American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Wyoming—Tetons, Peak 10,552, Death Canyon

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1981

Peak 10,552, Death Canyon. The past four summers have seen considerable activity on the very steep walls in the vicinity of the Snaz, the original 1964 route by Chouinard and Hempel. To the right (east) of the Snaz is the Fallen Angel (IV, F10), a very prominent arête when viewed from the Sentinel Turret. This route, climbed by Yvon Chouinard and Mike Munger on July 18, 1978, is a consistently difficult climb, with the first seven leads all F9 and F10; only the two final pitches reach F7 and F6. A second route, not recommended by its climbers, is Shattered (IV, F10), located 50 to 100 feet to the right of the Snaz. First climbed by Jim Beyer and Buck Tilley, the first three pitches are strenuous (the third is F10 up a hand crack) with the remaining five on easy and very loose rock, finishing with a diagonal to the right on an easy ramp. Said to be one of the finest routes in Death Canyon is High Tension Eliminate (IV, F10), first ascended by Jim Beyer and Buck Tilley in July, 1979. The route stays left of the Snaz. The fourth lead is up the second crack to the left of the Snaz and is followed by an F10 overhang. Although an escape to the Snaz can be made at the end of this lead, the route continues upward and slightly left for two additional F10 leads, including a poorly protected face. The route finishes with 200 feet of easier rock to scrambling ledges.

To the left of these routes lies a complex sequence of at least four routes or variations. All, with the exception of the last, start from the same general area about 100 to 150 feet to the left of the Snaz in a very prominent chimney system, called Lot’s Slot and containing broken and rotten rock. The first route (from right to left) is Cottonmouth (IV, F10), first climbed on July 25, 1978, by Mike Munger and Buck Tilley. After one pitch up Lot’s Slot, the route angles off on a face to the right of the chimney. A total of seven leads are involved, crossing two black rock bands and up a large white dihedral. It is an excellent route with consistent difficulty. Lot’s Slot (IV, F10) itself was first climbed on July 16, 1978 by the same pair. Consisting of nine leads roughly straight up the chimney system with two or three being very good, hard pitches, it contains some rotten rock, but the first-ascent party did try to clean it out. The third route, Vas Deferens (IV, F9) contains very spectacular climbing. The first ascent was made on July 18, 1978 by Buck Tilley and Jim Beyer, taking off to the left from the top of the second pitch of Lot’s Slot. In all this somewhat complicated route has nine pitches, angling slightly left and containing a section of unprotected F9 face climbing and one entire pitch which is almost horizontal. The fourth climb, August 11th Start, provides a different, more difficult, and apparently preferable beginning to the Vas Deferens route. Keith Hadley and Buck Tilley first climbed this variation on August 11, 1978. It begins about 75 feet to the left of Lot’s Slot and provides four pitches containing F5 to F9 climbing, before joining the previous route at the fourth belay stance in broken blocks in the middle of a friction slab.

Another part of Death Canyon rock which has attracted climbers is the Sentinel Turret-Omega Tower section. A new route, Bee Line (III, F8, Al) on the Turret was made in 1975 by Jim Beyer and Jerry Cantor, starting to the left of the normal Turret route. A prominent F7 white open book in the center of the face above was an important feature of the climb. Beyer returned in July, 1979 with Misa Giesey and climbed the route free (F9). On Omega Tower two F9 climbs were made by Charlie Fowler and Dennis Grabnegger. The first contained four pitches while the second, called DCD, was made with Kent Lugbill but had only two leads. Farther to the east another new route was made on the buttress to the right of the gully and stream east of Sentinel Turret. Charley Gunn, Jim Schubert, and Gordon Brooks made the climb (II, F7) in July, 1976, by scrambling several hundred feet up ledges on the northeast side of the gully. Beginning near a large, vertical chimney, the route angled right and up for two leads until a long F7 traverse to the right was made below an arch. After crossing the arch, a second F7 ceiling was passed on loose blocks.

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