American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Various Activity

Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Teton Range

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Renny Jackson
  • Climb Year: N/A
  • Publication Year: 2001

The summer of 2000 was another exceptionally dry one in the Teton Range. Many of the big alpine routes on the Grand Teton were essentially dry rock climbs by midsummer, a condition that has become all too common during the last decade. The Black Ice Couloir, a local indicator of this global warming, has melted back significantly over the past few years. Fixed pitons, once within easy reach along this classic climb, are now difficult to clip simply because a substantial portion of the ice is no longer there. The dry conditions and hot summer days made for excellent climbing on the north side of the Enclosure, however, with Emotional Rescue, as well as the rarely done Lowe Route, receiving multiple ascents.

Mt. Moran has received renewed attention from Colorado climbers Jim Beyer and John Kelley during the past few years. An article elsewhere in this journal details their routes, including last summer’s Kelley-Beyer route (VI 5.12a AO) on the initial 1,500-foot rock wall of the South Buttress.

One highlight of the summer was the recovery of a note left by legendary climber Jack Durrance and partner Michael Davis in a sealed glass bottle during their first ascent of the Grand Teton’s Northwest Ridge on August 8-10, 1938. This note was found at the pair’s first bivouac site, located just below the level of the Valhalla Traverse, by climbing rangers Tom Kimbrough and David Bywater. Still legible after 62 years, the note described the conditions that the pair had encountered and their feelings as they prepared to spend the night. Found with the note was a small stamp with the symbol of the Dartmouth Mountaineering Club plainly visible.

The winter season of 2000-2001 was marked by especially treacherous avalanche conditions. Beginning in the late fall, low temperatures and a thin snowpack contributed to the formation of weak, faceted layers that persisted throughout the winter and spring. These atrocious conditions no doubt kept many aspirant winter mountaineers out of the range. The Grand Teton had only one known ascent during the winter period. On January 22, the popular rock climb on Disappointment Peak known as the Open Book was climbed by Hans Johnstone and Rolando Garibotti. Two days later, Johnstone and Stephen Koch made the first winter ascent of Sunshine Daydream in Death Canyon. This climb is rarely done in the summertime and includes crack climbing up to 5.11. The Enclosure Couloir/Northwest Ridge was climbed for the second time in winter, by Christian Beckwith and Evan Howe, on January 28. (Beckwith climbed the Enclosure Couloir four days earlier with Jeff Hollenbaugh.) Finally, the Direct South Buttress of Mt. Moran was climbed in its entirety on March 5–7, an accomplishment detailed in a full story earlier in this journal.

Renny Jackson

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