Peak(s):  Teewinot Mountain - 12,325 feet
East Prong - 12,040 feet
Mount Owen - 12,928 feet
Date Posted:  08/20/2013
Date Climbed:   08/13/2013
Author:  Furthermore
 Teton's Grand Traverse: Intro, Pt. 1  

Teewinot Mountain 12,325
East Prong 12,040 (un-ranked)
Mt. Owen 12,982


Day 1 of 3 of the Grand Traverse.

August 12, 2013
~2.2 Miles, ~2,500 Gain
TH: Lupine Meadows TH (9 hours from Denver).
Max difficulty: Class 1.
Bivy location: ~9,600 on the east slopes of Teewinot

August 13, 2013
~2.1 Miles, ~5,600 Gain
Max difficulty: 5.6 (East Ridge of Owen)
Bivy location: ~12,700 on Owen (not planned location).

I had thrown the idea of climbing the Grand Traverse to Justin in mid July. He was interested and we planned a tentative week in August. Honestly, I didn't expect expected Justin to pull through for a week long trip but when he called me Sunday night asking if we were still on, I couldn't say no.

Trying to finish Colorado 13ers, I didn't have too much time to research exact route info. There is limited beta on the traverse except some vague topos and descriptions. We were going to be in for a treat.

Returning from a long day trip of Mt. Jackson on Sunday, I repacked, gathered what beta I could and went to bed. I drove to Justin's house early Monday morning to pick him up where we then made the long 9 hour drive to the Jenny Lake Ranger station. We had to make sure we arrived at the ranger station before it closed at 5 PM to pick up our bivy permits.

Dirtbag camping options are very limited in Jackson and the AAC Climbers Ranch located in the park is pretty expensive. $25 bucks isn't exactly a dirtbag deal for community style lodging so we decided to bivy the first night up high on Teewinot to avoid high camping costs and the unlawful camping at the Lupine Meadows trailhead. We had originally planned on doing this approach up Teewinot in a single day.

We left the Lupine Meadows trailhead at 8:10 PM and started hiking up the unmarked Apex Trail on the northwest side of the Lupine Meadows parking lot. The trail was steep and had never-ending switchbacks. One of the books mentions 18 switchbacks but it's more like 50+. Near treeline, we found some bivy platforms behind a boulder and went to bed around 9:45 PM.

Justin starting up the unmarked Apex trail.

Since we had already hiked up a good portion of Teewinot, we were able to sleep in. We woke up at 4:30 AM and continued hiking up the Apex trail at 5:00 AM towards the east face of Teewinot. That morning the Perseid meteor shower was peaking. We enjoyed the show.

The Apex trail basically turns into the east face trail up Teewinot. As we climbed out of treeline, we located the two towers, The Idol and Worshipper, which we had to climb north (right) of to gain the east face gully. Being mid August, most of the snow was melted and we were able to follow the trail up ledgy, and at times, loose terrain. Some minor class 3 moves were required up through small cliff bands.

Early light over Jackson and Jenny Lake.

The Idol and Worshipper. Justin working his way up a cliff band.

Looking up the complex east face of Teewinot.

When the gully narrowed, we reached the crux of Teewinot. During the early season or when the route is covered in snow, I think the climbing would be easier up the gully at 4th class. Without snow, the climbing is much harder. We zig-zaged our way up the right side of the gully where we encountered a short 5.2 section which eased to 4th class.

The correct ledge to the summit was almost even with a saddle to the south of the summit where the east face gully leads. Our beta said 100-300 feet below the saddle which was not the case. We ditched our packs 100-200 feet laterally from the saddle and hiked north on some grassy ledges to the north side of the summit block. Continuing up a second right gully, class 3, we reached the exposed summit ridge and summit block where we arrived at 8 AM.

Sunrise. Smokey due to fires in Idaho.

Justin on the class 3 ledges towards Teewinot's summit.

Views of the Grand Teton and Mt. Owen were sobering from the summit of Teewinot. Looking at the connecting ridge to Owen, we could tell we were in for some challenging climbing and route finding. We returned to our packs and hiked to the saddle south of Teewinot where we descended west from the notch for ~50 feet before starting up an angling 4th class ledge system heading south over a second less distinct ridge.

First view of the Grand Teton and Teewinot's summit.

The Grand Teton and Mt. Owen from the summit of Teewinot.

Jackson Lake from the summit of Teewinot.

Once we climbed over the less distinct ridge, it was a class 2 talus descent and hike up Point 11,840. From the summit of 11,840, a very large cliff blocks easy continuation to East Prong. We descended a short chimney down the southwest face for ~100 feet to a rappel station. It required 4 single rope rappels to descend the west face of 11,840 and the last rappel would be really tight with a 60M rope. Our single 70M only had a few feet to spare.

The class 4 over the less distinct ridge crest through the notch.

The Grand Teton starting towards 11,840.

The Grand.

Justin on one of the rappels down 11,840.

After rappelling 11,840, we continued west bypassing a minor tower on class 3-4 ledges on the north side of the ridge. Route finding was not very straightforward as we didn't want to climb up 5th class terrain with our heavy packs only to be disappointed and have to down-climb. Once directly on the east side of East Prong, we regained the ridge crest and did some low 5th class climbing to the summit of East Prong where we arrived at 10:45 AM.

