American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Wyoming, Teton Range, New Routes on Mt. Wister and Veiled Peak

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1953

New Routes on Mt. Wister and Veiled Peak. In 1932, on page 19 of The Teton Peaks and Their Ascents, Fritiof M. Fryxell wrote: “Undoubtedly it [the north face of Mt. Wister] will furnish one of the best climbs in the range.” Yet for 20 years no one even attempted this route. After viewing this face from the summit of Nez Perce in the summer of 1950, I agreed with Fryxell’s estimate and was determined to give it a try as soon as circumstances permitted. Finally, Willi Unsoeld, Bea Vogel, and I made the ascent August 28, 1952. We bushwhacked up the trailless north fork of Avalanche Canyon and found an excellent campsite between Lake Taminah and Snowdrift Lake. Studying the route as the sun was setting, we could see that it had to start on the face itself, then traverse up to the right in order to get into the big chimney on the right-hand portion of the face. At 5:45 A.M. the next morning we roped up at the foot of the chimney which was to be the first pitch. Anchoring myself solidly to two pitons, I belayed Willi as he led up and out of the chimney to the right. After a short pause, he signalled “on belay” and Bea began climbing, soon to disappear around the corner. However, before reaching Willi’s belay position, she had a fall. Knowing that it would take a pretty good pitch to cause her to fall, I was ready for some real difficulty when I started upward. Once I rounded the corner, it was suddenly apparent what the trouble had been. Willi had silently led up an awkward, difficult overhang. It proved to be the hardest pitch of the climb. Two further moderate pitches led to the first big grassy ledge that we had seen from below. Two more rope lengths brought us to the second wide shelf from which we easily traversed directly into the main chimney on the right (west) side of the face. This chimney proved to be more of a gully than a chimney and hardly required a rope. The disappointing simplicity of the climb resulted in our reaching the summit and signing the register at 10:30 A.M. Finding ourselves with unexpected time on our hands, we decided to climb down the west ridge and keep traversing to Veiled Peak, a little-known, seldom-climbed 11,350-foot peak directly west of Mt. Wister. This we also climbed by a new route, the east ridge, which was not a difficult climb except for one friction pitch. After reading the record in the summit cairn, we discovered the peak had been climbed only four times before, the last time in 1940 by Paul Petzoldt and Elizabeth Cowles. We descended via the north ridge and north ledges. After leisurely spending two hours packing up our gear, we started down for the valley, reaching the road at 8:00 P.M.

The climb on the north face of Mt. Wister is a good example of how deceptive some unclimbed faces are; expecting a real battle, we brought along a supply of pitons which were never used. The five pitons which we placed were used as belay anchors only. This route is, however, probably the most interesting yet done on the peak. The same is probably true of our route on Veiled Peak.

Leigh Ortenburger

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