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North America, United States, Wyoming—Tetons, Ayres Crag Number Five

Ayres Crag Number Five. The most outstanding crag wall above Cascade Canyon is about three miles along the trail and is known as Ayres Crag Number Five, Its startling, nearly vertical, 1100-foot-high profile identifies it. Its sheer south face had been attempted once before, but the party retreated, feeling the overhangs would make it impossible beyond the second lead. On June 22 Steve Marts and I studied the wall with glasses and detected what appeared to be the only route through the great overhanging wall that traverses the face. After we started, however, the route looked hideous enough to compel us to use fixed ropes until we felt the climbing and the generally inclement weather would let us “cut loose”. The first two pitches took us to a lead of difficult, free and direct- aid climbing that ended at a hanging belay. Next we were delayed by a day of rain and a half-day of waiting for fresh snow to melt. During the afternoon, as it warmed slowly, we climbed a very difficult section that required bolts on overhangs. Piton cracks bottomed out. A shallow open- book, overhanging all the way, gave way only to difficult pitoning. Parts of the only crack were rotten, and when it bottomed into a groove, we had to place three bolts in the overhanging wall. We completed this pitch the next day and from a very scanty belay stance climbed free on a delicate lead to a roomy ledge halfway up the face. Bottoming cracks prevented adequate protection. The 26th dawned clear and we prusiked early to the high point. After enjoyable free climbing, very difficult going blocked us from a great ledge 200 feet beneath the crag rim. A traverse left solved this but inadequate protection caused concern. A lead of steep but broken rock took us to a seemingly impossible section, with vertical rotten rock on our left and a great overhanging wall on the right. We finally worked this out with a compromise, a traverse to the right on pitons driven upwards into an expanding flake, then a long swing into an open-book. In about 100 feet of exposed climbing on slabs and flakes, the rim was ours.

Fred Beckey