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Tetons conditions, early June, Cathedral Traverse
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By Derek DeBruin
Feb 21, 2013

I'll be in the Tetons in early June and will be attempting the Cathedral Traverse north-to-south sometime June 7 to 9 (dates are already set due to other circumstances). What can I expect for conditions on Teewinot, Owen, and the Grand? Specifically, I'd love to know:

What does the snowpack look like? Is it isothermal at that point or are there avy risks?

How much snow? Kicking steps in the approach shoes or bring boots, ice axe, pickets, etc?

How likely is ice, and how much? Bring crampons, a technical ice tool (or 2), ice screws, etc.?

Will on-route conditions be rock or mixed climbing at that point? (That may answer some of the above questions.) Bring climbing shoes or can the North Ridge of the Grand be done reasonably in approach shoes?

Many thanks in advance.


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By jon jugenheimer
From Madison
Feb 21, 2013
hi

There will be a late spring storm a week before your climb that will dump 12-15 inches above 9,500 feet with heavy wet snow below totaling 9-11 inches with up to 6 inches at the valley floor. It will then move to a high pressure system that will melt all of the snow on the southern faces exposing warm dry rock for the rest of the summer and create perfect ice conditions on the north facing aspects of only the cathedral peaks.

But in all seriousness, there is a long time between now and then...Bring crampons that will fit over your approach shoes if you are in to that, one tool or maybe to depending on your comfort level, bring a rack that is as light as you are willing to take for rock...wet rock up to 5.8. and snow pickets if you think you will need them for the traverses over the snow fields.

And bring a willingness to get wet in the snowfields for the early season that you are going in. Expect the snow line to be with in an hour or two (max) from leaving your car headed up the east face of T.

So, sorry, specifically no one can answer those questions today, except you and what you are willing to climb that day.

But, sounds like fun! Wish I was there now, and again in June, and again in September....


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By Martin le Roux
From Superior, CO
Feb 21, 2013
Stairway to Heaven

Derek DeBruin wrote:
Bring climbing shoes or can the North Ridge of the Grand be done reasonably in approach shoes?


It all depends on your ability & comfort level. If your name's Rolando the answer might be yes, but ordinary mortals might be happier in rock shoes (and will probably climb faster that way, especially if loaded down with bivvy gear). If you're not sure, go out and do a trial run. See how you feel on trad 5.7/8 with approach shoes and whatever size pack you think you'll be using. To make it more realistic, find a climb that's a bit damp or icy, and try to imagine that you're up at 13,000', you're not sure if you're on route, the wind's blowing, it's getting late and you've got 6 pitches ahead of you.


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By Derek DeBruin
Feb 22, 2013

Thanks for the replies.

I am well aware that no one can precisely predict what conditions will be like in the Tetons in early June at this point. I was looking for more general information. For example, if you climb in the Tetons the first week of September, there will generally be less people since it's after Labor Day and the rock is generally dry, but there's also a good chance you'll experience the first snow of the fall that week. Anyway, things like "...bring a willingness to get wet in the snowfields for the early season that you are going in. Expect the snow line to be with in an hour or two (max) from leaving your car headed up the east face of T" are what I was after and quite helpful.

As for the footwear, I am quite accustomed to climbing in approach shoes (guiding in North Carolina, it seems like climbing wet slabs in my approach shoes is pretty much my job). I was just curious if the North Ridge was a reasonable choice for approach shoes. For example, the Pownall-Gilkey is 5.8, but I've heard from a few folks that it's a bit sand bagged and challenging to free in approach shoes. However, it is also easy to A0 the crux, so approach shoes are reasonable if you don't care about freeing the moves. Similarly, slabs up to 5.7/5.8 fell pretty reasonable to me in approach shoes since you actually have more rubber on the rock anyway. Vertical but blocky/juggy 5.8s are also good to go. However, a 5.8 thin crack or more technical face doesn't go quite so well. That's the more the kind of beta I was after to see if the N. Ridge is "reasonable" in approach shoes.

I think the punch line for me is to expect plenty of snow along with wet rock at best, and probably still some ice, whether on-route or on the traverses between. Make my own choices from there. Is that about right?


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By Martin le Roux
From Superior, CO
Feb 22, 2013
Stairway to Heaven

Derek DeBruin wrote:
...slabs up to 5.7/5.8 fell pretty reasonable to me in approach shoes since you actually have more rubber on the rock anyway. Vertical but blocky/juggy 5.8s are also good to go. However, a 5.8 thin crack or more technical face doesn't go quite so well. That's the more the kind of beta I was after to see if the N. Ridge is "reasonable" in approach shoes.


Sorry if my reply came across as snarky, I didn't know anything about your background. The N Ridge (Italian Cracks) is more thin crack/technical face than slabby or juggy. FWIW I climbed it last year in approach shoes, but it wasn't much fun and I wouldn't do it that way again. It didn't help that I was also carrying bivvy gear and food for a couple of days. A partner who's a solid 5.10+ leader felt the same way. We had another guy with us who wore rock shoes, and he seemed a lot happier and was climbing much faster.


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By OReid
From Denver, CO
Feb 22, 2013
preparing to rap over a crevasse; Mt. Waddington, Bravo Glacier Route

This is what the cathedral group looked like on June 24th, 2012:
goacrophile.smugmug.com/photos/i-P4cTcJc/0/X3/i-P4cTcJc-X3.j>>>


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By Nick Stayner
From Billings, MT
Feb 22, 2013
Nick Stayner near the crux. Ryan Minton photo.

Early June at those elevation= tail end of prime ski mountaineering season. Guaranteed you will be on snow/ice/wet/mixed through a great deal of the technical portions.


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By pete cutler
From Des Moines, IA
Feb 22, 2013

Not a Tetons expert but ive been there in early June and it felt more like winter than spring.


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By Andrew Carson
From Wilson, WY
Feb 22, 2013
Gallatin Canyon

Just wear mtn boots. You're on more snow than anything else; it's early June, fer pete's sake, just do it as an alpine climb.


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By Doug Hemken
Administrator
Feb 22, 2013
On Everleigh Club Crack.  Photo by Burt Lindquist.

Martin le Roux wrote:
It all depends on your .... comfort level.


I can *imagine* doing the technical pitches of the N Ridge in approach shoes, but I wouldn't *want* to. Carrying a pair of moccasins for that would be totally worth the weight to me. But like Jon, Nick, and Andrew say, the rest will be snow.


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By Derek DeBruin
Feb 22, 2013

Thanks, all. I appreciate it. Full-on snow, ice, wet rock, etc. I'm actually pretty psyched about it. I've done a good bit of alpine rock climbing and I'm a lot more excited about some cold and wet alpine climbing.

@Martin le Roux:
No worries. I didn't provide any background for you to have in the first place.

"I climbed it last year in approach shoes, but it wasn't much fun and I wouldn't do it that way again... A partner who's a solid 5.10+ leader felt the same way" is the exactly the kind of info I was after. Thanks.


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