American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Wyoming—Tetons, Grand Teton, West Face of the Enclosure

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1966

Grand Teton, West Face of the Enclosure. For those acquainted with the esoterica of the Grand Teton, one of the most interesting regions lies west and north of the Enclosure, the high point west of the Upper Saddle. Two features had attracted my eye in previous years: first, a distinct ridge rises from the lower portion (9600-foot level) of Dartmouth Basin to join the Valhalla Traverse Ledge north of the southwest ridge; second, the unexplored upper west face of the Enclosure rising directly above the Traverse Ledge. A combination of these features would allow a new route. While the lower, 2000-foot ridge appeared to be easy, the upper face was obviously difficult and there was the problem of distinctness. The face is bordered by the southwest and northwest ridges which converge to the summit of the Enclosure. Would it be possible to avoid these ridges and yet make a natural route?

On August 13 John Whitesel and I set out to investigate this route, establishing the night before what should have been an excellent camp in a fine talus cave in the meadows of the lower Dartmouth Basin. Rain in the night proved that the cave leaked dreadfully and there was little sleep. With an early start we found the three towers of the ridge not difficult but lengthy and occasionally very rotten. From the notch behind the third tower a long section of slabs led up and onto the Valhalla Traverse Ledge. After lunch on this ledge we tackled the problems above. The first 500 feet were ascended using a connecting series of ledges, slabs, and short chimneys near the middle of the face. The connections were adequate to keep the difficulty from becoming excessive; two small snowfields were avoided using scree-covered ledges. The uppermost of these ledges leads left (north) toward the col behind the second large tower of the northwest ridge. From the Valhalla Traverse Ledge we had during lunch studied the chimney, containing a large black chockstone, on the right side of a small buttress which projects from the base of the vertical section above. After traversing right (south) along the final slab-ledge past this buttress we climbed this chimney with a mixture of aid and free climbing. Using more of the same combination we continued up and slightly left in another chimney to a stance just below and to the right of an obvious but strenuous hand traverse. After passing this ten-foot obstacle, we climbed an easier 40-foot section to the base of the final open book with cracks in its left wall. Climbing this with aid we finally reached the top of the vertical section of the west face and were greatly relieved to see the rock lying back at a more friendly angle. A one rope-length zig up to the right was followed by a zag back into the last large chimney capped by a huge, black-bottomed chockstone. Exiting from under the chockstone on the left, we were then on the final easy rock leading to the summit. The climb exceeded our expectations in that the route which we originally picked out from the valley floor was followed exactly, never close to either of the bounding ridges. It was a beautiful climb on excellent rock, on the upper wall, but long — we did not reach the summit on the Grand until 6;30 P.M. The difficulty was III, F6, A2. It is perhaps a pity that the climb did require, from us anyway, more aid than is involved in any other route on the Grand. Such is probably the course of future new routes on this mountain, however, since most of the natural avenues have now been preempted by the twenty-two existing routes.

Leigh N. Ortenburger

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