descending this way. There might've been a better way to do this.

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