Peak(s):  Grand Teton - 13,770 feet
Date Posted:  05/04/2010
Date Climbed:   09/06/2009
Author:  clemsonmtneer
 Sept 09 - Grand Teton via Owen Spaulding  

The Grand Teton

Climbers: Alan (clemsonmtneer), Michael; teamed up with Dennis and Breanna at Lower Saddle
Date: 9/5 to 9/6, 2009
Route: Owen-Spaulding
Starting Point: Lupine Meadows Trailhead
Elevation Gain: 7,030 ft.
RT Mileage: not sure, but pushing 20 miles

I'm just now getting around to posting some trip reports from last summer. The entire summer of 2009 was filled with great climbs, and they were all building up to a summit attempt of the mighty Grand Teton on Labor Day weekend.

I had spent a college summer in Jackson Hole in 2006, and lived there for six months after college before moving to Denver, and after taking a liking to climbing 14ers, I knew I had to make it back up to Jackson and climb the Grand. So I met up with my old manager/mountaineering mentor at the ski shop where I worked up there, Michael, last spring when he was in Colorado and we decided to go for it on Labor Day weekend. Michael has lots of technical rock climbing experience and had summited the Grand twice before, making him a great choice for a partner for someone with little technical climbing experience.

I left work early on Thursday and drove up, relaxed and went for a short hike on Friday, then on Saturday we were ready to go. The plan was to hike to the Lower Saddle at 11,600 feet on Saturday, then wake up early on Sunday morning for a summit attempt via the Owen-Spaulding Route (5.4), then head back Sunday afternoon.

Michael and I at the trailhead

The hike up through Garnet Canyon was long and painful... we gained nearly 5,000 feet of elevation just on the "approach". But we had great views the entire way up.

Hiking through Garnet Canyon with the Middle Teton in the background

Middle Teton Glacier

Looking back down Garnet Canyon

It took us most of the day to make it to the Lower Saddle. Our first climbing challenge of the trip came just before the Lower Saddle on a steep wall with a fixed rope. This was more difficult than it looks considering we had heavy packs on and were already exhausted from the long slog.

Michael climbing up the fixed rope

At long last, we reached camp at the Lower Saddle. It had turned overcast earlier in the afternoon, and the constant breeze was quite chilly. The views from the saddle were stunning. It was almost eerie in a way camping so high up in such an exposed area. Being Labor Day weekend, this was a popular spot, though.

The Lower Saddle

Looking at the Grand from the Lower Saddle

Our campsite

Sunset over the western Tetons

It ended up being a long night with not much sleep. The sound of the wind flapping against the tent all night made sleep near impossible, at least for me. Our alarm went off around 4:30 or so, I had barely slept at all, but my adrenaline was pumping just thinking about the climb. We started hiking around 5:30 or 5:45 in the dark.

From the Lower to Upper Saddles it's a very consistent Class 3 scramble. There were already lots of headlamps making their way up, and we met up with two other people early on - Dennis and his daughter, Breanna, from Salt Lake City, and after talking for a few minutes we all decided to team up for the day. This worked out really well, because Michael and Dennis both have plenty of lead climbing experience between them, so this was more comforting to someone who was going on a technical climb for the first time outside of a rock gym.

Making my way up in the dark

Approaching the Upper Saddle

Once we reached the Upper Saddle, the real fun began.

Looking southwest from the Upper Saddle

Dennis and Breanna

North Fork of Cascade Canyon

This was an exciting traverse

After that exposed move, we roped up for the next section. Then came the infamous "Belly Crawl". I had heard a lot of hype about this move, but honestly it wasn't bad at all. Unfortunately, we didn't get any pictures of it, but we didn't even rope up for it. I actually did crawl through on my belly, and found it to be a lot of fun (I recommend not looking down, that way you won't freak yourself out when you realize there's a several thousand foot drop-off). I felt like the other technical parts of the climb were way harder, though.

Michael belaying a section shortly before the Belly Crawl

Breanna and Dennis

After the Belly Crawl, our next pitch was the Double Chimney, and this was the first really tough pitch of the climb. Even though the technical sections are "only" rated a 5.4, there were some icy spots along this route that made things tricky (apparently this high up there were several snow events in August, and it had been a cool summer).

Breanna climbing up the Double Chimney

After the Double Chimney, our next challenge was the Owen Chimney, which due to some nasty ice patches in the cracks, I considered the crux of the entire climb.

The Owen Chimney

Dennis leading

Michael belaying

Tricky move near the top

At the top of the Owen Chimney we were treated to a sweet view!

After the Owen Chimney, we had one more technical pitch to go, Sargent's Chimeny. This was one was pretty icy, too, but still fun.

Sargent's Chimney

Dennis belaying Breanna

After reaching the top of Sargent's Chimney, the hardest part was over with. We also had direct sunlight for the first time all day, after spending all morning in the cold shade on the western side of the mountain. But most importantly, just a few hundred vertical feet of scrambling left to go and the summit was ours!

Almost there!

