The Grand Teton's Owen-Spalding Route

The Owen-Spalding Climb
~ Lower Saddle to Summit ~

This is the quickest, safest, and easiest climb on the Grand Teton when the route is dry and the weather is perfect. Under those conditions it is a suitable objective for many athletes who wish to climb this mountain without a rope in a single day. Previous climbing experience is not a prerequisite before undertaking this adventure but it isn't for everybody. You'll need the right combination of physical and mental agility to make it up this mountain — with or without a rope.
The Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers believe that "climbers should not attempt a one-day ascent of the Grand Teton without prior experience on this LARGE mountain and familiarity with technical ascents in the Teton Range" and they warn that "soloists have been injured or killed attempting these routes." 

The second party to summit the Grand Teton (2nd verified party) had no knowledge of the area, no similar climbing experience, and no gear. They free-soloed the Owen-Spalding route in a single day back when there was no climbers' trail, no guidebook, and no internet. Quin Blackburn, Dave DeLap, and Andy DePirro did that in 1923. It stands to reason that more than a few people can follow in their footsteps under dry conditions with the resources available today. Indeed, many do.

Free-soloing this route under mixed conditions is not recommended for most climbers. The difficulty & danger increases as does the time needed to get up and down the mountain. It can be a worthy goal if you have the necessary skills. Of course, a little bit of snow, ice, or wet rock is pretty common and some climbers can recognize and manage small hazards. Taking on the additional challenge to free-solo under passable mixed conditions is a decision best left for yourself. Professional guides have misjudged hazards and died on this mountain so don't make the decision lightly.

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with camping overnight or using protection. Many climbers make it a one-day trip using protection. No matter the itinerary, it's a demanding undertaking and a long day for most climbers. Not all athletes can get up and down this mountain, and not all non-athletes are excluded from joining the ranks of those who can.

If you're looking for bubble-wrapped adventures, visit Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Grand Teton's Owen-Spalding Climbing Route

Overall, there's less than 300 feet of climbing that might test your natural abilities. Some of that climbing goes by a large drop-off. It causes more than a few people to reconsider their plans. The Owen-Spalding is considered to be a Class 5.4 climb on the YDS scale of difficulty when dry, "Suitable for beginners".


This page focuses on the scramble and climbing above the Lower Saddle and has only a short introduction to The Hike To The Grand Teton's Lower Saddle

Reports On Conditions
The Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers provide reports on conditions through their Teton Climbing blog. It's often outdated. You can also stop by their ranger station at Jenny Lake during the summer for details about routes, conditions, challenges, and to obtain camping permits. Climbing does not require a permit but that could change. The park service has been studying issues related to overcrowding.

The ranger station is open 8am to 5pm daily from early June to early September. The operating dates change yearly. In addition to staffing the ranger station, the climbing rangers also provide search and rescue operations for the park. Their rescue cache & operational base at Lupine Meadows is closed to the public. The rangers also have a hut at the Grand Teton's Lower Saddle during the summer so you might see them there.

Summer conditions & information: 307-739-3343
Winter/Off-Season conditions & information: 307-739-3309
Winter Backcountry Camping Permits: 307-739-3309 M-F
(^307-739-3301 Sat & Sun) 

Summer backcountry camping permits can be reserved online starting in January. Once summer actually arrives, only first-come, first-served, walk-in permits are available and they are in limited supply. All backcountry camping permits for climbers must be picked up at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station during the summer high season. Garnet Canyon has special regulations for backcountry campers. Our Jackson Hole Camping Guide covers some additional camping options if you are unable to secure camping options in the park.


A forecast is good for about 6 hours. Even within 6 hours, it's of questionable value for the Tetons. It's very difficult to nail down an accurate forecast for the Grand Teton if there's any instability in the air. No forecaster has a handle on Teton weather unless there's a big, stable, high-pressure system parked over the region and we're in its center. Or there's a massive strong storm system slamming the northern Rockies. Basically, never trust a forecast. And be prepared to read the weather as you travel.
Highly localized mountain thunderstorms can develop quickly and unexpectedly. A tiny change in the jet stream can sideswipe the Tetons with cold, wet weather. Warm sunshine can blanket the town of Jackson while the Grand is hammered by snow. 

Average Weather At The Valley Floor
Average Weather At The Valley Floor

The best conditions & weather for free-soloing usually arrive between mid-July and mid-to-late August. Every year is different.

In June, you'll find snow, ice, and dry rock on the approach & climb. And snow-travel conditions are changing throughout the day. Rockfall hazards increase with June's freeze & thaw cycles. At times, June's conditions can be more hazardous than April's.

While intermittent periods of great weather and conditions can appear throughout September or October, the odds favor mixed conditions and colder weather. The days are shorter, the sun is lower in the sky and it's setting further to the southwest with each passing day. The end result is that the west-facing Owen-Spalding route spends less time in the sun. Many nooks and crannies never see the sun. September precipitation often falls as snow or graupel on upper elevations. Any runoff is likely to turn to ice overnight if it doesn't evaporate. If temperatures are low, incoming fog can quickly freeze to rock and turn everything into an icy mess. That rime ice is supercooled water droplets of fog freezing on contact with a sub-freezing surface. Hoar frost is also common in the Tetons and it can have a similar appearance to 'soft' rime ice. It occurs when water VAPOR directly crystalizes on surfaces (deposition).

Grand Teton's Lower Saddle Temps 2018 (11,600 ft)

In 2022, the highest two temperature readings at the Grand Teton's Lower Saddle arrived on September 4 & 8, (63°F & 62°F). And good conditions were found into October. The park also saw a drop in visitors, about a million less, and the Grand seemed remarkably quiet compared to previous years. It was one of the better seasons for climbing.

Lower Saddle Wind 2018

As seen above, temperature swings at the Lower Saddle are fairly mild compared to those at the valley floor during the summer. Temperature inversions during the summer are typically limited to overnight or early-morning hours. Summer inversions rarely have large temperature spreads. During the winter, inversions are common and can reach a 40°F difference on extreme days.

Many factors can influence temperature differences between two elevations. The lapse rate is commonly used to calculate those differences. It's negative under an inversion. The atmosphere can include both dry and moist adiabatic conditions at the same time. Additionally, the moist lapse rate (-3.3 °F/1,000 ft rise) can vary while the dry lapse rate is pretty constant (-5.4 °F per 1,000 ft rise, some say 5.5°). Both have an impact on the lapse rate so it isn't always easy to estimate temperature changes with elevation. For example, moist clouds can sit above hot dry air. Or, one side of a mountain range can have moist conditions while the other is dry (leeward, usually). 

If temps are getting cooler with elevation, we consider 12 to 14°F to be the worst-case temperature difference between the Lower Saddle and the summit under clear, dry skies (ignoring wind chill). The accuracy of the Saddle's temperature readings are not known, nor is an exact lapse rate, so we give ourselves some wiggle room on the worst-case scenario. An average of 8°F was the difference used by the National Weather Service back when they provided a forecast for both the saddle and the summit. That never changed even if the weather did. We have recorded a 12°F difference on a clear morning.

A quick look at the Lower Saddle's weather station can help you estimate the chances of an icy climb after a passing storm. There are many summer nights above 45°F at the saddle, but it's not unusual for uppermost elevations to be within a few degrees of freezing overnight.

The weather station can have a localized inversion between it and the ground. It might indicate that temperatures were above freezing at the saddle. Upon arrival, you may find that water turned to ice at the seepage area near the water hose. Of course, the station's temperature readings could also be poorly calibrated and generating incorrect readings.
And, as the graphic illustrates, two locations with a 5,000' elevation difference can have the same temperature. There may be little to no temperature difference between the saddle and the summit despite a 2,175' difference in elevation. You can view the saddle's weather station data from the summit, btw.

You're more likely to encounter wildfire smoke as we enter August. In 2021, wildfire smoke arrived in the Tetons by mid-July and stayed around all summer. In 2022, smoke wasn't much of an issue. You can track wildfire smoke on most satellite images. Here's a look at Active Fires & Smoke Plumes. Forecast models for smoke are available from many sources including the National Weather Service's Air Quality interface and NOAA's HRRR Smoke Map. Or get a forecast for the jet stream. It is very rare to have a smoke-free summer in the Tetons.

Sat Images from GOES
(some GOES updates are 5 min apart)
Emergency Information

(307) 739-3301 - GTNP Emergency Dispatch

GTNP's Emergency Dispatch Center (Teton Interagency Dispatch Center) is open 24 hours a day during the summer season (usually June 1 - Sept 30). For time-critical, life-threatening emergencies, you might be better off calling the park's dispatch center instead of contacting 911 for search & rescue operations in the park.
Once the summer season dies down, the dispatch center is usually open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. You can call them to confirm operating hours during your visit: (307) 739-3301

911 works for texting in Teton County, WY & ID
911 calls & text messages go to the Teton County Sheriff's Office. Calls to the Sheriff's Office get transferred to GTNP if they are open for business. 911 calls within sight of Idaho might get sent to Teton County, Idaho.
Sometimes a text message will get through to emergency services when a voice call will not. Texting 911 is also advised if your phone's battery has been severely drained. Text messages do not include location coordinates like emergency voice calls so be sure to include location information in any messages (detailed place name or GPS coordinates).
 Information needed by the rescue team includes
1) the exact location of the injured party
2) the time of the accident
3) the nature and extent of injuries & medical care being provided
4) equipment at the scene (ropes, hardware, first-aid kit, etc.)
5) the number of people with the injured party
6) the plan of action (if any).

The Teton County Backcountry SOS App will drop a GPS location into an emergency text message if your phone's GPS is on. A phone's GPS will consume battery power so turn it off if it isn't needed.

Summer Climbing

Just to be clear, inexperienced mountaineers who wish to summit in a day without using protection are strongly encouraged to wait for the driest conditions possible and perfect weather. Optimal conditions for free-soloing may not arrive until late July or early August. Just depends on the weather. Sometimes it's early July. No one knows how long it will take you to complete a round-trip on the Grand Teton. The fastest round-trip time is under 3 hours. It might take you 24 hours. The round-trip covers around 14 to 15 miles with a 7000 foot elevation gain.

Water sources & camping zones along the climbers' trail.

