How to Visit and Mountaineer Thor Peak

Thor Peak is a mountain in the Teton range that sits to the west of Mount Moran. While this isn’t a popular attraction for Mountaineers, the peak is known as an underrated gem to most people who have conquered the mountain. The elevation of the mountain is 12,028 feet, making it the 12th highest peak in the Teton range. It was first ascended in 1930. Some climbers get frustrated when visiting the Teton range because of the popularity surrounding the mountains. Mount Thor a perfect remedy for Mountaineers who are hoping for a more isolated climb. 
 
How to Find Mount Thor 
Access to Mount Thor comes through Leigh Canyon, which is about a mile and a half from the campsites at the shore of String Lake. It takes over an hour to kayak through the lake, and the only way to sidestep paddling is through going on a challenging hike. Once you finish paddling, you’ll find yourself directly at the mouth of the canyon. From there, there’s a faint trail you can follow through the north side of the creek until you reach Laughing Lion Falls. Continue through the valley until you hit Mount Thor 
 
Climbing Mount Thor 
Mount Thor is one of the more challenging climbs in the Teton range. Details around climbing Mount Thor are scarce. If you’re hoping to conquer this summit, pick up the book titled “A Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range” to guide you. 
 
Required Gear 
Thor Mountain has semi-permanent snow, and an ice climb is usually required. Therefore you’ll need hiking gear, ice climbing gear, and camping gear to finish the summit. 
 
Permits 
If you’re planning on conquering Mount Thor, it’ll be best to camp overnight. Acquiring a camping permit is easy, but the park gives out camping permits on a first-come, first-served basis. 

How to Visit and Mountaineer Mount Moran

Mount Moran is a mountain that resides in the northern part of the Grand Teton National Park. Mount Moran was made famous by the famous landscape artist Thomas Moran. It’s the first mountain people see as they take the north entrance into the Grand Teton National Park. Unlike most mountains in the park, Mount Moran seems to tower over the world on its own, making it a popular attraction for both tourists and mountaineers. The elevation of the summit is 12605 feet, and it towers 6,000 feet above Jackson Lake in a mesmerizing fashion. 
 
How to get to Mount Moran 
Most mountaineers who climb Mount Moran use the Falling Ice Glacier gulch or Leigh Canyon. The starting point for these routes is the Jenny Lake area. The are is found by going west on Teton Park road and driving nine miles until you reach South Jenny Lake Junction. From that point, there will be directions to String Lake.  
 
How to Climb Mount Moran 
The most popular route used to conquer Mount Moran is the CMC route, and it has a difficulty of 5.5. The route has a perfect place to set up camp. The CMC usually takes two days to conquer. It takes the first day to reach the base camp, and the second day consists of a long climb up to the summit and back to the camp. Due to how time-consuming the route is, it’s the most demanding standard approach in the national park.  
 
The most famous mountaineering route on the mountain is Direct South Buttress. The route owns a spot in the book “The 50 Classic Climbs of North America”. The first ascent occurred in 1933. The base can be accessed by kayaking through String Lake and Leigh Lake to access Leigh Canyon.  
 
Other notable routes include the Northeast Ridge, South Buttress Prow, and Skillet Glacier.  
 
Essential Gear 
It’s essential to pack all of the standard rock climbing gear for this trip. Camping is also a necessity for this adventure. If you’re hoping to conquer the Direct South Buttress, you’re going to need to kayak as well.  
 
Permits 
Permits are required to camp in Grand Teton National Park, but backcountry camping is free of charge. The park hands out permits out on a first-come, first-serve basis, but anyone can reserve a permit in advance for a reasonable fee. 

How to Visit and Mountaineer Middle Teton

Middle Teton is a charming and sought-after peak in the Teton Range. The peak summit is 12,809 feet, and it sits on the eastern side of the Teton Range. Middle Teton is a classic alpine peak with a pyramidal shape that glaciers crafted for millions of years. Many mountaineers remember the first time they saw the Middle Teton after breaking out of the trees in Garnet Canyon, and the view of the Grand Teton is spectacular from the Middle Teton. The first-ever ascent was recorded in 1923.  
 
