NORTH FACE OF GRAND TETON IN WINTER

Posted on: February 12, 2007


A partial view of the north face of the Grand Teton (13,770'), Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, showing Squeeze Box (IV M7, A0, 1,000'), climbed by Stephen Koch and Hans Johnstone in early February. It was Koch's second attempt on the line. [Photo] Stephen Koch

On February 6, Hans Johnstone and I completed a new route on the north face of the Grand Teton, Squeeze Box (IV M7, A0, 1,000'). The line lies between Shea's Chute and the Alex Lowe Memorial Route and ascends a weakness up a beautiful granite buttress. I had spotted the line during a flurry of activity with various partners in October 2004, which gave us the best ice conditions in the Tetons in years, and resulted in the Alex Lowe Memorial Route, which I climbed with Mark Newcomb. While skiing the Koven Couloir on Mount Owen on January 26, 2007, the unclimbed line looked in good enough condition for an attempt, which I made on January 28 with Brian Harder. Much snow removal was needed to reveal cracks for both torquing and rock protection. We climbed about half the route but retreated due to approaching darkness. With the clear weather and high pressure continuing I was excited to make another attempt before the next storm cycle, which have been few and very far between this dry and cold winter.

Hans and I began skiing north from the Taggart Bradley trailhead at 4 a.m. Some five hours later we began the more technical climbing up and onto the north face. The climbing was both challenging and interesting with technical difficulties up to M7 (5.10 rock equivalent). A challenging squeeze chimney, too narrow to climb facing in, had me grunting and thrashing on lightly featured granite.

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Above lay a beautiful ice gully, which brought us to a black chimney. For the next two rope lengths we climbed steep rock with our ice axes and crampons. The second-to-last pitch involved a tension traverse across smooth slabs to reach another set of bottomed-out seams that offered slightly more opportunity for the metal to catch on the minuscule and insecure features. In spots protection was not easy to obtain but the route unfolded nicely as we were treated to a beautiful alpenglow on Teewinot.

With great desire to complete the route I darted up the last pitch in the dark, aided by the light of my headlamp. With the insecure nature of the climbing, success was never guaranteed. We rappelled the route and down-climbed across the Teton Glacier back to our skis.

With mixed climbing techniques and skills increasing there are countless opportunities for other new routes on the north face of the Grand Teton and throughout the Range. It is a matter of conditions and desire!

Hans Johnstone following the Black Chimney pitch on the new route Squeeze Box (IV M7, A0, 1,000'). Johnstone and partner Koch are two of the strongest climbers in the range; in January 2004, they completed the first winter ascent of the Grand Traverse, with partners Renny Jackson and Mark Newcomb. [Photo] Stephen Koch



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