American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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North America, United States, Wyoming, Winter Ascent of the Grand Teton

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1950

Winter Ascent of the Grand Teton. Another winter ascent of the Grand Teton has been reported.* J. D. Lewis made the climb early in March 1949 with his brother Ted and Paul Petzoldt. The ascent was on skis to below the lower saddle and thence on foot. From the account submitted by Lewis, it appears that, in order to save weight, the party took neither ice-axes nor crampons. If the conjecture is correct, the omission would seem to have set a questionable precedent for future climbs. Two 120-ft. ropes were used. Relatively light loads, and safety at the high camp, were made possible by the cache of food and equipment left there by Petzoldt and Exum the previous summer.

The top of the lower saddle was reached on the second afternoon, and the summit achieved without difficulty on the next day. The climbers reported that the cracks and chimneys on the upper part of the peak were free from ice and snow, as were most of the climbing sections of the route. Across the entire face and top of the mountain, however, they did find heavy accumulations of frost feathers, which necessitated careful kicking of steps. Return to the lower saddle was made on the same day, and descent on skis to Park Headquarters on the following day. Weather throughout the climb was good. There were a few clouds around the peak on the days preceding the climb, and a heavy layer of cloud on the descent into Garnet Canyon. Temperature at the lower saddle was —2° F.

To assure transmission of word concerning the weather and any trouble that might arise, a system of flashlight signals was maintained with personnel of Park Headquarters. It was found that Morse signals from the lower saddle (11,500 ft.) could be read on the highway below only if aimed directly at the observer, and that considerable repetition was necessary. No trouble was reported in the reading of signals sent from the valley by Chuck Smith, a Park Ranger. Presumably he used a stronger light than the climbers’.

Of interest was the Park Superintendent’s unwillingness, at first, because of avalanche and weather danger, to allow the party to proceed. His staff was not organized for winter rescue operations. He ultimately agreed to the attempt in view of the presence of Petzoldt, the concession guide for the Park.

One does not envy the Superintendent his responsibility for allowing or forbidding winter ascents. One may hope, however, that his decision will not necessarily be determined by the presence or absence of an approved guide, but rather by his estimate of the qualifications of the party and the adequacy of their equipment. Often, in the absence of a guide, the decision will be difficult, for winter climbing in the Tetons is hazardous and the appraisal of nonprofessional climbers’ qualifications involves very real problems.

The Teton Park Administration has been very successful in meeting the problems in the past and, in not resorting to blanket restrictions, has created an admirable record. In its efforts to meet responsibilities for the safety of the public and still allow maximum freedom to qualified mountaineers, it deserves the strong support of all climbers and their clubs.

W. P. House

*Cf. A.A.J., VII (Sept. 1949), 352 n.

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