Assuming you're trying to go light & fast, and can, it's about a half hour to 1st junction from the Lupine Meadows' trailhead if you're walking quickly (not running). The second junction adds another half hour from the first junction. And it's another half hour to the Meadows Camping Zone inside Garnet Canyon if you maintain speed. That's 1.5 hours in total. From there, it's about an hour to reach the Lower Saddle (2.5 hrs total) if you're still moving at a good pace. Very few people will be moving quickly. The average person can take many hours to reach the Lower Saddle from the trailhead. Most people are not free-soloing on a fast & light round-trip.

The extra weight that protected climbers carry can easily double their time to reach the Lower Saddle. Those with questionable fitness may take much longer. For those reasons, many climbers on one-day round-trips start well before daybreak (midnight to 2 a.m.). Some climbers taking ropes do move very quickly but the average climber hauling gear doesn't. The guides often leave the Lower Saddle at 4 a.m. for their group climbs. They may leave even earlier if the weather window is closing early in the day. Soloing parties moving quickly usually leave the trailhead at daybreak or later if the forecast is nice.
Make sure you have the supplies necessary for a safe trip before venturing to the trailhead. Headlamp with fresh batteries? Water? Toiletries? Proper clothing, especially shoes? Food? Charged phone? First Aid? Helmet? Gloves? Hiking poles? Whatever. On really nice days, everything we need fits in our pockets or a very small pack (fanny size). We may take hiking poles. 
Free-soloing runners (the select few) carry next to nothing and wear clothing totally unsuitable for most climbers. Runners might also start later and experience very comfortable temperatures.

Approach to the Lower Saddle - a very accurate rendition of the trail for the most part.
All Garnet Canyon Data from GAIA GPS
(best viewed on a desktop/laptop computer)

While you don't need a GPS to make it up the Grand Teton, we do run into climbers every year who took the wrong turn at a well-marked junction. Pay attention and you'll be fine. 

Approach above 9000 feet.

4.1 Miles to the Platforms. Maybe 5.25 miles to the Caves.

The dry summer trail to the Lower Saddle is mostly well defined and easy to navigate. It does completely disappear for over 100 feet at two locations within large boulders commonly referred to as the 1st & 2nd Boulder Field, AKA: Platforms Boulder Field & Morainal Boulder Field (see locations above). Almost the entirety of Garnet Canyon is a giant boulder & talus field with the trail running through it but some areas are more bouldery than others.
The trail disappears in an insignificant way for a short distance in several locations before you reach the Meadows Camping Zone. Usually, the trail continues just in front of you. Take the path of least resistance. You are always on the north side of the creek inside Garnet Canyon as you approach the Meadows. And you are close to the creek.
Traveling under darkness might be a slightly bigger challenge in a few places inside Garnet Canyon if someone is not familiar with the approach to the Lower Saddle.  A few people do lose the summer trail so we can't say it's a foolproof approach under darkness.
You may see a few side trails inside Garnet Canyon especially as you near the top of Spalding Falls. Some spurs go to camping spots. Some are shortcuts. Some go to climbing areas. Others are used to avoid early-season snow. The Park Service would like everyone to stay on well-traveled paths whenever possible, or stay on rocky surfaces and not vegetation if you must go off-trail.

A snowy Garnet Canyon
Click to Enlarge

The trail crosses the spring feeding Spalding Falls just as you reach the top of the cliff. You'll be next to the Caves Camping Zone. It's a good place to take a break if you need one. Most people drink the water unfiltered. Spalding Falls is one of several arteries feeding Garnet Creek.
When snow covers the canyon's floor, climbers typically ascend the Meadows' Headwall near the Middle Teton's NE aspect. They avoid the summer trail by Spalding Falls. Climbers have died on a snowy approach. Respect the snow. More information on snow travel can be found on our page covering the approach.
Parts of the saddle can be seen from a few areas as you approach the Meadows Camping Zone but the Lower Saddle mostly hides behind the Meadows' Headwall.

June approach above 10,000 ft @ Moraines

Climbers use a bootpack to gain the top of the Lower Saddle as we enter the summer season, and sometimes well into the summer season. The blue dots show the approximate location of the guide's bootpack. Some people hike directly up and down the headwall when it's easy to do so. While snow travel adds extra hazards it can also speed up round-trips under the right conditions. All the more so if you're on skis (usually early to mid spring).

As the snow melts off, the dry summer trail takes you to a rope that is permanently affixed to the saddle's headwall. The rope is handy under poor conditions.
Guides belay clients at the Fixed Rope so you might be slightly delayed. If you struggle in any way with the climbing at the Fixed Rope then free-soloing is not for you. You can contact the Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers to find out if the approach is free of snow or if the Fixed Rope is being used. The area by the Fixed Rope is a rockfall zone.

Lower Saddle's Fixed Rope
Climbers often knock rocks down the headwall as they move above the Fixed Rope. Stay alert and avoid being in the line of fire. Never travel directly above the Fixed Rope to the west or northwest during the summer due to the high probability of causing rockfall on climbers below you. In some locations the rock is too unstable to remain in place no matter how carefully you move. Small landslides have taken place by the Fixed Rope and natural rockfall has injured climbers at the headwall.

After leaving the Fixed Rope, climbers follow a path toward the southeast corner of the Lower Saddle. They travel to the toe of the Middle Teton as it sits on the saddle and end up by the most southeastern camping site.

 Lower Saddle's Fixed Rope - Rockfall Zone
View from the Lower Saddle toward the Grand's Upper Saddle

The sign encourages you to stay off the saddle's vegetation. FYI: We climb throughout the year so our snowy pictures are not a depiction of typical summer conditions. 
To the southeast of the sign is a constant trickle of water in a very shallow drainage at the toe of the Middle Teton's north-facing slope (where the ground meets larger boulders). Its flow varies with the weather and time of day. A section of garden hose is used to collect and direct water into containers. Just to the north of the drainage is a large seepage area.

It is possible for the saddle's water source dry up or freeze over (typically in September). It can spring back to life with the changing weather. It might also be buried under snow but still flowing. You can get water from the Middle Teton Glacier if water disappears at the saddle. Sometimes you can find running water between the Lower and Upper Saddles but don't count on it.

 Location of the water hose

Many climbers are starting to feel the effects of the altitude and exhaustion as they gain the 11,600' Lower Saddle. It's a good place to take a break.

If you need to piss in the wind, please do so on the western side of the saddle. There is a "rest stop" on the western side for privacy. It is a wooden structure with an open top. It is not a functioning toilet. You are required to pack out human waste from the saddle using WAG bags, etc.

There is also a gear hanger on the western side of the saddle should you wish to drop some weight. A bear box is available if you need to store food from critters. Marmots and pikas are common sights at the saddle. Sometimes chipmunks. It's rare to see bears and foxes at the saddle but they have made visits. It is also rare to see bighorn sheep and mountain goats but the saddle has been a part of their home range (mountain goats are considered non-native and the park has culled them).

Two huts are assembled at the saddle every season. One hut is utilized by backcountry rangers as mentioned earlier. The other hut is used by Exum Mountain Guides. A third hut used by the JH Mountain Guides sits above the Moraines camping zone by the east face of the Grand Teton. You'll pass under their high camp on your way to the Lower Saddle.  
Many people get cellular service at the saddle & above it. The weather station at the saddle can be accessed with a smartphone if you want to check wind speeds or temperatures. Saddle temperatures can stay in the 50's on the warmest summer nights. On the coldest summer nights, temperatures dip below freezing. It can snow at the saddle during the summer, and it has a well-earned reputation for strong winds.

There are several small 'caves' on the western aspect of the saddle - most are just north of the "rest stop". They are not safe locations during thunderstorms.

 Overview of southern ridges, towers, etc 


Keep in mind that conditions may force you to alter your line of travel into more difficult (or, by comparison, safer/easier) terrain. 

View from the Lower Saddle toward the Central Rib

You're headed for the Central Rib's Needle which is on the north side of the saddle. The Black Dike is shown at the very bottom of the above picture. It runs a good distance across the mountain. The scrambling begins once you pass the Black Dike. You may see hiking poles by the dike, the Fixed Rope, or elsewhere around the Lower Saddle. Leave all hiking poles where you find them. They are not abandoned, just set aside temporarily.

The hiking path to the Black Dike actually splits into two main paths which rejoin above the Black Dike. Once the scrambling begins, you're heading toward the center of the Needle until you find an easy route to its western side. We avoid the drainage routes for safety reasons.

FYI: There is a spur trail that runs to the east just before you reach the Black Dike. It leads to the Lower Exum Ridge, Petzoldt Ridge, etc. It's part of the Black Dike Traverse. You're not headed there. There is also a traverse off the saddle that wraps around the western aspect of the Enclosure's SW ridge. It's the Valhalla Traverse (often sketchy).

The view between the Lower (11,600ft) & Upper Saddle (13,200)

The drainage on the eastern side of the Upper Western Rib was a common line of travel when the mountain saw fewer climbers. Nowadays, the main drainage sees weekly rockfall events caused by other climbers. Bowling alley is the favored description. Having said that....

If you're an extreme mountaineering runner then you might be considering a run up a drainage. If none is around, and the timing is right, so be it. However, you're likely to cause rockfall if you're moving fast so don't make the rash decision to ascend a drainage if people are in a rockfall path below you.
There's no great time advantage to using the very narrow hourglass section of the drainage between the Upper Western Rib and the Central Rib's Bench. In addition to being a terrain trap for rockfall that area is prone to poor conditions. There is a shortcut just below that area to gain the bench but we will avoid highlighting it. The average climber should not be using it.
The most western drainage on the western side of the Western Rib is the slowest way to the Upper Saddle. Bootpacks up drainages are sometimes useful when encountering stable winter snow.
AGAIN, TO BE CLEAR: Most climbers should stay out of the drainages whenever possible.

Head for the Central Rib's Bench
(not to scale)

The above image provides a look at the two most common variations to access the Central Rib's Bench
1) the Eye of the Needle via the Chockstone Chimney variation
2) the Briggs' Slab variation. 
There are many variations to gain the bench. Conditions may force you to choose a different or more difficult line. The Briggs' slab variation is the most common guided variation. The slab is easy to get to and it's easy for guides to quickly belay clients across the slab. Guides will utilize other variations when the need arises. The Chockstone Chimney is faster than the Briggs' Slab for strong climbers. It does have some small free-standing loose rocks that others could kick your way.

