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North America, United States, Wyoming, Tetons, North Face of Cloudveil Dome

United States: Climbs in the Tetons

North Face of Cloudveil Dome. Cloudveil Dome (12,026 ft.) lies on the ridge that connects Nez Perce and the S. Teton. Being situated on a ridge, it can be approached very easily from the E. and W. extremes. To the S. it drops abruptly for several hundred ft. into Avalanche Canyon. The northern side is a sheer wall facing the S. fork of Garnet Canyon. Most sensible climbers would consider the ascent of this wall impossible: from Garnet Canyon it looks smooth and overhanging. But early in the summer of 1950, scrutinizing the face from the top of Nez Perce, we noticed two ledges running up the sheerest portions of the precipice. It seemed to us that, if either of these two ledges could be reached, the face might very possibly be climbed.

On the morning of 22 August 1950, Paul Kenworthy and Richard Pownall, accompanied by Gene Schlichter, began the long trudge from the Petzoldt-Exum Mountaineering Headquarters at Jenny Lake up to Garnet Canyon. After breakfasting with Orrin Bonney and his son Roger, we continued up the canyon and branched off toward Cloudveil by way of the S. fork. By 10.00 A.M. we had reached the snow field at the bottom of the N. face of Cloudveil. Here we left Gene, who had come along to help us carry equipment, to take pictures and to act as our support in case of emergency.

Kenworthy and Pownall approached the climb directly by ascending the steep snow field. The snow was hard, and the steepness gradually increased. The upper 200 ft. required step-cutting. Having crossed the schrund, we scrambled up a series of down- sloping ledges for 80 ft. before roping. Dick then led up an easy chimney (40 ft.), made a short traverse to the right onto a friction slab and then climbed straight up the slab to a ledge. The downward slope of the ledge, and the presence on it of loose rock, made a piton anchor imperative. Kenworthy scrambled up to the anchor position and led a traverse on rotten rock for some 80 ft. to the W. Then, anchored to a piton, he brought Dick over. We were now directly under the vertical portion of the face. We changed to sneakers and tied our ice-axes to our 70-ft. nylon line, so that we could haul them up.

Three attempts on a very steep but broken chimney proved vain. This had appeared to be a possible route for about 300 ft.; but the rock was vertical, and it had a down-sloping structure. Pownall was able to ascend only 30 ft. We decided to traverse back to the first anchor position and try to go up from there. Pownall made a 30-ft. traverse to the E. and then, by flipping the rope up and over a nubbin of rock, was able to make a tension traverse into the bottom of a very steep chimney. He climbed about six ft., drove in a piton for security and then continued up perpendicular rock for another 20 ft. before placing a second piton. Here he faced an overhang. The chimney ended. Some ten ft. higher, there was an anchor position. Pownall delayed a few moments, resting, and then went slightly to the left and directly over the eight-ft. overhang to a sloping ledge where he anchored to a piton. The axes having been raised, Kenworthy ascended on a belay.

We believe this pitch to be the key to the climb. To the right, the rock was very sheer and smooth; to the left (E.), it would have taken us off the face and onto the E. ridge. We were now in the middle of the face and able to reach the black chimney from which we could traverse to the higher of the two ledges we had observed from Nez Perce.

The next lead, on easy rock (120 ft.), brought us to the first large ledge. We continued upward, slightly to the right, for another full rope-length. Now, right under the large outward bulge of the face, we found that we should have to traverse at least a full rope- length to the W. in order to reach the ledge which (we hoped) would take us to the top. The outlook was very bad: rock very smooth and quite steep. Paul anchored to a chockstone. Dick started up a ten-ft. layback and then essayed a very touchy traverse to the right. Having completed this, he climbed ten ft. up a broken face to the foot of a chimney, where he secured a sling with kara- biner to a nubbin of rock. He then proceeded 60 or 70 ft. up the chimney before anchoring to a large flake. Here Paul belayed Dick while the latter descended about ten ft. and then climbed a crack (20 ft.) to a smooth granite slab. Now a direct traverse to the W.—90 ft. on very exposed rock—required the utmost balance and precision of movement. Two pitons were used for protection.

We now attained a fairly large shelf directly opposite the broad, up-sloping ledge which leads to the top of the face. The bottom portion of the ledge sloped at about 75 degrees; the upper portion seemed to be at an easier angle for climbing. Pownall went about 60 ft. up the ledge and then decided that it was no good: steep, loose rock, without piton cracks, and decidedly exposed. We descended and started up a narrow right-angle chimney which joined the ledge about one-third of the way up. This chimney was broken at about the halfway point, where the upper and lower portions were separated by a ten-ft. overhang. Two pitons were used for the overhang. The complete lead was 120 ft.

At the top of the chimney Dick had to tie in to one piton and use another, with a karabiner, to belay Paul. Since there was room for only one person at this stance, Paul anchored about 30 ft. below Dick, and Dick led out on the face of the broad ledge about 90 ft. to a more secure position. One piton was used on this lead. The rest of the ledge offered no technical difficulty. In a matter of minutes, we were standing on the top shoulder of the N. wall which adjoins the large overhanging portion on its right flank. We unroped and scrambled to the summit. The time was 6.45 P.M. We gobbled such food as we had, changed to boots and descended by the regular route. The effort expended in hauling axes up the face was counterbalanced by a good glissade of some 1200 ft. By 7.30 P.M. we were back in Garnet Canyon.

There had been one or two unpleasantnesses in the climb. Having started about three hours too late, we were in the shade almost the whole time, and felt cold at times. Drawing the axes up on the nylon line was sometimes rather difficult and time-consuming. We suggest that future parties arrange to have axes and boots carried to the summit by an easier route. But the rock is sound and enjoyable. It is a very good technical rock climb. And we do recommend it to experienced climbers who are looking for routes of more than moderate difficulty.

N. P. Kenworthy, Jr.

Richard Pownall