North America, United States, Wyoming, Tetons, Grand Teton Direct North Face

Publication Year: 1956.

Grand Teton Direct North Face. Despite the fuming comments of the guide (Willi Unsoeld), Jolene Unsoeld (wife) dallies in bed at Amphitheater Lake until 5:30 A.M. The first ascent of the north face took 18 hours from the foot of the face, but Jolene hates early starts. By 8:00 A.M. they have climbed the Teton Glacier, deposited ice axes and crampons in the bergschrund and are ready to start up the face itself. Up to the third ledge very good time is made, only four and one-half hours being required for this first three-quarters of the face. The best explanation of the time is Jolene’s attitude toward belaying. Before they left the bergschrund, she told her guide that she had just read Wexler’s mathematical treatment, "The Theory of Belaying” and that it gave her such a headache that she resolved upon the spot to have nothing further to do with the subject. It is thus unnecessary for any leader of her rope to bother snapping into pitons since such actions are superfluous when unsupported by any belay. Teton guides being accustomed to such attitudes, much time was saved thereby.

From the third ledge, the fourth is reached by a route some 150 feet to the east of that used by the four previous successful parties. This is quite close to the beginning of the fourth ledge, just to the west of the first big inversion which turns a section of the ledge into a ceiling. After one follows the fourth ledge for 50 feet, it suddenly disappears in a rocky corner, continuing only as a narrow crack slanting up across the sheer face. This stretch is about 10 feet long but requires an assortment of pitons topped off with an airy sixth class swing on a sling. The ledge re-emerges from the wall again, although rather slowly for a few feet. Before the regular route is intersected, the ledge again inverts twice, but each is bypassed by working out onto the face below by taking advantage of some thin cracks and ledges. Exposure during this traverse is spectacular with the rope giving its unsatisfactory protection customary to traverses.

Jolene has gamboled along rippingly to this point, but now, with the last serious pitch before her, her legs begin to quiver and she has to approach the traverse into the "Vee” relying mostly on her arms. At the start of this final pitch her arms give out as well, but her trusty guide is ready with his Little Gem Client Hoist and soon they are on the summit. The time is 5 P.M., which gives plenty of time for the stroll down to the Guide’s Camp on the Lower Saddle.

Willi Unsoeld