If you're an experienced mountaineer, you can look at our route overviews and reach the Upper Saddle without getting into the fine details shared below. You can certainly follow the guides. It's everyone's mountain. Guides will encourage free-soloing climbers to pass when it's safe to do so. While guides can move quickly, their clients rarely do. Climbers head off in questionable directions all the time and may end up in locations that are ill-suited for safe and/or efficient travel so don't just follow any climber.

Just a quick safety note to non-climbers:

If you're unfamiliar with climbing etiquette, the appropriate thing to do if you kick rocks down the mountain, or see rocks falling down the mountain, is to holler 'ROCK'! even if you see none below you. It's like saying FORE! when you make an errant golf shot. Your safety and the safety of others is everyone's responsibility when it comes to falling rock. Better yet, don't cause rockfall (easier said than done, sometimes). It takes real mental & physical effort to be safe on this mountain.

Variations to gain the Central Rib's Bench

The above picture shows a few of the many ways to reach the Central Rib's Bench. There is only one "chimney" by the most western corner of the Needle - the Chockstone Chimney. It's mostly a sloping drainage chute with two short 'chimney' sections.

 Western side of the Needle by the Chockstone Chimney
The guided climbers in the above image are descending from the Briggs' Slab and about to pass the Chockstone Chimney. They are staying on a slightly elevated path above the actual drainage. Staying just above the drainage can provide an extra measure of safety. It depends on conditions and rockfall threats.
Those climbers will continue to stay close to the western aspect of the Needle during their descent (see two bigger red dots). It's common to find icy conditions there. It's a seepage area. It also gets some surface runoff but it is usually safer than the main drainage further west. During an ascent we sometimes see climbers turning around at the first signs of ice. It's always possible that upper elevations might actually be easier to manage (having tacky snow, much less ice, or no ice). 

Take the Chockstone Chimney or go for the Briggs' Slab

You can scramble up the ledge/step/slab system just to the left of the chimney if you wish to avoid the lowest part of the chimney. Choose any line that looks efficient and safe. We avoid going straight up the chimney with weaker climbers or young kids. If these options look unappealing, just head for the Briggs' Slab.

 Overview of the Chockstone Chimney

Most people who climb the chimney will exit by scrambling south along the first ledge they come to. Once out of the chimney, climbers make a U-Turn to the east to gain the Eye of the Needle (a natural tunnel - watch your head). After going through the tunnel, climbers gain another ledge that runs above the Chockstone Chimney. That upper ledge takes them to the Belly-Roll Almost.

 Looking at some variations in the lower Chockstone Chimney

The best line of travel on the Runners' Slab might be closer to the bottom of the slab along a seam if you lack sticky shoes. Not everyone is comfortable using the Runners' Slab but with sticky shoes it's a quick easy line. If you are a stronger climber, go wherever you want.

Looking down into the Chockstone Chimney.

The climber directly below the photographer is on the lower ledge that takes you out of the Chockstone Chimney and to the Eye of the Needle (EOTN). You can see some of the loose rocks in the above image. The Briggs' Slab is just to the right of the photographer and unseen.

BTW: The Eye of the Needle's tunnel is a tight fit if you have a big backpack.
In 2003, two climbers got stuck on the mountain for three days during a snowstorm. On their third day, climber Joe Hestick broke his hip and several ribs after taking a fall while descending the Chockstone Chimney.

Another look at some of the options around the Briggs' Slab & Chockstone Chimney

We had no crampons or shoe spikes on this day so we took the Middle Ledge to reach the Eye of the Needle.
 Climbers going over the Belly-Roll Almost
Most climbers traverse under the Belly-Roll Almost. Both variations work fine. Some climbers will climb directly up the chimney and avoid the Eye. There are many variations.

Over or under the BRA
If you go under the Belly-Roll Almost, you will be looking for a small foothold that is out of view until you are directly above that foothold. There are excellent handholds. After passing the BRA, scramble up a short slope to get a good view of the bench area. You're heading up the Central Rib's Bench toward the Upper Saddle.

Head for the Upper Saddle after gaining the Central Rib's Bench

UXM Climbers: The drainage running to the ridgeline of the Central Rib is just an extension of the Chockstone Chimney. Follow the drainage (inside or out) to the Central Rib's Lower Crossover to make your way to Wall Street if you wish to climb the Upper Exum Ridge. Owen-Salding climbers are not headed for the crossovers on the ridgeline, usually.
Let's look at the access to the Briggs' Slab variation and variations near it. And think about the fastest route for runners.

Expanded Overview 

We'll take a moment to talk about speedy variations since we have the big overview in front of us. The quickest line of travel under dry conditions between the bottom of the Chockstone Chimney and the Central Rib's Bench is open to debate. While attempting a fastest known round-trip time (FKT) on the Grand Teton, Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg used the Eye of the Needle variation during their descent and they took the Runners' Slab near the bottom of the Chockstone Chimney. Others use the Briggs' Slab.

Emelie & Kilian on her FKT in 2012 (Chockstone Chimney)

We find it's quicker for us to climb the lower chimney and skip the Runners' Slab. Everyone is different. FKT runners should consider the Briggs' Slab or an unnamed shortcut. The difference between the fastest round-trip time on the Grand and the 2nd fastest time is about one minute....a meaningless difference unless you're going for the record books. Seconds add up. Emelie's round-trip time was 3 hours and 51 minutes. Kilian was almost an hour faster the following day. Kilian's time was beaten by about 1 minute within 10 days.
The Fastest Two Runners (2012)
Andy Anderson, 2h53m02s, August 22, 2012
(1:48:02 up, 1:05:00 down)
Kilian Jornet, 2h54m01s, August 12, 2012
~ Trailhead to Summit and back ~
Another Overview
(Click to Enlarge)
There is an unmarked shortcut in the above image. We won't highlight it 'cause it's in a rockfall zone.

(Click to Enlarge)

Area by Mini Black Dike

Again, after scrambling up the main drainage a short distance, you scramble up a small side 'drainage' containing the Mini Black Dike. Leave the Mini Black Dike area and scramble back toward the Chockstone Chimney when easy to do so. The Briggs' Slab is at the south end of the bench's headwall. It sits right above the Chockstone Chimney. On the slab's other side is the Cracks of Doom variation.

Since we have the above image in front of you, let's take a look at some variations that are less common. We will get back to the Briggs' Slab in a second:

There is an approach to the Briggs' Slab that runs between the Mini Black Dike and the Chockstone Chimney (see "option under poor conditions" above). It is rarely used but it's sometimes easier to manage when other routes are iced up. It should probably be avoided on a descent unless you have made the ascent because route finding at the very bottom is not obvious. You exit to the north after taking the easiest line of travel down the slope. If it looks difficult, you're in the wrong place (the bottom access is a little funky). Like the Chockstone Chimney, this variation has a nice collection of loose rocks.  
The Cracks of Doom variation is a viable alternative for the capable novice climber. There are several lines on the face which vary in difficulty. Most people use the large taco-shaped opening. The Briggs' Slab is usually faster but conditions on the slab may force you to choose another variation. And the slab may be busy with guided climbers. Downclimbing the cracks seems as easy as going up them especially if you know the line you're on.

The Mini Black Dike runs directly to the Sack o' Potatoes variation. Climbing from the top end of the Mini Black Dike is not the easiest line of attack in the Sack o' Potatoes but it seems to get the most action. The easier option might be found to the north of the Mini Black Dike along a high line. Again, the Briggs' Slab is usually faster for the average climber. Notice the lose rocks as you gain the bench.

A look at the Middle Ledge

The Middle Ledge of the Chockstone Chimney can be used to reach the Eye of the Needle. It allows you to bypass the lower chimney. There are two common ways to reach the Middle Ledge. You can downclimb a short chute right below the Briggs' Slab to gain the Middle Ledge or you can gain the Middle Ledge from an easier path further west as seen above (by the black rock - take easiest traverse).

If we are with other climbers who need protection under dry conditions, say with Boy Scouts, we would use the Briggs' Slab and rope them up. The Middle Ledge is often our choice for climbers who need an easy line of ascent but don't need a rope.

Let's finish looking at the Briggs' Slab:

 The Briggs' Slab is named after Bill Briggs

We just walk around the outside edges of the Briggs' Slab (like the climber shown above) but it helps to have good leg & arm reach as you leave the slab if you follow us. You need to reach across a small exposed gap. There are perfectly fine small holds if you don't have the leg reach but novice climbers are usually hesitant to use them.

With sticky shoes, it's pretty easy to ascend any line on the slab. Inexperienced climbers may feel more comfortable with the safety that a rope affords while on the slab. Guides often use a friction belay over rock to quickly move clients over the slab. The other climber in the photo is next to the Belly Roll Almost. He took the Eye of the Needle variation.
It is possible to use the Chockstone Chimney to access the Briggs' Slab from the south. Using the chimney to access the slab usually defeats the purpose of using the slab. But, it can be a more direct line of travel to reach the bench, or a better option under certain conditions.

If the slab looks uninviting, you could use the Middle Ledge of the Chockstone Chimney.

Overview of variations above the Chockstone Chimney.
Click to enlarge.
 Let's take a look at the Central Rib's Bench now that we have examined how to access it:


Once past the Briggs' Slab, Owen-Spalding climbers are heading for the Upper Saddle via the Central Rib's Bench (utilizing one of the red variations, usually). The area just above the Briggs' Slab is a scramble so don't worry about taking an exact line. It is wise to choose a path that provides some protection from rockfall. That path can change when other climbers are above you. 
Climbers are often getting pretty whipped at this point if they are on a one-day ascent and not used to the effort. And the effects of the elevation can really start to overcome the unacclimated.

Just another look at the area. Red dots just show overall direction.

Notice the two variations above: the Black Rock Chimney and the Upper Western Rib. Usually, you will take one of those. The fastest one is usually the Black Rock Chimney or its Rosenberg Variation. It's pretty close timewise on an ascent (seconds not minutes). On a descent, the UWR might be faster. The guides sometimes refer to the Upper Western Rib as the Mosh Pit.

Variations that are usually avoided by all climbers:
As we mentioned before, the drainages by the Upper Western Rib are usually avoided due to conditions, rockfall hazards, or the extra time involved.

Let's get back to the common route options:

Overview of the lower half of the Central Rib

The RED arrows are travel lines for climbers headed for the Upper Exum Ridge, not Owen-Spalding climbers. 
Scramble anywhere that's safe. We like to take a higher route on our way to the Upper Saddle. That keeps us above the drainage where rocks tend to roll. We prefer to use the Central Rib's Black Rock Chimney variation to reach the Upper Saddle but many climbers and guides use the Upper Western Rib variation. We will look at both options. You may see scrappy footpaths between here and the Upper Saddle. Some are useful, some not so much. 