Working our way towards East Prong.

Looking up East Prong.

Looking back at Teewinot.

5th class up East Prong.

Owen from East Prong. Guided client can be seen on the upper snowfield.

We descended East Prong with 2 single rope rappels down the west face to the Koven Col. Our axes came out to bypass some ice on Koven Col. Thanks Justin, you owe me a beer for having to use the axe since you didn't want to carry it. On the west side of Koven Col, we refilled our water and started up a 4th class dihedral right of a small waterfall/chimney.

Rappelling off of East Prong.

On top of the dihedral, we were now on the Owen's upper snowfield. Staying low on the snowfield, we traversed westward to the south side of the peak. A guided client was descending the Koven route which helped our route finding immensely to the base of the Koven Chimney. Plenty of exposed 3-4 class scrambling was required to gain the south ridge of Owen. At the base of the Koven Chimney on the south side of the peak, we ditched our packs, took a rope and soloed up the chimney, 5.2-4. Blue skies surrounded us before climbing the chimney but as we neared the top of the chimney, clouds started to roll in.

East Prong from the Koven Col.

What we have traveled so far. Teewinot in the background.

Nearing the Koven Chimney on the south side of Mt. Owen.

I climbed up and right to the east ridge. At this point, I didn't realize I was supposed to traverse to the west side of the peak. Now on the east ridge, unknowningly, I started up the final pitch of the east ridge. A crack with two fixed pins led to an exposed section of slab. Justin put me on belay above the second pin where I climbed up the unprotected slab. Holy smokes was that a hard 5.2 thinking I was still on the Koven route. After reading the route later, I had just climbed a 5.6 pitch.

Justin starting up the Koven Chimney.

No thunder yet but the clouds were darkening. I brought Justin to the top where I felt my hair sticking up. I took off my helmet and asked Justin, "Dude, is my hair sticking up?"

"Yeah, man. You look like Bill Nye the science guy."

Shit, we needed to get off the summit. Fast. We quickly set up our rappel on a marginal anchor and rappelled east down the final pitch of the east ridge. Another rappel anchor existed at the bottom of the pitch but we did some exposed 5.2-4 down-climbing back to the Koven Chimney rappel anchor where we rappel back down chimney. Setting up a second short rappel was going to take too much time.

Bailing off the summit of Mt. Owen due to weather.

The lightning and thunder started and the echoing of thunder in the Koven Chimney was scary. We rappelled the Koven Chimney back to our packs. 150 feet below the Koven Chimeny on the south ridge was an excellent bivy platform. We decided to hang out in the bivy spot to wait out the weather before descending down the southwest face of Owen. We were hoping to descend Owen and bivy on top of the Grandstand near the base of the North Ridge of the Grand Teton.

Hunkering down, the hail started. Thunder was more constant as we patiently waited. I slept for a bit. Nearing 5 PM, we decided to spend the night at this bivy platform since descending the southwest face with fresh hail and sleet probably wasn't a good idea. Not to mention climbing up two mid fifth class pitches out of the Gunsight to the Grandstand with waning daylight.

Thunder at the bivy. Hail shortly followed.

Around 7 PM, the weather cleared and we decided to climb back up Owen and find the correct Koven finish and spend some time to actually enjoy the summit. We reascended the chimney, went left through a small upper notch and followed a narrow ledge on the west side of the peak until we reached 3-5 foot wide chimney. We climbed up the much easier chimney to the summit where we arrived at 7:30 PM. Amazing views of Grand Teton with stunning shadows stretching across the valley to the east.

The upper part of Koven Chimney later in the evening after weather cleared.

Silhouette of me on the summit of Owen.

Sunset shadows.

The Grand Teton in evening light.

Returning back to our bivy spot, we suited up in our down jackets since we didn't bring sleeping bags and used ropes and backpacks for sleeping pads. I can't wait for tomorrow; the north ridge of Grand Teton. What surprises will it bring?

Day 1 route Topo.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
Kent McLemore

What a wild adventure!
08/21/2013 02:09
Great photos. Can't wait for part 2.


08/21/2013 02:33
Wow awesome TR! Man there's just nothing like the Tetons, such an amazing place. Nice work on a crazy traverse, and thanks for posting!

Dave B

08/21/2013 14:01
Always good to see an uneventful descent such as was the case on Owen.

I'm headed up that way day after tomorrow. Thanks for the solid stoke!

Looking forward to parts 2 and 3!


08/21/2013 04:17
moar plz.

plz moar.


simply awesome
08/21/2013 04:24
looks like a great adventure. what an incredible place that is.


This TR...
08/21/2013 13:47
Goes to 11!


08/21/2013 13:50
Can't wait for Parts 2 & 3! Very solid scrambling, climbing, and rapping. Love those peaks. Well done.


Interesting side trip!
08/21/2013 15:12
Good luck this week and looking forward to the next parts.


Magnificent traverse!
08/21/2013 16:19
Thanks to you and Justin for sharing this marvelous adventure. Bold and gutsy climbing on a classic North American route -- way to go, dudes! Can't wait to read about the rest of this great trip.


Great stuff!!
08/22/2013 21:38
Super adventure guys and glad to hear you're safe! Yeah, Teewinot offers probably the most outstanding view of the Grand! Looking forward to the final chapters! Thanks for your post!!

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