Grand Teton's Owen-Spalding Route - April 9th, 2016

Conditions on the Owen-Spalding Route
April 9th, 2016

The Middle Teton inside Garnet Canyon.

Temperatures reached into the 60's at the valley floor during the week leading up to the ascent. The snow at the upper elevations had not been through the spring freeze-&-thaw cycles so there wasn't any fresh ice to deal with. Ice from last fall will be found under some snow. Ice is exposed in a few locations that are off route. We didn't need technical ice-climbing tools to ascend the Grand Teton on the Owen-Spalding. The route might be navigated without alpine mountaineering crampons & without an alpine mountaineering axe but they are highly recommended for traveling over snow at all elevations above 9000' if you're not on skis. You will certainly move faster if you're sure of your footing.

You're looking at the south aspect of Disappointment Peak inside Garnet Canyon - approaching the Meadows. Warm temps & rain will get the snow moving again. And the rocks falling. 

Ski tracks. Looking east.

Middle Teton.
Approaching the Meadows Camping Zone.

Spalding Falls area

Early in the season, climbers and skiers heading for the Grand usually stay closer to the Middle Teton's NE face at the far left side of the Meadows' headwall to gain the north fork of Garnet Canyon. Many skiers headed for Teepe Glacier (or the descent into Glacier Gulch) will skin up the summer switchbacks at this time of year. That path can also be used for reaching the Lower Saddle. Choose your path carefully given the snow conditions.

The snow wasn't really moving on this day except for the large wet slab which has been inching down the rock band over the last couple of a couple weeks.

Meadows' Headwall

The Meadows' headwall wasn't icy or slushy along the winter route by the Middle Teton but those are common conditions on many days. Of course, conditions change daily & hourly but we found firm snow all day at this headwall.

East Face of the Grand Teton

This slab on the Meadows' headwall has been slowly moving over the last 2-3 weeks.

 South Fork of Garnet Canyon

Two skiers skinning up the Meadows' headwall.

The Meadows' Headwall

We are closer to the Middle Teton. Looking back east. North Fork of Garnet Canyon.

We're looking east at the small bowl just above the steeper part of the Meadows' headwall. At the top of this bowl is the view west toward the Lower Saddle - see below.

 The Lower Saddle

Looking west at the Moraines, the Middle Teton Glacier, and the Grand Teton's Lower Saddle.

Middle Teton Glacier - north aspect. Looking SE.

The Lower Saddle's Fixed Rope. Looking west.

We went up the Fixed Rope and then headed to the NW over snow. This is not the way to go during the summer because it's too easy to kick rocks on unsuspecting climbers below you. This is the view SE. We're looking back toward the Moraines & the Middle Teton Glacier. Bradley Lake at top left.

The two skiers skinning up the Middle Teton Glacier.

Click to enlarge

We're just past the western side of the Needle's Chockstone Chimney and looking north. With snow, many climbers will hike between the Lower & Upper Western Ribs to reach the Upper Saddle.

 Chockstone Chimney - Looking NNE.

We went up the Chockstone Chimney. On the way down, we took the Briggs' Slab.

 Central Rib's Bench

We followed the YELLOW dots to reach the Black Rock Chimney. We came down the path marked with RED dots.

 Central Rib - western aspect

The Central Rib's Bench was easy to scramble up. This snow was grippy without postholing.

A small drainage runs down the north side of the Needle between the Central Rib's Lower Crossover and the bottom of the Chockstone Chimney. Looking ESE. We were not headed to the UXM Route so we did not go over the crossover.

Looking SW into Idaho. Dartmouth Basin.

We climbed to the top of the Chockstone Chimney (CC) and bypassed the Eye of the Needle. The EOTN was plugged with snow. It would have been easy to climb over the natural tunnel but it was just as easy to climb out of the Chockstone Chimney by the Briggs' Slab. We then took the path shown by the YELLOW dots out of the drainage and headed for the Upper Saddle.

Looking southish.

