American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
Black Diamond Logo

North America, United States, Wyoming—Tetons, Mount Moran, The Blackfin

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1961

Mount Moran, The Blackfin. The ridge immediately east of the now classic south ridge of Mount Moran begins with a tower of dark rock, which has been named the Blackfin. This tower appears about 1000 feet above the first grassy ledge of the south ridge route and is the first of five on the distinct ridge which curves upward and west to join the main south ridge about 1000 feet below the summit. That this ridge offered a climbing route was first realized by David Dornan who, with Pete Lev, made a reconnaissance climb to see if the approach were feasible; the principal route-finding problem was to reach the base of the Blackfin. After negotiating a difficult pitch just west of the main waterfall on the south face in order to reach the second grassy ledge, Dornan and Lev discovered a crack and chimney system through which, with moderate difficulty, they were able to reach a large platform at the lower edge of the main south face bowl. Two difficult leads on smooth rock took them to a point from which they could see a route to the base of the Blackfin. Their mission accomplished and time running out, they rappelled down the route, leaving in a couple of fixed ropes. On July 4 and 5, Dornan and Leigh Ortenburger returned to complete the route. The part of the route which had been previously climbed went quickly, and, as was to be true of the entire route, the rock was excellent, significant portions being equivalent to the best in the range. From the old high point one difficult and two moderate leads placed them in the area just below and slightly west of the Blackfin. They scrambled up to a large diagonal quartz vein. Two leads along this brought them to the top of the Blackfin, the first tower. The second tower was climbed direct and involved one difficult lead of about 150 feet in the middle section. After scrambling to the top of this tower, the buttress leading to the third tower was attacked. To surmount this obstacle required a very difficult, short lead up a steep crack system on the very nose of the ridge. By the time the top of this pitch was reached, the weather was shifting and some snow and sleet were beginning to fall. It was necessary to pass over this third tower as fast as possible in order to find protection from the elements. Hence the route was not as direct as that previously adhered to. The summit of this tower was attained from the west and descent made down to the notch late in the afternoon. Since this was the planned bivouac site, the remainder of the daylight was spent in gathering wood and making a comfortable bivouac with both water and fire.

The next morning they found that the fourth tower started with a short overhang and slabs for about 80 feet leading to a fine chimney pitch of some difficulty. The climbing then became easier and this summit was soon reached. The last tower, number five, also proved comparatively easy. After joining the south ridge, the usual scrambling along the east edge of the ridge led to the final piton pitch, which emerged onto the flat summit from the west. Dornan and Ortenburger reached the summit about three p.m. and then descended by the CMC route, which was exceptionally wet.

The Blackfin proved to be a very fine climb, having many features to recommend it. The rock is consistently excellent and its over-all difficulty is about the same as the south ridge, but without any extended direct-aid pitch. There is great variety in the climbing and the southerly aspect of the ridge allows one to climb in the sun all day.

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.