What to Expect 
This famous summit holds a wide range of routes, including scrambles, rock routes, and ice routes. While there are some beginner routes available, there are also a few challenging ways to conquer the peak. The easiest route to take is the Southwest Ice Couloir. The path is mostly third-class rock blended with a few fourth-class steps mixed into the journey. North Ridge and Buckingham Ridge are both listed at a difficulty of 5.7, and East Buttress is a 5.11 difficulty. The Northwest Ice Couloir and the Middle Teton Glacier are by far the most challenging routes on the peak. They are both listed as AI3 and are a strong challenge for mountaineers.   
 
Essential Gear 
Essential gear free climbing Middle Teton includes mountain boots, rock shoes, a helmet, a headlamp, a harness, carabiners, and a belay. An ice axe and crampons are essential for more advanced routes. 
 
How to get to Middle Teton 
Middle Teton is just south of the Grand Teton in the Grand Teton National Park. Mountaineers can access the peak by going to Lupine Meadows trailhead. Overnight stays at the park are free, but campers need a permit to stay the night. 

How to Visit and Mountaineer Mount Owen

Mount Owen is one of the most popular peaks in the Teton Range. While Mount Owen is almost 1,000 feet shorter than Grand Teton, the way the peak dramatically rises from the plains creates an awe-inspiring landscape. Every year, mountaineers come from all over the world for the chance to experience the incredible views. All routes up the mountain require some mountaineering and the technical difficulties range from 5.1 to 5.10.  
 
How to get to Mount Owen 
Mount Owen is inside of the Grand Teton National Park. The best way to access the peak is by starting at the popular Lupine Meadow trailhead. You can reach the trailhead by taking Highway 191 and turning on Moose Junction.   
 
The Standard Approach 
The standard approach for Mount Owen is Koven. The approach has a 5.4 difficulty that begins on the Lupine Meadow Trailhead. Early in the season snow gear is a necessity, but the snow usually melts later in the summer. Other popular routes include East Ridge and Serendipity Arete. These routes are a little more challenging with 5.6 and 5.7 difficulties, but they are still manageable.  
 
Basic Requirements 
The summer is the best time to casually mountaineer Mount Owen. The range of difficulty during the summer ranges from beginner to intermediate. Outside of summer Mount Owen accumulates snow and ice, making the journey up the mountain more difficult. The basic gear needed to conquer Mount Owen includes a harness, a helmet, rope, climbing shoes, a carabiner, nuts, and a descender. It’s also important to bring snow gear to ensure you’re safe. 
 
Permits 
Climbers need to gain a permit if they plan on staying in the Grand Teton National Park overnight. The permit is free, but it’s important to note that the park allows no camping on the lakes. The best camping point for Mount Owen is in the saddle between Disappointment Peak and Point 9,967. 

How to Visit and Mountaineer The Enclosure

The Enclosure is famous for its ancient circle of rocks that were designed over 10,000 years ago. It’s the second-highest peak inside of the Teton Range, with the summit rising over 13,000 feet. The climb from the valley floor is over 6,000 feet, and the mountain was first climbed in the late 1800s. The ascent features some of the most stunning views in the mountain range. Most routes to the summit of the Enclosure start at the Lupine Meadows Trailhead located just off of Teton Park Rd. The road is closed between November and May.  
 
Mountaineering Routes 
The most common rock climbing routes for the mountain are the Owen-Spalding and the Upper Exum. The Owen-Spalding can be started at the Lupine Meadows trailhead, and the Upper Exum Ridge. While the Upper Exum is longer than the Owen-Spalding route, the incredible views are well worth the journey to the summit. The climb can be accessed by taking Lupine Meadows Trailhead to the Lower Saddle. Other popular yet more challenging routes include the Enclosure Ice Couloir, the Black Ice Couloir, and Northwest Ridge.  
 