We ended up taking a detour above the smooth slab to avoid some unstable snow. The variation we took had some ice pockets but it was fairly easy to navigate. Climbers need to be able to use many variations to avoid unstable snow or bypass ice. April's conditions can be better than May's conditions because the temps are cooler and freeze & thaw cycles are not generating new ice.

We came down the red route.
Looking NW.

Looking down into the Black Rock Chimney.

We bypassed this lower section but it could have been easily climbed. Looking southish. The unstable snow was along the ramp off the Central Rib's ridgeline.

The view from the upper exit of the Black Rock Chimney.

The next photo was taken from the location in the above photo that's marked with the words 'Opening in the rib'. Looking northish.

Looking northish.

 Central Rib

This is the view down drainage after exiting the Black Rock Chimney. Wall Street takes you to the Upper Exum Route. Looking SE.

 Upper Saddle

View from just below the Upper Saddle toward the Main Rappel area. Looking NE.

Upper Saddle

We are looking NE toward the Main Rap to the Upper Saddle. We are approaching the upper eastern side of the saddle. The southern route to reach the upper part of the Upper Saddle was sketchy with sugar snow. We took the exposed northern route. The northern route is very exposed above Valhalla Canyon. The southern route is slightly less exposed above the Exum Gully. You can climb between the two exposed variations.

 Upper Saddle

This is where a guided climber fell over boulders and into the Exum Gully. We did not take this route due to snow conditions.

The Owen-Spalding Climbing Route above the Upper Saddle

 Upper Saddle

The summit block was easier to navigate than it was on August 9th, 2015 & October 25, 2015.

The Owen-Spalding's exposed Belly Roll.

We went over the wedged boulder on the way up, and under it on the way down.

The snow was pretty stable.
 Looking northish.

The red/blue webbing was attached to a very old piton. The piton may, or may not, survive the forces placed upon it during a fall but it can be used as a hold for slip protection. A well-planted axe will help you navigate the exit from the Crawl. The north end of the Crawl is a sketchy area (by the webbing) when snow covers everything. We took the 1st Entrance to gain the Double Chimney because it's safer under poor conditions for us. Any protection on this mountain, like this webbing, could be old and poorly secured. There are old pitons, cams, nuts, rings, webbings, and ropes in many places. Some are decades old.

Looking down the 2nd Entrance of the Double Chimney.
Looking NW.

Inside the middle of the Double Chimney.
Looking east.

View into Valhalla Canyon with Cascade Canyon at top.
Looking NW.

 Access to Catwalk

This is the view from the top of the Double Chimney of the access to the Catwalk. You can also access the Catwalk from the Owen Chimney. Looking SE.

We took the Owen Chimney to access the Catwalk.
You exit at the first 'opening'.
Looking east.

Looking back toward the exit from the Double Chimney.
Looking west.

The Owen Chimney and the Bypass.
The bypass is more of a crack than chimney.

Owen Chimney

Access to the Catwalk from the Owen Chimney.
Looking north.

The view from the Catwalk.
Looking northish toward Jackson Lake.

Cascade Canyon. Looking NW.

The Catwalk.

We're looking northish back toward the Owen Chimney (unseen).

The Main Rap Overlook - top center

This is the scramble off the Catwalk toward the Main Rap Overlook. Looking SE.

The Catwalk - looking northish
(where we just walked).

Main Rappel

We're looking SE toward the Main Rap from the Main Rappel Overlook.

Base of Sargent's - looking northish

We walked from the Main Rappel area to the ledge below Sargent's Chimney to examine the exit from the top of the Owen Chimney.

The exit from the top of the Owen Chimney.
Looking N-NW.

The NW base of Sargent's Chimney.
Looking SE.

Sargent's Chimney.
Looking NW.

Sargent's Chimney.
Looking SW.

Sargent's Chimney.

We're looking NE toward the Hidden Exit - not up the main chimney.

Sargent's Chimney.

We're looking NE toward the Hidden Exit - not up the main chimney.

Sargent's Chimney - main chimney.
We took the Hidden Exit.
Looking east.

Sargent's Chimney.
Looking SW.

Corner crack of the Hidden Exit out of Sargent's.

