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Grand Teton conditions in May and June
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By Jurgis Alvikas
May 30, 2014

Long-time reader but first-time poster here. First of all, thank you, the Mountain Project community. This website has been a fantastic resource for my climbing endeavors over the years.

Me and my partner want to climb the Grand Teton via Upper Exum Ridge next May or early June. I understand that climbing season on GT is typically July and August but our schedules restrict us. Trouble is we have no snow or ice climbing experience.

Reading through various GT trip reports, it seems that crampons and ice axes are a good insurance and conditions in off-season, like May or June, depending on the year, may require their use.

So the question: What are the conditions in May and June? Are they prohibitive for someone with no snow climbing experience? Is GT a safe project for us?

Thanks,

J


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By Andrew Carson
From Wilson, WY
May 30, 2014
Gallatin Canyon

In a word, no, it is not a safe or wise choice for you and your partner at that time of year. It would be a 'winter' climb without winter temps.
But you have a whole year to prepare... why not get in a basic snow travel skills class and practice whenever you can?
You could run into all kinds of crazy conditions leading to situations where your limited experience would be a serious liability.
There's lots of room for larger parties... maybe trying to find some other folks with similar goals and timing might help make the trip happen, but people with a broader experience range.
So, don't give up yet. Just don't go until you feel you've gotten a handle on the snow travel skills that will be mandatory for a safe and hopefully successful climb.
Think about the Regular XM route, as the OS is likely to be very snowy/icy, with some problems getting secure belays. I have had more than one early season ascent where there was not one piece of bare rock from the Upper Saddle to the summit. I didn't really enjoy it... until I was back in the Upper Saddle.
Crowds will be low!
Whatever you choose to do, have a safe, fun, and full day on a great mountain.


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By Jurgis Alvikas
May 31, 2014

Thanks for your reply, Andrew.

Doing some basic snow training and giving it a shot is essentially our current plan. Being from midwest, there aren't many places to practice though.

What do you think the conditions of the technical portions would be? We wouldn't want to risk it if, for example, the Wall Street step across was iced over.

On the potentially crazy conditions - yeah, we actually already made an attempt couple of years ago. Got up to just below the Lower Saddle when the weather, disrespecting previous night's forecast, broke and we were pushed back.

If at the end we aren't comfortable with GT, do you have any other enjoyable climbs of similar variety (some simple trad stuff with awesome views and exposure) to suggest? I was looking at some climbs in Cirque of the Towers but it seems that, unlike GT, accessibility is much more of an issue in the Wind River Range.

J


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By Allen Sanderson
From Oootah
May 31, 2014

Andy gives years of wisdom. Early season more people die on the way down than on the way up. Many via what is known as the Idaho Express when one is tired from the ascent. One really needs to have very good snow and ice skills. One can often ascend the Upper Exum without issue because it is south facing thus free of snow for the most part but the OS on the descent can be snow, ice, or even more tricky veri-glass.

Other options are Baxter's Pinnacle, Symmetry Spire, etc. All are lower down and apt to be free of snow in June. May is a complete crap shoot.


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By Buff Johnson
May 31, 2014
smiley face

could just do the south and see how you feel.


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By Andrew Carson
From Wilson, WY
Jun 7, 2014
Gallatin Canyon

Sorry to drop off from the conversation here... I should remember to sign in at least once a day if I'm around, so I can see where conversations are...
I'm not sure I have any great ideas beyond what we see before us -- lots of snow around that time of year so virtually any climb is going to require some snow skills, if only for the descent. Getting down from the Upper Saddle is no picnic, as Allen points out, and while the snow helps when you have the background of snow travel, it's a nasty and changeable element for less experienced climbers.
Further thoughts in no particular order: south facing rock should be in good nick (immediate past weather the prevailing factor of course); I'd expect the Reg. XM to be the route of choice on GT, boots and axes and so on as part of the deal.
We should all get used to the fact that Baxter's Pinnacle (presently closed for falcon nesting) is not going to be available until later in August. The birds like it over there.
Symmetry used to be a popular and worthy early season peak -- but not so much, these days. Too far for too little by way of difficulty, it would seem, but it's got super views, nice routes from which to choose, and with snow, the descent of the interminable gully back to Cascade can go quickly and a little more enjoyably than the slog of later in the year.
One of the south side routes on Disappointment might fit in nicely, too, as an option, if you head into Garnet Canyon and all is not quite as welcoming as you'd hoped. There will be lots of snow to practice on and with... doing a peak with less technical problems might be just right, a nice summit with some snow travel to build your experience.
The problem with the Winds is that getting to the peaks in early season includes so much 'approach' travel, likely snow covered. I have yet to have a day of post holing I look back on fondly... if it's not freezing hard at night, your trip and plans can implode over that hard to predict situation.
You might already be up in the peaks... I hope your trip is a great visit at a beautiful time of the year.


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By Jurgis Alvikas
Jun 9, 2014

Thanks for the suggestions. Climbs on the Symmetry Spire look gorgeous and like a great alternative.


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