Let's take a look at the Upper Western Rib variation first. We will examine the Black Rock Chimney variation afterward.

The Upper Western Rib Variation

Another overview from higher up the UWR - looking SSE

Directly west of the Black Rock Chimney's access point is where climbers access the Upper Western Rib. The UWR is a natural line to follow so most climbers choose it. You may see climbers heading up the drainage. Most won't be hit by rockfall, and most won't cause rockfall, but for everyone's safety this is strongly discouraged. If everything is filled in with snow, go wherever you want.

Upper Western Rib Variation - Stay out of the drainage due to rockfall hazards.

Main drainage with snow

Climbers have taken slides to their death due to the tricky snow conditions. On this day, pictured above, we ended up taking a line on the western aspect of the Central Rib. We climbed near the middle of the left side of the photo. This area completely drys out as the summer rolls along.

In June of 1992, a climber lost control near the top of the Owen-Spalding Couloir. He went over some rock bands and ended up on the snow about 100 feet above the Black Dike with bilateral wrist fractures, a right side pneumothorax, and fractures of T-8, T-12 and C4-7 vertebrae. A helmet probably saved his life.

Western aspect of the Central Rib

UWR: Upper Western Rib
EOTN: Eye of the Needle

The red dots seen above show parts of the traveled path used by climbers taking the Black Rock Chimney variation. We'll look at that route in a moment. 
Jackson Hole Mountain Guide Thomas Raymer was guiding Robert Slater down the mountain from the Upper Saddle in fresh snow when Slater's pack caught on a rock and they both fell 200 feet. Slater suffered minor injuries but Raymer was seriously injured and was carried out the following day. Raymer had a broken femur & talus, and severe scalp lacerations with part of the skull exposed.

Overview of the upper Central Rib - looking SE. Marked path is general direction of travel.

After ascending the Upper Western Rib, head back to the Central Rib once it is easy to do so. You'll end up on the same path as climbers taking the Black Rock Chimney. Sometimes you will find a well worn path with summer traffic. Winter snow and runoff can rearrange everything come springtime so it might take some time before a well worn path reappears. There are many paths in this area. Be careful not to kick loose rocks down the mountain as you cross the main drainage. 

The Black Rock Chimney Variation

Let's go back down the Central Rib and take a look at the Black Rock Chimney variation.
BRC & Rosenberg Variation (many options)

On June 17, 2013, Grand Teton National Park rangers rescued 57-year-old climbing guide Jim Williams after the snow that he was standing on near the Black Rock Chimney collapsed and he took a short fall, catching a crampon on the ice and sustaining an injury.

The Central Rib's Black Rock Chimney variations.

The Black Rock Chimney variation starts right next to the slab. The Rosenberg Variation is just to its west. It's a more direct line toward the crest of the Central Rib. And it's more of a climb up a rock face than chimney. It ends at the top of the Black Rock Chimney.
You can also wrap around the entire area on an elevated path that stays just above the drainage and then scrambles back toward the Central Rib's crest once north of the Rosenberg Variation (see below - it's unmarked). All three options have been guided routes. We prefer the BRC because of its elevated path but that safety margin is minor given the loose rock in the main chute (chimney) that follows the ridge.
The Black Rock Chimney variation which runs above the steppy ramp has experienced erosion and contains some loose rocks which present a hazard to climbers. Most climbers can recognize and manage the hazards but new climbers might be caught off guard. We stay along the western side of the chimney if we use it. 
The Black Rock Chimney variation was considered for removal as a guided option by Exum Mountain Guides in 2022 due to the loose rock. Exercise care. Both variations top out at a bowl-like opening in the rib that has a drainage running toward the Wall Street Couloir. The main guided variations are the Rosenberg and the Upper Western Rib but guides make calls on the fly as to what variation to use at any given time.
The "ramp" in the above photos is shown below.....

Climbers on the BRC's Steppy Ramp

Once above the Steppy Ramp, you're in the 'chimney' and it runs just under the western aspect of the ridgeline (see below). This is very easy climbing when dry. Again, watch out for loose rocks. Climb the chimney to an open 'bowl', pass through the bowl and continue up the Central Rib's western aspect.

If you're heading for the Steppy Ramp on the descent, go all the way down the BRC until the ridgeline opens up and you are suddenly on the eastern aspect of the ridgeline. The Steppy Ramp is right at that demarcation or transition point. From there, you are forced to take the eastern aspect of the ridge or the ramp to the west. Take the ramp to the west. See below.

Stay along the western aspect of the Central Rib

If you did miss the exit to the Steppy Ramp during the descent and you end up on the eastern aspect, you'll find some slow-moving climbing over some slabs and ledges compared to the ramp. You can regain the Central Rib's Bench further down the rib by using the crossovers that Upper Exum Climbers use. We pointed them out previously. Again, we don't recommend going that way.

The yellow and green arrows are just two options right above the ramp. For young kids, the Yellow line might be easier to manage. Just depends. The arrows point down only to illustrate the exit to the ramp during a descent.

Climbers heading down the BRC toward the Steppy Ramp.

 BRC along the western aspect of the Central Rib's ridgeline

This is where the loose rocks are. The more stable rock is along the chimney's western side. It's obvious when you're there. Actually, watch your step no matter where you are in this chimney.

The upper bowl-like exit from the BRC - looking SSE

Cross this short bowl-like opening in the Central Rib. Do not take the drainage to the Wall Street Couloir shown above. It's not a time-saving shortcut. It could be a tricky descent for a novice climber. Certainly not quick. Additionally, the Wall Street Couloir is not a shortcut off the mountain — it's a little  cliffy, it's a rockfall terrain trap, etc (climbable for some but has no advantages for free-soloing climbers). 
The Rosenberg variation tops out at the same location as the BRC: to this bowl. And it is immediately to your right or west during a downclimb once you leave the lower bowl.

FYI: If you are doing laps on the Upper Exum — and who isn't? — you can take the Wall Street Couloir from the Upper Saddle to reach Wall Street. From an area near the top of the Central Rib, we usually head for the eastern half of the Wall Street Couloir if we choose to go down it. Going up or down the Wall Street Couloir is not recommended for anybody who doesn't need to be there. People do head up and down it all the time. Usually by accident. It is just a slope of rocks. Two well-established but seldom climbed routes are on the west face of the ridge directly above the couloir including one of the hardest on the Grand.

Another overview of the Central Rib

The bowl-like opening at the top of the Black Rock Chimney is between the pink and yellow arrowheads in the above image. It's slightly hidden. Again, the bowl drains to the Wall Street Couloir. Simply scramble across the bowl and continue along the western side of the Central Rib.

You may see sloppy & broken footpaths after exiting the top of the bowl. Those footpaths parallel the rib. Some footpaths are too sloppy for us and we just scramble up the rock. It is best to stay very close to the Central Rib and out of the main drainage.

A view from the Central Rib's Patio

The Patio is a natural flat area at the top of the Central Rib where guides often take a break. The wind tends to blow and the temps seem to drop as you gain the Upper Saddle so the patio is a good place to add an extra layer and take a break. From the Patio you can go slightly northeast and look for a broken footpath to reach the western side of the Upper Saddle. There is no best path when it's dry. They are all pretty easy.

When unconsolidated snow covers foot traps (fall season, often), the best path to the saddle can be difficult to navigate if you don't know the area well. The slightly eastern approach from the Patio seems safest under sketchy conditions; however, a higher and slightly western route from the Patio can be safely navigated if you really take the time to check your footing. There is no guarantee that you won't run into a foot trap on the eastern approach but the odds seem lower.

 Upper Saddle - looking west

This picture is from April or May. The snow was really firm but punchy. The top of the Central Rib is where the footprints disappear on the left side of the image. Clearly, the Upper Saddle's western side is much lower than its eastern side. If the photographer were to turn around while ascending the Upper Saddle, he might see the view in the next image.

Variations to access the eastern side of the Upper Saddle.

The exposed southern RED route was the most common ascent line but not necessarily the best. On that variation, there's a stem move up a rock feature that challenges many climbers—many climbers. Almost no one ropes up here but it may be wise to provide a leg up to weaker climbers and spot them. Or use a rope. You might find a stepping stone below the stem move to help climbers get over the obstacle. Some very loose dirt and rocks are found by the stem move. Move with great care. All the other lines can also be used for an ascent.

An experienced and guided climber fell into the Exum Gully which runs directly below the RED route. She did not survive. She most likely slipped on the loose rocks but no one really knows. She was not roped up. It does illustrate once again that you have to make every move with thought and care, no matter how simple you feel a move is, even while walking.

 Close-up view of access to the eastern side of the Upper Saddle

Free-soloing climbers can take whatever route suits their fancy.
In this photo, the center BLUE route is very useful when conditions make the other options too sketchy (unstable snow, icing, etc). It has small holds and may make a novice climber uncomfortable without protection/spotting just like every other option here.

The GREEN route sees more descents than ascents. However, we find that novice climbers would rather climb up it than down. Many feel it is the easiest ascent line. If it looks easy to ascend, take it. The biggest issue with this line is its exposure to the north and the awkwardness of a descent for novice climbers. Some guides take climbers up and down the GREEN line. Easy to hip belay if needed. This is the fastest option. Kids may be better served by a roped ascent/descent of the GREEN line.
A 4th variation runs above the red route. It has you climbing along a seam on the south-facing wall by the stem move over the flake. It is almost never used. Just overlooked, and looks harder.

 Looking back down at the red variation to access the eastern side of the Upper Saddle


Take your time and be thoughtful about your movements as you climb. Inexperienced climbers tend to be extremely cautious but they don't always recognize hazards and they may not take enough time to assess the best move and body position in any given location. If it doesn't feel or look right, back off and reconsider your options. 
Watch out for loose holds that seem secure until your full weight is upon them. Most of the holds on the OS are very stable solid holds but never assume they are.

Verglas is a very thin layer of ice which can appear as dry rock. You need to be looking for it — everywhere. We have seen several climbers take slips on verglas while walking on ledges. They let down their guard because they're walking on a ledge and not 'climbing'. Same thing happens while walking on loose rocks.

