Much more demanding as a cardio undertaking than as a technical one, this climb is a must do for the inspiring views it provides. The ascent probably does not merit four stars, but the abrupt view from the top does.
From the north end of the Lupine Meadows parking lot, take either of two trails (they quickly merge) which head towards Teewinot. The trail is quite smooth and well graded. Encounter the first of the 18 infamous switchbacks after about 1/2 an hour then follow these, mostly through steep, open meadows (no shade, lots of flowers in mid summer) for about a thousand feet of gain. My experience was that the SBs go faster if you count them. At about 9000' the trail hits a ridgeline along which are the only reasonable potential bivy sites (check w/ the rangers about the availability of water). Around 10500', just below two spires, The Idol and The Worshipper, you will likely encounter snow. Somewhere around this point it would be a good idea to get your bearings and study the configuration of the summit ridge -- routefinding is straightforward if you do this, but plenty of people get lost anyway. The general idea is that you want to aim for the tower immediately to the right of the central drainage/gully/chimney system the upper reaches of which in early to mid season will have snow to the skyline. Higher on the mountain the snowfield can be hidden from view so try and pick out a couple of distinctive features on the high on rock towers to maintain your bearing. From the 10,500' point, go right/north around the I & W -- we followed steps up easy snow (~30 degrees?) for about 300' gain; in the conditions we encountered it, crampons were not needed for this section, but an ice axe was nice to have. Once the snow ends, scramble for several hundred feet. I ascended to the south of the central gully and descended to the north. The trail, hard to find with snow, seemed to be on the north which was at any rate the easier way to go. Finding the easiest line involved a fair amount of zig-zagging. The crux was just below some red rap slings on the south side. The scrambling was less enjoyable than I expected due to the slopey and dirty nature of much of the rock. About 500' below the summit, follow easier (mostly class II) ground on the north side of the drainage to the top.
Your exertions should be amply rewarded by the summit views from Mt Moran down to Buck Mountain with a particularly compelling vista of the north side of the grand.
Helmet, ice axe, binoculars. Be realistic about your party's strengths -- while this route should be accessible to most people in decent shape, less experienced climbers may want a rope in some sections.
|By Ned Rockwell|
Feb 26, 2013
Great climb leading to spectacular view! Be aware of exposure, difficulty, and lots of loose rock when deciding on what protection to have with you.
About twenty-eight years ago a good friend and seasoned climber described this route to me as a spectacular Class IV hike/climb. Indeed, Ortenburger and Jackson described it as a Class IV ("A Climber's Guide to the Teton Range, 3rd ed., p253.) Having now attempted it twice with non-climbers only to retreat where the Class IV abruptly stops (~500' above the top of the Idol) but finally summiting with my two climbing sons on the third attempt, I think it deserves mention that there no longer appears to be a Class IV route on the East face. Myself and others have spent hours looking. I would rate it a 5.3 due to the brief section at the crux. Four days after Teewinot, we were climbing with several Exxum guides who agreed that they rate it a 5.3. It does lead to the best view in the park!
From: Salt Lake City
Jul 23, 2013
rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a Easy Snow
I have climbed this wonderful route 3 times, and believe that the nature and level of difficulty on this route depend greatly on how much snow is on the route, and whether or not the rock is dry.
The first time I climbed it, the central gully was mostly snow filled, and the difficulty consisted mainly of tricky transitions between snow to rock, and back to snow. The snow was steep, and in some places a self arrest would have been a dubious proposition. But, the dry conditions rock crux could be bypassed on snow.
On my 2nd and 3rd ascents, the route was mostly snow free and the rock crux was dry. I think that in these conditions the difficulty of the crux is clearly in the low 5th class realm, and a fall from this point (as mentioned by Ned,) would clearly be fatal. If the rock is wet on this section due to rain or meltwater, difficulties will substantially increase.
Richard Rossiter author of Teton Classics, calls the climb "class 4," but wisely recommends a rope and some gear for most people. My suggestion is this: if you have any doubt, bring a light rope, ice axe and helmet, and a few medium nuts and cams.
|By Matt Schroer|
From: Logan, Utah
Aug 6, 2013
rating: 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b Easy Snow
Seriously epic summit.
To me, the ascent seemed to go at 4th class, while the down climbing felt 5.easy, if that makes any sense. As far as 4th class scrambles are concerned, this is a classic.
Oh, and 18 switchbacks? It was 30 by my count, and I was generous - I didn't consider the zig zags near the waterfall.
|By Pawel Sokolowski|
Aug 26, 2013
It should probably be mentioned that there are two distinct variations to this route. One going to the left in the gully which is 4th class (perhaps 5.0). The other one goes to the right and is definitely a 5.3-5.4 with lots of loose rock.
I believe that's the reason for much different impressions about grading on this route.
Great climb overall.