American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Idaho, Grand Aiguille, South Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1962

Grand Aiguille, South Face. Since the original ascent of this “unclimb- able” granite monolith in 1948, all subsequent climbs had been made by the chockstoned chimney on the west face or by an easier detour to its right. Because of its proximity to Redfish Lake, the Grand Aiguille has become a popular climb. After a reconnaissance of the longer south face, Jerry Fuller and I decided to make a serious attempt on July 2. Three leads of fourth and fifth class climbing on somewhat friable red granite above the southwest gully brought us to solid and really steep rock. Using chrome-alloy pitons driven into loose, crackless rock, I did a partial pendulum around a blind, vertical corner to a sentry-box platform that was at the base of a crack line that worked upward for about 250 more feet to a tree. Fuller climbed a difficult crack that held pitons poorly; it was safer to use two of them for direct aid rather than risk a fall on a loose ten-foot section. Then the crack worked left, still difficult. Eventually, we found a new crack system going onto the summit wall, but we had tomake a dangerous traverse to reach it. Pitons were wholly unreliable, and I found this lead hard on the nerves and the fingers. Two moves had very little for the feet and not much more for the hands. Once in the crack system, the rock again became wonderful. Two and a half leads of jamming and chimneying took us to within a few feet of the regular route. We did the final lead and a half to the summit by staying right, on the crest, finding this a rewarding variant. The climb had been very interesting, at times difficult and strenuous. Piton requirements varied from tiny knife- blades to 4-inch Chouinard aluminum bong-bongs.

Fred Beckey

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