You are not safe if your mind isn't thinking about safety constantly. The mental exercise of figuring out how to safely and efficiently move over rock is part of the fun of climbing. Embrace it. There is no reason to hurry up and get hurt. Take the time to be safe. Tired climbers are rarely vigilant. Making calculated safety choices with every move is time consuming, sometimes mentally draining, but very necessary. Climbers need to take corrective action to stay safe. Even the best climbers can let down their guard for just a second at the wrong place or wrong time. Ropes are popular for many reasons and this is one of  'em.

Overview of the Upper Saddle as seen from the Enclosure

Almost without exception, free-soloing climbers on the Owen-Spalding do not use the rappel or carry ropes. It is almost always quicker to downclimb the OS route for them than to use the rap. Free-soloing climbers might carry a rope under adverse conditions or while exploring new areas. Some will catch a ride on another person's rope.
Dick Pownall was the first to use the rappel area. He started climbing and guiding in the Tetons during the late 1940s. And he finished in 2002, at the age of 75. According to Tom Hornbein, he toyed with the idea of another climb when he turned 90. 

 Main Rappel area, & access to Secondary 70' Rap

The Main Rappel to the Upper Saddle is also know as the Owen Rappel.

As seen above, the Main Rappel has a maintained sling and bolted rings. The bolted rings are a short distance north of the sling. The sling is sometimes threaded inside a cut section of fire hose to protect it. The tag on the bolted rings is stamped 40m - the longest fall line. As you can see below, the Upper Saddle's landing zone slopes downhill. The landing zone (LZ) below the sling sits higher than the landing zone below the bolted rings. Most climbers get by with a dynamic 60m rope thrown a little to the south. Make sure your rope is truly 60m and dynamic (not every climber has a handle on that).
Just after leaving sight of the rappel setups, it's possible to land on a nice ledge (on the south side) that can be used to adjust your position and check your rope.
A Secondary Rappel area is just above and south of the main rappel area. It is broken into two sections. The secondary rappel can be reached from the Main Rappel's sling by climbing up a very short chimney directly above the sling. Head south immediately after exiting the short chimney slot. You can also reach this rap area from the Base of Sargent's Chimney (careful, rockfall hazards). The upper station of the 2-setup rap is often a mess of old webbing. The first setup isn't a 70' drop. The distance between the two stations might be 70 feet but the drop to the upper landing zone is pretty short. You can downclimb a tight, slanting chimney and avoid the first setup if you wish. The second setup is a 70 foot drop. Watch for loose rocks.
The secondary rappel is a funky area to rap from and rarely used. Most climbers either don't know about the secondary rap area or choose not to use it. It is useful if the Main Rappel is backed up with climbers. There have been 2-hour delays at the main rappel (like on a hot Labor Day weekend with perfect conditions during a pandemic).  BTW, you might be able to rap from the Main Rap's sling to the 2nd setup of the secondary rappel if that strikes your interest. Take a good look, first.

Main Rappel Area

Again, the topmost setup of the secondary rappel can be avoided if you can downclimb a tight slanting chimney. We find it easy to downclimb.

From the Upper Saddle it's about 600' to the summit. Only a small fraction of that is Class 5.4 climbing when dry. That class rating can be thrown in the trash under poor conditions. It won't represent the real challenge.

The Owen-Spalding Route (the OS) - Click to Enlarge (rt-click to open in new tab).

 Climbers at the Belly Roll (far left side)

The exposed Belly Roll is at the very NE corner of the Upper Saddle

This area can be windy, freezing, and backed up with climbers. Waiting makes the cold worse. While it's not always freezing and clogged with climbers, you should be prepared for that possibility. Most free-soloers can safely pass other climbers but it's good etiquette to make sure those climbers are comfortable with the idea, and that those climbers don't put your safety at risk, or vice versa. And remember to avoid stepping on another climber's rope.

People have bailed because they didn't have gloves on during the peak summer season. The climbing rangers have rescued climbers who lost dexterity and grip strength due to low temperatures. We don't use full-fingered gloves in high-consequence areas that require critical contact with the rock but we do take gloves and sometimes hand warmers (life savers!) when we expect temperatures below 40°F. Thin gloves are better than no gloves if it's cold.
While 40°F isn't very cold to us, the wind can make 40°F feel miserable with light layers. The 11,600' Lower Saddle weather station should give you a feel for the temperatures at the summit. Try subtracting 12 degrees for the worst-case temperature difference (wind chill not calculated). A warm day at the valley floor does not mean it will be a warm morning on the Grand. If it's 90° in the afternoon in Jackson, the Grand will probably reach the high 50s or 60s at some point. Temperatures above 90° are pretty rare in Grand Teton National Park.

The Owen-Spalding's exposed Belly Roll, Crawl, & Double Chimney

Another overview of the exposed areas

Plenty of climbers turn back at the exposure. We never question that decision nor do we encourage anyone to continue if they make that call. It is a psychological challenge for many.

If you make it this far and decide to bail because of conditions or the challenge then you might want to consider tackling the Enclosure which is the second highest point in the Teton Range. The Enclosure is a western spur off the Upper Saddle. There is a very small Native American rock formation on its summit and it has outstanding views of the Teton Range. Our understanding of the rock formation is that it was 'rebuilt' by white folks at some point and may not resemble what was left by Native Americans. You can also watch climbers on the western aspect of the Grand Teton from the Enclosure.
To get to the Enclosure from the top of the Central Rib (near the Patio), head northish and scramble along the easiest path to reach the top of the Enclosure. The scramble is harder than it looks but it shouldn't take more than 15 to 20 minutes when conditions are good. Here is a photo of the scramble.

Variations that are not for novice climbers:

Between the Great West Chimney and the Double Chimney is the Double Chimney Bypass. A ledge runs from the Double Chimney over to the Great West Chimney. Along that ledge, there is a small wall that you need to climb. It's a little tricky without sticky shoes. You will end up at the bottom of the Owen Chimney if you use the bypass (another look). There is no advantage to taking this variation and it can be outright sketchy to descend if you don't know the easiest route. It is simply a variation for bored climbers or a variation to avoid a crowded Double Chimney. The bypass can get slimy in spots with the right weather. Climbers coming off the North Ridge sometimes use the Double Chimney Bypass and head for the Owen Chimney. Others just head for the Double Chimney.

The Great West Chimney is almost always a chute of poor conditions during the summer but sometimes it's a viable way of bypassing the Double Chimney, the Owen Chimney, and/or Sargent's. Variations along the sides of the GWC are also available. Again, these variations are not recommend for novice climbers. It takes just a minute or so to check out the GWC from the Second Entrance of the Double Chimney should you wish to do so. 

The Wittich Crack (video & first ascent) is rated a 5.6 (CGTTTR) to 5.7 (MP). It's not uncommon to run into poorer conditions near the top of the Wittich after a cold wet spell because it's well shaded. However, it's not part of a major drainage area like the First Entrance of the Double Chimney. It is a variation for stronger climbers who don't want to wait behind OS climbers. The crux is the exit from the top (climb left). 

 The Wittich, Great West Chimney, DC Bypass, etc

Let's get back to our standard route options....

 OS's Exposure

The above video takes a look at the Owen-Spalding's exposure between the Belly Roll and the 2nd Entrance of the Double Chimney. It's redundant with multiple members of a local coed soccer team making similar moves; however, it gives you a good feel for what to expect. Most of the soccer players were not climbers and had no prior climbing experience. With modest effort, you will find better videos on YouTube. 

Belly Roll - going over it

Belly Roll - Going over it

Albert Ellingwood atop the Belly Roll (Bellyroll in those days)

Belly Roll - going part-way under it

Another climber, maybe 11 or 12-years-old, riding the bottom of the Belly Roll but above the lower ledge

Belly Roll - going totally under it

Belly Roll - view from above

 Belly Roll - ascent

Video of two climbers going under the Belly Roll

We tend to go under the Belly Roll during the descent and over it on the ascent but you can take either variation in either direction. If we are passing other climbers, we use whatever line is out of their way. There is a nice ledge directly below the Belly Roll. The ledge is tiny at its southern end.

In the video above, the first climber jumps off the southern end which isn't the wisest move to emulate. Had he landed on a small patch of ice, or lost his balance, he could have sailed over the cliff. Once he let go of his handhold, only his feet were keeping him on the mountain. You can gently step off the end if you are tall. Obviously, taller climbers have greater flexibility in their choices since their reach is longer. The shorter climber climbs over the lip of the cleavage once he passes the Belly Roll. That was a wise decision for him.

The ledge between the Belly Roll and the Crawl. Upper Saddle in background

Looking toward the Crawl from the ledge.

The Crawl with access to the Double Chimney in background - descent

Go outside, inside, or partly outside & inside the Crawl.

 Glenn Exum with partner in the Crawl

Glenn is below the First Entrance of the Double Chimney and he has one foot on the ledge variation used to access the 2nd Entrance of the DC.

 Entering the Crawl

The Crawl - descent

Crawl - descent

The area right behind the climbers and in front of the photographer can be sketchy. Loose rocks, snow, water and ice are common at this location. Additionally, the rock face is sloping into Valhalla Canyon. Be careful as you leave the Crawl — see below....

Area between 1st Entrance & Crawl

This picture will give you a feel for what's underneath you if snowy conditions hide features. Unstable snow can slide off the slope and take you with it (see below, too). Stay close to the wall. FYI: There is an old piton on the wall above you as you come out of the Crawl. A few small handholds are along the wall.

Snow had a very unstable 'cornice' over the exposure

View from the 2nd Entrance of the Double Chimney - looking back toward the Crawl

Looking at the variations to access the Double Chimney

The two climbers in the background by the 2nd Entrance just came off the North Ridge and are about to enter the 2nd Entrance.

You have a couple of variations to choose from to gain the interior of the Double Chimney. Obviously, this area is very exposed and it is critical to perform thoughtful climbing moves.

1) The 1st Entrance is a challenging but short climb up an exposed nook that sees plenty of action. It is the crux of the entire climb if everything else is dry. As late as the 1960s, climbers were encourage to climb on the shoulders of other climbers to ascend the 1st Entrance. We will suggest using the 2nd Entrance with weaker climbers or to prevent delays if others are behind you. If climbers are backed up by the 2nd Entrance, the 1st Entrance is suggested instead of tangling with ropes and climbers.

2) The 2nd Entrance is considered to be the fastest and easiest variation. It is the most popular variation. Almost all free-soloing climbers use it under good conditions. It can be reached in two ways from the 1st Entrance. 