Even though we had been moving fairly slowly all morning long, we finally made it to the summit around 1:00. It was an amazing feeling standing atop one of the most iconic peaks in North America, and the views did not disappoint. We summited around the same time as a lot of other people. We hung out for a little while and probably shared the summit with 10 or 15 other people, including a couple of members, Mrwaffles and skier25. It was a great group to share the summit with, and an unbelievably rewarding summit. And now for the summit shots...

Mt. Teewinot and Jenny Lake

The Jackson Hole Valley, 7,000+ feet below

It was pretty awesome sharing the summit with a couple of members... great meeting you guys members (from left to right) skier25, clemsonmtneer, MrWaffles

Dennis and Breanna


Michael and I

We stayed on the summit for a while, making new friends, hanging out, enjoying the moment. A nasty looking cloud was starting to form, though (we did summit kind of late), so it was time to head down.

Storm clouds heading our way... time to GTFO

Fortunately, except for Sargent's Chimney, there's a rappel line that bypasses a good bit of the climb, leading all the way down to the Upper Saddle.

Rappeling down Sargent's Chimney

After the first short rappel, we reached the 60 foot rappel that would get us down to the Upper Saddle. The rappel was one hell of an adrenaline rush since much of it was free-hanging.

The big rappel

From the Upper Saddle, it was a long slog back down to camp since we were already pretty tired. It hailed on us and snowed on us a little bit, too. We didn't get back to camp until 4:30, and unfortunately had a long hike out (I had to drive back to Denver the next day).

Right as we were getting back to camp we heard a huge clap of thunder, and had to take shelter in our time while it thundered, lightning, and hailed on us for about 5 minutes. Fortunately, the storm was short lived, but by the time we got everything packed up it was 5:00 when we were leaving camp.

The hike out was an absolute death march. We were already exhausted and the heavy packs weren't helping. It was a slow trip out and we realized quickly we'd be hiking well past dark. As we slowly made our way into the Garnet Canyon Meadows Michael was really struggling with his heavy pack and decided he would stash his pack (minus food and basic necessities) near the camping area and hike back up the following day to get it.

It was still a slow hike out through the dark and we'd have to stop periodically just so I could give my throbbing shoulders a 5-10 minute rest. At one point, a mile or mile and a half from the trailhead, we even stopped and laid down and dozed off for a couple of minutes... it was actually very peaceful in the dark, quiet woods.

We finally made it back to the car at 12:15 a.m. making it nearly a 19 hour day! I never imagined us getting back that late, but I was glad we made it out and didn't have to camp again since I wanted a good night's sleep before the long drive back to Denver. Turns out this was a good thing too since I found out the next day my mom, being the typical worrying mom that she is, got worried when she hadn't heard from me and called the Grand Teton NP Ranger Station alerting them I hadn't made it back yet (oops). So her and my dad were relieved when I texted them after getting back to the trailhead.

Fortunately, I had been crashing at my friend's apartment that weekend, and he had left a key with me, so I got back to his place, showered, and passed out on his couch... and I have to say it was the best night's sleep I've ever had on a couch. The next morning, Michael and I met for a celebration breakfast (since we got back too late the night before) and attempted to replenish the insane amount of calories burned from the past two days. Then I headed back to Denver with a big smile on my face from an awesome trip I will never forget.

 Comments or Questions

05/09/2011 17:48
Awesome TR! Thanks for the Beta, should come in handy for many here.

Thanks, john


Awesome report...
05/04/2010 16:29
Thanks for posting. I assume you didn‘t have to leave slings / gear behind at any rappel stations? I might pm later for more beta.


Great report
05/04/2010 18:01
and really outstanding photos. Great job.

colorado yooper

Very similar...
05/04/2010 18:42
We bivied in the same lower saddle campsite and got back to our car about 10:45. Highly recommended route but will do the Exum or Petzoldt ridges next time! Great report


Totally Sweet
11/30/2010 17:28
I couldn't believe so many people from 14ers were on the Grand that day! It was good meeting everyone. (Btw, I've since shaved that hideous mustache... ) You took some stunning photos +1
The writeup was excellent as well. Fantastic Report!


05/05/2010 13:57
Very cool write-up...I look forward to the Grand!


05/05/2010 16:40
maverick_manley, we didn‘t have to leave any gear behind on the rappel. There are fixed anchors set up for the rappel, so as long as your party has two ropes... or if you‘re up there on a popular summit day (like we were) you can share ropes with other parties since there will probably be at least a few groups waiting to descend. Also, I said in my report that the rappel was 60 feet... that is incorrect, it‘s actually 120 feet (but 60 feet are free-hanging).

colorado yooper, the approach to the Lower Saddle took a lot longer (both ways) than I had envisioned. I agree though, I think Exum sounds like it might be a better route, even if it‘s rating is more difficult... the O-S Route is an icebox since it‘s in the shade for much of the day.

skier25, I also couldn‘t believe how many members we shared the summit with, and on a non-Colorado peak... what an awesome day! Let me know if you want to get after it on some peaks this spring/summer.

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2017®, 14ers Inc.