After climbing the corner crack, you reach this area.
Middle of Hidden Exit

A corner crack to exit the Hidden Exit.
This is actually a corner in a small chute.

Top of Sargent's main chimney - see rap slings.

Chute out of the Hidden Exit.

This is just about 20 feet north of the top of Sargent's Chimney. You head NE for the summit a short distance north of here.

 Looking NE. 

It's a straight shot to the summit once out of Sargent's Hidden Exit but many people zig-zag their way up.

Slabby Wall

We bypassed the center crack and switchbacked to the SE then NE. Looking NE.

View of the SE-switchback.

Looking N-NE

We took a ledge above the Slabby Wall on our way to the summit which is to the NE of the photographer. The ledge is a common 'switchback' route to avoid climbing the Slabby Wall.

The summit monument. Looking North.

Looking NW.

Sargent's Chimney during the descent.
 Looking SW.

We re in the Hidden Exit and looking down at the 1st corner crack used to exit Sargent's main chimney. The 'Alternate Exit' is same as the Hidden Exit.

Middle of the Hidden Exit.
Looking W-NW

Main Rap Overlook.

Scramble to the N-NW to gain the Catwalk. Main rap is to the SE.

Scramble to the Catwalk. Looking N-NW.

Jackson Lake

Sargent's Chimney

This is the view back toward Sargent's Chimney from the Main Rap Overlook. Looking NE.

The Catwalk.
Looking northish.

The Enclosure - looking west.

Owen-Chimney Bypass Crack.

Double-Chimney Bypass
 Looking N-NW.

There is a variation of the bypass that gets you into the top section of the Double Chimney. This can be used when a direct entrance back into the DC is too dangerous. You should try it when it's dry before trying it when it's slick.

Access to the top of the Double Chimney.
 Looking west.

The bypass variation we mentioned above comes into this area from the north (right side of image).

View into the Double Chimney - descent.

The Belly Roll - descent.
Looking southish.

The ledge below the Belly Roll. We took the ledge below the BR.

Upper Saddle

Getting off the eastern side of the Upper Saddle. We took the exposed route marked with BLUE dots.

View toward the Middle Teton.
Looking southish.

 Upper Saddle Main Rappel

This is the view back toward the Main Rappel to the Upper Saddle. Looking NE.

View just off the Upper Saddle.

We took the OS Couloir down to the Central Rib's Bench. Looking SW. Of course, you could take the Wall Street Couloir and exit before it cliffs out. Most likely, you would exit via the Central Rib's crossovers. We do not suggest using the WSC unless you are familiar with it.

Middle Teton, etc.

Wall Street.

Easy walk down the Owen-Spalding couloir.
Snow was grippy.
Looking S-SE.

Drainage (OS Couloir)

This is between the CR's bench & the Upper Western Rib. This is where we cross from the rib to the bench. You'll notice that the drainage narrows and falls below the bench. That drainage is not a good summer route due to rockfall hazards.

Central Rib

This was our route up to the Upper Saddle via a variation of the Central Rib's Black Rock Chimney.

We took the Briggs' Slab on the way down.
We climbed the NE corner of the CC on the way up.

View from Briggs' Slab

The NE corner of the CC that we climbed on the way up.

Upper part of the CC.

Looking NW at the OS Couloir

Looking NW toward the gap between
the Lower & Upper Western Ribs.

You can bootpack up this gap when it's filled with snow. It's not a recommended route when the area is melting off because rockfall is increasing and snow can slide off the Enclosure's SW ridge.

Looking SW from Briggs' Slab area

Looking southish.

View just below the Briggs' Slab to the south.

Lower Saddle's Headwall.
We walked straight down it.
 Looking west.

This is the normal glissade path.  On the way up, we went by the Fixed Rope which is a little further north of here.

A view toward the summer climbers' trail from the 'winter' trail.
Looking NE.

 Meadows' Headwall

The wet slab on the Meadows' headwall moved ever so slightly while we were gone.

Bradley Lake. Garnet Creek is also known as Bradley Creek.

We took the ridge route on the way up, but took the lake route on the way down. Looking east.

Bradley Lake