     Hand-Crack Traverse: Your handholds are along the obvious cleavage above the sloping rock. Your feet are on the sloping rock. Some footholds are low on the slope, some high. Good handholds are critical. The footholds are small and some might be more frictiony than you're expecting. The crux is the last move off the cleavage as you gain the interior of the 2nd Entrance. With sticky shoes it's all pretty easy when dry but it demands attention. Non-climbers may feel that "challenging" is the right word to use and not "easy". Just depends.

     Lower Ledge: This option runs directly below the one above. From the 1st Entrance, you can downclimb to a narrow ledge that runs toward the 2nd Entrance. Directly below the 2nd Entrance you will find some small holds on the wall in front of you (and on the wall to your left). Those small holds may feel like so-so holds if you're a novice climber. Every climber has personal preferences so we don't recommend one over the other. Conditions may favor one over the other. Non-climbers should not be on the mountain under mixed conditions.

On the downclimb, it is usually harder (psychologically & physically) for novice climbers to safely downclimb out of the 2nd Entrance and gain the lower ledge. Some will. Almost all free-soloing climbers use the hand-in-crack traverse on the descent. About the only time we directly downclimb from the 2nd Entrance to the lower ledge is if we are about to spot another climber or conditions require it. 

Let's look at the variations in more detail.

1st Entrance of the Double Chimney

The above guide is grabbing a horn and muscling her way over it with some stemming behind her. There is a small depression near her rear foot to use for leverage. Many climbers give this entrance a rating higher than 5.4. Others feel the entire route has a 5.4 rating only because of the 1st Entrance. Climbing grades are easily debated. Sticky climbing shoes make it easier, as does practice, but it's still a cruxy, exposed maneuver for many OS climbers. The area is often wet or icy.  
We favor stemming with our body facing northish if the south wall is wet or dry (opposing direction of the woman). We are also much taller than the climber shown here and our body favors certain positions over others. Also, our shoes stick better to the northish wall than the steep southish wall. Everyone is different.
Variations that are not usually taken by novice climbers:

There is a variation directly above the horn at the 1st Entrance (directly above this climber's right arm). It runs up a tiny chimney/drainage. It can be used to access a ledge that runs along the top of the Double Chimney's Open-V variation (discussed further below). It is a good way to bypass slow climbers if this variation is dry. It can also be used as a variation to access the Catwalk. It's fairly easy; however, it can be dangerously wet, icy, or slimy because it is a drainage for water flowing off the Catwalk. In our experience, novice climbers find it too intimidating. Downclimbing that variation is even more unsettling for many. It's got exposure with holds that look suspect above a drop to your death.
Let's get back to the 1st Entrance....

1st Entrance seen from above 

Too many climbers are backed up at the 1st Entrance in the above image. Half of 'em could have used to 2nd Entrance to speed things along. On the Owen-Spalding route it is important to keep things moving if others are behind you. If a good variation presents itself, please consider taking it.
We use the 1st Entrance when ice or snow covers the entire area (assuming it makes accessing the 2nd Entrance a questionable move). Downclimbing the 1st Entrance isn't common but it's a good option under some circumstances such as poor conditions or bottlenecks by 2nd Entrance. We lower ourselves from the horn - it's pretty quick. We're tall. 
Albert Ellingwood on top
Let's get back to our 2nd Entrance route options.... 

Again, do not go past the 2nd Entrance and toward the Great West Chimney unless you intend to go off-route (DC Bypass, etc). The narrow ledge that runs to the Great West Chimney from the 2nd Entrance is along the same cleavage as the Crawl, etc. The two Double Chimney entrances are about 15 feet apart.

Climber heading for the 2nd Entrance using the hand-in-crack traverse

Who needs footholds?

Climber using the lower ledge to access the DC's 2nd Entrance

The climber is directly below the 2nd Entrance. The Great West Chimney can be seen along the left side of the photo. It's the REALLY BIG chimney. Again, that's not the OS route. The Wittich Crack is on the right side of the photo. Access to the Double Chimney Bypass is seen.

 Valhalla Canyon - looking southish

Bodies have ended up at the bottom-most snow field in Valhalla Canyon after falling from the OS's exposure and rappel. This is the view from the north side (Cascade Canyon side) of the Grand.

FYI: The approach up Valhalla Canyon toward the Grand Teton is indeed used by a few climbers (not OS climbers). It includes crossing a sometimes-roaring Cascade Creek. Climbers who wish to access this side of the Grand usually take the Valhalla Traverse from the Lower Saddle. They avoid the Cascade Canyon approach.

 Lower ledge - heading for the 2nd Entrance

 Not the most common belay location for the 2nd Entrance but it gets used.
Under this situation this we would ascend the 1st Entrance. It can be safety hazard if everyone is clustered together in a spot like this over the exposure. No reason to add a soloing climber. Belaying here is not an ideal spot but stuff happens. A soloing climber could just wait for the climbers to move into a safer location and pass them at that point; however, that could take more time than expected. A few soloing climbers are only 15 minutes from the summit at this point.

Climber using the lower ledge to access the DC's 2nd Entrance

The free-soloing climber is in the same location as the climber in the previous picture. He is above Valhalla Canyon (unseen below) / Black Ice Couloir (far right). Just a quick aside to say that climbers can be below you anywhere on the Grand. That includes below the climber shown here. Be mindful about rockfall.

Gaining the 2nd Entrance

This climber is just above the location of the climber in the previous image. He used the hand-in-crack traverse instead of the lower ledge to access the interior of the Double Chimney at the 2nd Entrance. This move into the chimney is a critical move. The footholds are frictiony and you have to find a good handhold to pull yourself inside while on those modest footholds. On a descent, most climbers place their hands on the cleavage (running under his lower hand) and use their handholds to lower themselves to the first good foothold. If they have sticky shoes, it inspires more confidence. It is not a place to screw up.

 Access to 2nd Entrance from lower ledge

As with many locations, it helps to be tall but shorter climbers do fine.

In the short video below, the climber takes a slip as he tries to enter the 2nd Entrance of the Double Chimney. This is a common area for minor slips as the footholds are more friction than bomb-proof step. He recovers and goes on to make some GT climbing history. Climbers have fallen to their death around this area. One involved a lightning strike and another involved a novice free-soloing climber who was climbing under adverse conditions. He was alone and his exact location & the exact cause of his fall is unknown. There have been others.

A big slip that didn't slow him down.

View from the 2nd Entrance toward the middle of the Double Chimney

The climbers are near the middle of the chimney and waiting to enter the Open-V. It not uncommon to find climbers waiting here on a busy day. The 1st Entrance of the Double Chimney tops out by the climber looking at the photographer.

 Looking back at variations mid-way in the Double Chimney. 

We will look at several variations to move around the Double Chimney:

The crack along the southwest corner of the Open-V ends on a nice ledge. Just walk off to the east above the Open-V.

The Double Chimney's Open-V. Tunnel variation below.

This free-soloing climber is descending the Open-V variation inside the Double Chimney. He is about to exit the western side of the Open-V. This is harder than it looks. Novice climbers regularly use the Open-V but it can be a challenge for them to enter and exit gracefully. The Tunnel variation is considered easier by most novice climbers. Take your time and consider the best variation for you. Stem moves are very popular in the interior of the DC.

Access to the Northern Slot variation - two free-soloing climbers

The Double Chimney's North Slot is often gained from further inside the Open-V. The above climber is tall and has an easier time ascending the flake's western edge without fully entering the Open-V. Going further inside the Open-V before accessing the slot is less intimidating to novice climbers, and sometimes safer. This is just one way to navigate around the Open-V; and again, just one of many variations inside the DC.

 Stemming to move in or out of the Open-V is common.

Heading up the North Slot

 North Slot

This climber was actually descending the chimney. We reversed the order of the above images. Most climbers don't descend the Northern Slot in this manner. He did a nice job quickly.
While it's a little tricky for novice climbers to exit & enter the Open-V, it's even trickier when it's icy. This area can be VERY SKETCHY with any slick snow or ice, even a little bit. The slightly polished rock is sloping right below the entrances to the Open-'V' and Tunnel variations. If you slip on any slick surface, you could easily slide out of the chimney and into Valhalla Canyon. There are no monkey-bar handholds where you really need them. It demands your attention.

Jackson Hole Mountain Guide Allan Bard (44), who was also a highly respected & experienced guide of the Palisades School of Mountaineering in Bishop, California, died after slipping on ice and falling 130 feet on a rope while leading the Double Chimney.

Taking a break at the entrance to the Open-V

North Slot directly below photographer. Rope in Tunnel. Open-V at top of image.

 Open-V variations

The red line is a typical line of travel for those who use the Open-V variation. You can exit anywhere along the line. The "Most Difficult" exit usually involves stemming the walls but it can be climbed more directly.

The Tunnel is usually considered the easy way when it's dry. If you take the "most common" exit out of the DC (labeled above), you will climb up the following rock face:

Ascend this short rock face to completely leave the DC (see next image, too)

This exit area is also sketchy with ice. It is usually pretty easy to shatter thin ice with a rock, screwdriver, crampon, axe, etc if you need to clean a hold. We think the holds on the left side are better than the more direct line by the rope. Both lines work fine under dry conditions. The rope is coming out of the Tunnel variation. 

The woman is exiting the DC. The man is at the bottom of the Owen Chimney.

The slabs above the Double Chimney run to the bottom of the Owen Chimney. Small loose rocks are around here and it's easy for ice to build up. The Owen Chimney runs slightly sideways to the southeast so you can't see into its interior as you exit the Double Chimney.

Let's go back and look at the Tunnel variation.

Downclimbing the tunnel variation.

The free-soloing climber is exiting the lower part of the tunnel (she went up the Upper Exum Route). The DC's tunnel variation is a tight fit with a backpack. The photo makes it look like you can easily stand upright but that is not the case. You're on your hands and knees. When dry, it is a very popular variation. 

This is where you pop out of the tunnel on the ascent.

Can you climb out of this? Many people have trouble figuring out the best way to exit. Take your time. Back off a line if it doesn't feel quite right and reconsider your options. Kids are usually pretty good at it. We think the tunnel is the best line for them when dry.

We usually stem on opposing or adjacent walls but sometimes we climb a corner if we take the tunnel. Many ways to climb out.

Climber just above the tunnel - looking northish

He will exit the Double Chimney to his right. The photographer is on a ledge just south of the Open-V.

The common exit from the DC - looking WNW

The slabs by the climber have decent but modest handholds when dry. They work fine. With any snow or ice, those holds quickly become plugged. On the right side of the image (climber's left side) is a line with slightly better holds. That northern variation might be easier to navigate under difficult conditions, or easier to clean. It is also easier to see your footholds during a descent as you transition into the Double Chimney if you're on that line. The slabs above the Double Chimney can be very slick when wet.

Again, some small loose rocks can be found between the Double Chimney and the Owen Chimney. Those are slip hazards.

 Base of Owen Chimney

This is the view from the exit of the Double Chimney. You can head toward the Catwalk or the Owen Chimney. The complete Owen Chimney is not very difficult when dry but it is more challenging than the Catwalk which is mostly a scramble.

You can reach the 125 foot Catwalk variation from the first opening in the Owen Chimney (Green dots), or via the more direct line (Yellow dots) right out of the Double Chimney. Choose the path that is best for you given the conditions. They are similar in difficulty when dry.  
Both the Catwalk and the Owen Chimney are suitable for novice climbers when dry. The Catwalk is the preferred descent route for most free-soloing climbers, and for all free-soloing FKT runners. FKT runners who are strong climbers should consider the Owen Chimney during an ascent if it is dry and empty. Under mixed conditions, the Owen Chimney is sometimes a better variation than the Catwalk. Just depends.

Variations that are not usually taken by novice climbers:

A Northern Variation: Notice the crack & chimney variation on the left side of the photo & left of the Owen Chimney. It's not marked in the photo. It tops out on the same ledge as the Owen Chimney. It is a harder variation but it's a nice way to bypass climbers or just get a change of pace. The chimney section can also be accessed from just above the first 'opening' in the Owen Chimney. That alternative access point lets you bypass the lower crack.

Overview of the Catwalk & Owen Chimney Bypass (part crackish , part chimney), etc

We will look at the southern Owen Chimney Bypass variation in just a bit. For now, notice that you can access the southern bypass from the first opening in the Owen Chimney. It can also be accessed from the Catwalk (see below). The bypass is a mixed bag of climbing: part crack, chimney, corner, slab etc.
Let's get back to our standard route options.... 

Base of Owen Chimney

Again, you can access the Catwalk directly from the top of the Double Chimney or from the first opening in the Owen Chimney.

The Catwalk Variation

We'll look at the Catwalk variation first and then go back and look at the Owen Chimney variation. 

 The Owen Chimney - looking WNW

This is the view of the first opening in the Owen Chimney from inside the Owen Chimney. We are looking back toward the Double Chimney. You must go around a tight corner to access the Catwalk from the first opening in the Owen Chimney. "Tight" means it's an exposed passageway where there isn't much freedom to move around. There is an old piton at the corner (by the left-most yellow dot in the photo above - or see below).

 Access to the Catwalk from the Owen Chimney goes around a tight corner

Variations that are not usually for novice climbers:

Access to the southern Owen-Chimney Bypass is shown in the above 2 photos. You're climbing a very short corner in the rock. This corner faces NW and doesn't see much sunshine so it can get icy. The rest of the bypass gets more sun. The bypass may be more difficult for a novice climber than the Catwalk or Owen Chimney.
Besides climbing the short NW-facing corner to get to the sunnier part of the bypass or you can also access the bypass from the Catwalk. You will travel a short distance up the Catwalk and look for the easiest location to gain a small ledge above you. It's at the only location that looks like a reasonably easy section to climb. That ledge that runs back to the bypass.

Let's get back to the regular route variations:

A view from the Catwalk toward the DC

The direct ascent line from the Double Chimney to the Catwalk has good holds when dry. It doesn't feel any harder or easier then the access from the Owen Chimney. For a strong climber, the direct line is faster.

The Catwalk - looking southish. Climber is descending.
Ice is common near the location where the climber is walking. It drains down the wall and over the Catwalk. Even if you think everything is dry, you need to be looking for verglas. If you do find ice, it might be easy to chip a sheet of thin ice off the rock or step over it while using a hold on the wall. Sometimes you can scramble away from the wall to the west and find enough dry patches of rock to pass a difficult section of ice. Not everyone is comfortable moving away from the wall but this is often a good option.

The Catwalk  - looking northish - downclimb

The scramble between the Catwalk & the Main Rap Overlook - looking NNW

Once past the flat Catwalk there is a short scramble toward the Main Rap Overlook. The scramble can be a little intimidating to non-climbers but it's pretty easy climbing/scrambling. With any ice or snow, it can quickly become challenging. Of course, most soloing climbers should not be playing on ice, snow or wet rock.

Climbers sometimes crab craw down the rock during the descent to the Catwalk. You won't recover (YOU WILL DIE) if you lose your balance, slip or trip in this area. So, at the very least stay low and go slow if you're new to this.

Exit off the Catwalk - Looking Eastish

Notice that a small 'drainage' runs between the southern side of Sargent's Chimney & the Main Rap (by the bright green line). That's one trick to finding the Main Rappel if none is around and you took the Owen Chimney up the mountain but plan to rap on the way down.

The Owen Chimney variation

Let's go back and look at the Owen Chimney variation for those who don't want to take the Catwalk.

 Base of Owen Chimney as seen for the top of the Double Chimney

The Owen Chimney can get backed up pretty quickly with a group of climbers — unlike the Catwalk. We strongly recommend the Catwalk if things are going slowly. Or another bypass option. 
The 75 foot Owen Chimney was referred to as the Spalding Chimney in the Bonney's guidebook from the 1960's. A more fitting name in our opinion as he led the first ascent and was the better climber.

The Owen Chimney

Lower Owen Chimney

Another view looking back down at the first opening in the chimney. The bottom of the chimney is at the patch of snow. This chimney will dry out during the summer but ice can form anywhere if temps drop enough after a summer storm. It may take a day or two to clean up, or just a couple hours as temps rise in the morning.
We'll show you this next picture once again of the same area with snow....

The first opening in the chimney

The short wall between the bypass and the chimney is often used to move up the chimney. It's the area between the white dots and cyan-colored dots. For some climbers, the very bottom of the Owen Chimney is easier to downclimb facing out with your hands stemming on the walls. It's hard to tell from this photo but the section of the chimney below the opening in the chimney is about 13 feet or so (guesstimate). It looks like 3 feet in the photo below the bottom-most cyan dot.
The Owen Chimney Bypass is accessed at the NW-facing corner shown in the bottom left of the photo.

The Owen Chimney - nice steppy footholds when dry

There is a short crux in the middle to upper half of the chimney. You'll need to carefully consider your holds. On July 20, 2023, Braydan Duree of Kuna, Idaho died after falling 40 to 50 feet from the Owen Chimney. DuRee was wearing a helmet, using a rope and leading the route when he fell. No word on what caused the fall as of yet.
When icy, it can be a serious challenge. That is not a position most climbers want to be in but stuff happens, or people seek challenges. If it's really iced up, look for critical handholds along the northern wall which usually stays drier than the rest of the chimney. Finding dry footholds will be more tricky. Obviously, crampons come in handy under icy conditions. Please use them. Dry or wet, most climbers stay a little to the right in the bottom half of the chimney. And mostly to the left in the top half. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses so something else might work better for you.
During a descent, free-soloing FKT runners don't want to check the Owen Chimney because it's likely to be in use, or in poorer condition. Checking an unknown option kills time. The Catwalk won't present any delays for most runners when dry. For strong climbers, we consider the chimney to be the quickest option if it's dry and empty. The tradeoff is probably a small margin of safety for a small savings in time.

Owen Chimney - part of the crux

Top of the Owen Chimney

Suddenly see lots of people? No matter their ascent route, just about everybody uses the same descent route which is the upper half of the Owen-Spalding route. You're likely to see many more people above the Owen Chimney or above the Catwalk. Most of those people are headed for the Main Rappel to the Upper Saddle. 

 Main Rap to Summit - the busy area but lots of space

 Base of Sargent's

We are looking north toward the exit from the Owen Chimney. We are at the base of Sargent's Chimney. This ledge system at the base of Sargent's runs between the Great West Chimney and the Exum Ridge.

You can check out the Great West Chimney by walking to the northern end of this ledge. If you need to take a piss, it's usually a good place. There isn't much privacy on this route but there are a few nooks and crannies.

Variations that are not usually taken by novice climbers:

Had you climbed up the Great West Chimney to bypass the DC & OC, you might exit onto this ledge system and gain Sargent's Chimney. There is also a climbing line at the ledge's northern end that allows you to bypass Sargent's. You can see it on this overview of the western aspect. There are too many variations to mention but they are worth exploring if you have the time.

Let's get back to our standard route options.... 

Sargent's Chimney

Again, at the bottom of Sargent's, on the southern side, a small drainage runs to the Main Rap to the Upper Saddle (AKA Owen Rappel).
Sargent's Chimney is named after Jessie Sargent. Her husband, Frank Sargent was of the Governor of Massachusetts from 1969 to 1975. Back in the early 60s, she broke her ankle at the very bottom of the chimney in a freak accident while on a guided climb and had trouble getting off the mountain in a timely manner. Apparently, it was sometimes called the Fissure Chimney before then.

Looking up at Sargent's

Sargent's Chimney fans out at its base. The bottom southern wall of Sargent's points toward the Main Rap. The northern wall points toward the top of the Owen Chimney.

In the above image, the Main Rap is a short distance behind the photographer to his right. Climbers follow a drainage-like depression from Sargent's to the rappel area. The safest route will be obvious when you're there. Be careful with the loose rocks.

Looking back from Sargent's Chimney toward the Owen Chimney

Looking back from Sargent's Chimney toward the Owen Chimney

This ↑ is taken from the same location as the previous picture.

Overview of Sargent's Chimney
From the ledge at the bottom of Sargent's, the easiest path into Sargent's is usually along the northern side (see above -or- below). It's mostly a scramble. The southern route is pretty easy when dry.

The alternative Hidden Exit out of Sargent's is the most common ascent line. It was the original line taken by the Owen-Spalding party (led by Spalding).

If climbers are not using Sargent's Hidden Exit, they will climb up the main chimney. There are two common options in the upper half of the main chimney: the left & right sides. We think they are pretty close in terms of difficulty but the right side is probably easier to ascend. Once climbers reach Sargent's rap slings, they will find an opening on the north side of the chimney. Most exit at this opening to a nice ledge that takes them to the top of the Hidden Exit variation. The actual chimney continues a little further up the mountain. You can climb to the very top and find an exit to your left or right but most people exit by the rappel.
One important reason why most everyone uses the Hidden Exit for the ascent is because the main chimney is used for rappelling. Nonetheless, it does get used and is perfectly acceptable as an option. 
There is a always a chance of rockfall from climbers above you in the chimney but rockfall is not as common as you might think in this chimney. Or hasn't been (the mountain changes). It is a threat that you need to consider, however. Pick lines that offer some protection if climbers are above you. Or wait for the threat to pass.

Lower NW side of Sargent's Chimney before reaching the Hidden Exit.

 Sargent's Chimney
North is on the right side of the image

The climber is at the start of the Hidden Exit which takes you out of Sargent's main chimney. That corner requires extra care on the descent. Pay careful attention to all the possible holds. Try a few. This will help with the descent.

This is the alcove containing the Hidden Exit. Climb NW corner crack.

Cannon is wearing the light blue jacket. We are pretty sure Cannon was 8-years-old at the time the photo was taken. Her dad is above her. The corner crack is at the start of Sargent's Hidden Exit. There is an often-overlooked foothold near Cannon's upper body. It is truly useful during a descent for us. Cannon didn't need it because she could almost fit in the corner crack. There are plenty of  holds but not always where you really want them.

The lower part of the Hidden Exit

A view of the middle part of the Hidden Exit

The climber in the yellow shirt is in the small chute that extends to the top of the Hidden Exit.

Let's take a look at a variation of the Hidden Exit that some climbers might find fairly easy, and useful if the area is busy:

Looking NNW.

The climber in the blue jacket by the green arrow is next to a variation of the Hidden Exit. You are climbing up a very short wall to a nice ledge/slope (all unseen in photo). Easier with sticky shoes, sketchier to downclimb. We use it when guides are belaying clients down the Hidden Exit, or anytime it's a fustercluck.

Let's get back to the normal Hidden Exit variation.....

Again, the top of the Hidden Exit is a small chute. The northern side is the most popular descent line.

The Chute & its corner crack out of the Hidden Exit

You can go up either side of the chute, or the center, but the northern corner crack is usually easier.

 View south

Looking past the Hidden Exit and toward the exit out of Sargent's main chimney. If you walked over to the main chimney from here, you would see the rap station for Sargent's (see below). Most climbers exit onto this ledge if they climbed the chimney instead of taking the Hidden Exit.

Let's take a closer look at Sargent's upper chimney.

Sargent's Rap. This is by the first opening (to the north) in Sargent's upper chimney

This is the exit location that most climbers will utilize if they climbed directly up Sargent's Chimney. The arrow is pointing toward the summit. Some will climb in that direction and go by the 3 Stooges but most exit on this ledge just above the rap setup and head by the top of the Hidden Exit. The photographer is also on that ledge.

Just past the Hidden Exit, and past the rock band to their right, they turn toward the summit as an easy path presents itself. There is literally a straight line to the summit if you choose it.

Let's look down Sargent's Chimney from the rap station.

Looking down Sargent's Chimney (Middle Main Chimney)

The crux of Sargent's Chimney is by the bulge in the middle of the image - both sides of the bulge can be tricky for novice climbers to tackle quickly. We feel that the south side is easier if you don't have sticky shoes, or if you are short; however, none really knows what's easier for you. It's not difficult climbing but the best holds aren't always obvious at first glance. The ascent is easier than the descent (the holds are more obvious). Try the Hidden Exit if this direct line up the main chimney looks too difficult.

Let's look up at the crux of Sargent's Chimney.

 The downclimbing climbers are coming from the Hidden Exit area.

In the image above, the ascending climbers are heading straight up the main chimney and they are just below the crux. Six free-soloing climbers were in the chimney (including photographer). It is not unusual to see that many free-soloing climbers on the mountain but six in one spot is not too common.

While you can certainly climb directly up Sargent's main chimney if you wish to, you might want to avoid it if other climbers are getting ready to rappel down it.

Overview Main Rappel to Summit

Go northish after exiting Sargent's or its Hidden Exit and turn right as soon as it is easy to do so. It's  an obvious line when you see it. The climber using the Blue variation is simply taking a easier zig-zag around some rock. This is common between here and the summit. The direct line is the Red variation shown above. It's almost a straight shot to the summit from here.

Follow a straight line to the summit or zig-zag around rock features

The Three Stooges is not a feature you will recognize on the descent unless you're paying very close attention and looking back up after passing it. It is just a short distance above Sargent's Hidden Exit.

Some climbers will take a short variation under the face of the Three Stooges to reach Sargent's Rap during the descent. It doesn't save time. And runners are probably headed for the Hidden Exit variation.

If you expect to climb the Upper Exum route at some point, it's useful to know that you can bail from the summit ridgeline after passing the Upper Exum's Boulder Problem in the Sky. Head northwest along a very easy line that takes you under the face of the Three Stooges. It is one of several escape lines for climbers on the Upper Exum route. You might want to take a look at that variation if you spend much time on the mountain. You can climb to the summit ridgeline from the Three Stooges to get a feel for the fastest escape line and then head back north toward the summit along the ridgeline.

 Pretty easy scramble when dry - follow 'wall' on your south.  Climbers are descending.

Again, the scramble between the summit and Sargent's Hidden Exit is almost a straight line — follow the path that's quickest for you, or most interesting, or easiest. Just remember that the summit is just to the left of a feature called the Horse which looks like the summit from the bottom of the Slabby Wall.

The Slabby Wall

Switchback around the Slabby Wall or climb its center crack. The center crack points toward the summit and back toward Sargent's Hidden Exit. Remember that.

There is a small ledge along the top of the southern half of the Slabby Wall. That small ledge is often used as part of any switchback.

Switchback option shown in pink

Using switchbacks, you will head to the SE to bypass the wall and then head NE. Follow the easiest path. In the above picture, you can clearly see the Horse which is the false summit mentioned previously.
Since we have the above photo in front of you, the next photo will show you the other side of the Horse. The "other side" meaning the eastern side. Sometimes it is easier to travel under the eastern aspect of the Horse to gain or depart the summit. If you take that route, you'll pass under the southern aspect of the Horse at the ridgeline and then you will scramble along the easiest path under its eastern aspect to gain the summit back toward the north. It might be a good option for kids under poor conditions. Just depends. See below....
Variation around eastern aspect of the Horse

Back to the standard OS route...

Slabby Wall switchback option - many options

Slabby Wall as seen from the small ledge atop its southern half - looking WSW

These climbers are using one of many easy variations around the Slabby Wall's southern half. They are cutting short a longer switchback option. None are on a rope.

Slabby Wall as seen from the small ledge atop its southern half - looking NNE

 Switchback ledge - looking SSW

Scramble to the summit. Many variations to the NE.

The last scramble to the summit will probably include a few climbing moves if you don't know the easiest way. It's not difficult climbing. Again, you could also reach the summit by going around the southern aspect of the Horse, then going under its eastern aspect to reach the summit. Sometimes that is an easier and safer alternative to reach the summit under sketchy snow conditions or with weaker climbers.

The Summit


In the above picture we are looking south. Most climbers exit the summit by heading southwest to gain the Slabby Wall. Most people want to gain the small ledge above the southern half of the Slabby Wall during the descent and use it as part of a switchback around the wall. That ledge is directly below the southern end of the Horse.
As we mentioned previously, sometimes climbers will go around the eastern aspect of the Horse (left side in photo) and pass below its southern end on their way back to the Upper Saddle. There are many variations off the summit. There is a fairly easy exit to the north, too. It wraps back around to the south to gain the top of the Slabby Wall. If we happen to be sitting over there while at the summit, we take that route off the summit.

Once at the bottom of the Slabby Wall, look for its center crack. It points down toward the Hidden Exit of Sargent's Chimney. Follow the easiest descent line (overall straight line) until you can go no further. Look for Sargent's or its Hidden Exit to your south. Downclimb either variation. If you have a rope, you can rap down Sargent's. We suggest using the Hidden Exit under most situations if you're soloing. It's quick and fairly easy compared to the main chimney when both are dry. The guides will often throw a rope over a rock and belay clients down the Hidden Exit.

Descending in January

The above photo has Guide Greg Collins in back, his client in the middle, and Dan Carson in front. Andrew Carson thinks he took the photo in 2008. Andrew posted it on Mountain Project. Andrew Carson used to own JHMG and he guided many winter climbs. His career took him into real estate, conservation work, climbing, and the non-profit world. He participated in Paul Petzoldt’s very first course at the National Outdoor Leadership School in 1965. He and his wife Nancy moved to Wilson, WY, in the late ’60’s.

Nowadays, winter or winter-like ascents are mostly for ski mountaineers. Alpine mountaineering in the Tetons during the winter has lost much of its luster and public interest. Personally, we have no desire to climb when it's cold from sunrise to sunset nor do we have any desire to pack skis all the way up the mountain. We dislike packing lunch. Skis are a great way to cover the approach when snow covers the ground.

The Main Rappel to the Grand Teton's Upper Saddle

Main Rappel to the Upper Saddle Area
Again, free-soloing climbers are usually heading down the entire OS and skipping the rap. A fast-moving free-soling climber will take less time to reach the Upper Saddle than someone who needs to set up a rap.

Main Rap as seen from the 2nd setup of the secondary 2x70' alternative raps


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Owen-Spalding via Owen Chimney (red dots)
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The Grand Teton's Owen-Spalding Climbing Route as seen from above. Click to Enlarge

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Different angle on the Owen-Spalding Route

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Mt. Moran, Mt. Saint John, Jackson Lake, Mt Owen, and the Grand Teton as seen from The Enclosure. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Photo taken from the Enclosure by Billy Owen

Again, the Enclosure features a very small Native American rock formation at its summit. Turn around and go bag the Enclosure (the western spur off the Grand Teton's Upper Saddle) if conditions are really poor on the Grand Teton. The Enclosure has nice views. It's a funky scramble but it still requires your full attention. You can reach it from about 100 feet below the Upper Saddle by heading to the N-NW from the top of the Central Rib.

Owen-Spalding Climbing Route
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A few trip reports for April through October

July 17th, 2016 (UXM) PNG Variation 


Overview - Upper Exum
Overview - Owen-Spalding
Detailed Look At Specific Route Features
The Approach & Route Overviews
Wyoming Whiskey Home Page

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Enjoy Safe Climbing