Equipment Needed to climb The Enclosure 
When mountaineering the Enclosure, it’s best to bring two 60 meter ropes, mountaineering boots, and a helmet at a minimum. Depending on the time of year, an ice ax and crampons are essential. It’s also important to come armed with a cell phone and extra clothing to keep you warm through cold weather. 
 
Required Permits 
Climbing in the Teton Range is pretty relaxed overall. Climbers hoping to camp overnight do have to get a permit. However, the permit is easy to acquire, and it is free of charge. 

Ice Climbing in the Tetons

This ancient valley called Jackson’s Hole is home to some of the country’s best mountaineering and rock climbing routes, and during the winter months it‘s canyons hold, for the more motivated, excellent ice climbing as well. The Tetons also have the benefit of being centrally located near some of the continent’s best ice, with Cody just six hours to the north, and Hyalite only four hours to the north. If you are hankerin’ for roadside venues, Provo canyon is just five hours to the south. Even the spectacular formations of the Canadian Rockies are only fourteen hours north, and Telluride and Ouray just twelve hours south. Teton ice climbs are usually noted for their lengthy approaches and alpine settings. Objective hazards such as avalanches and rockfall are to be anticipated.

 

Teton Mountaineering tries to monitor the Bridger-Teton National Forest reports for the current winter season if you are interested in glimpsing the snow pack history before heading out, to aid in making your own evaluations. Teton Mountaineering recommends the valley’s best source of weather forecasting, Mountain Weather, so you can get a better idea of current weather conditions heading towards our area. Should you find yourself in need of gear or advice, stop in and see the staff at Teton Mountaineering. Not only do we stock the best outdoor equipment available, we are some of the most experienced and knowledgeable folks in the valley. Hope to see you soon! WARNING! Climbing is a dangerous activity. These are at best very general topos, hopefully useful in getting you to the climbs you seek. Users of these topos must be responsible for learning all the techniques required to climb the particular route they have chosen. Due to changing conditions, these topos may not accurately reflect a particular climb in prevailing conditions. It is up to you to make all the necessary decisions based on information you have about the route and conditions at hand. This guide is not a substitute for experience or good judgement.

 

Jenny Lake Boulders

Bouldering is a game of pure climbing skill –a test, so to speak, of a climber’s physical ability to climb difficult rock. One should simulate actual climbing conditions by making the most of the climbs listed in good form, i.e. without lunges or irreversible dynamic moves. The boulders are big boulders, big enough to cause their own weather and to hide some of the early signs of changing weather. Very severe storms can come up quickly. Be equipped for them – keep the car close. Boulders and boulder routes can be made as difficult as one wants merely by eliminating hand or footholds. If you feel a route is too easy, then do it with a banana or beer in one hand or even with no hands! GEOLOGY Once upon a time glaciers covered Jackson’s Hole, then once again the glaciers retreated leaving remnants which through a process of weathering come to be what is now the present shape of the boulders. They are composed of stone. EQUIPMENT FOR BOULDERING Klettershue work nicely on most routes. Platform boots will make some of the no-hands routes easier. R.R.’s,R.D.’s, P.A.’s and E.B.’s seem to dominate the scene at the boulders, but other footwear, or the lack of it has from time to time made its appearance in the area. A block of magnesium carbonate helps eliminate the greasy spots on the handholds.

Climbing and Birding in Arizona

I guess it is only human nature to dwell on now faded, but warm and fuzzy memories of rock climbing, instead of focusing entirely on all of our wonderful winter activities revolving around our famous “white smoke” here in Jackson Hole. Such thoughts should be banned since we are currently in one of the best winters for backcountry skiing that we have seen in several years (the winter of 03-04). Thoughts of warm rock and sunny days, as well as snow free hiking and birding for something other than chickadees and goldeneye ducks, are strong incentives to look southward. I have made variations of this trip before, and will undoubtedly do it many more times in the future. In summary, I blast out of Jackson on a good day; hoping for a minimal distance of nasty roads, and pleasant drive to Zion National Park. Zion offers an attractive campground and there are a number of trails or climbing routes that can be used as therapy to overcome the effects of the previous day in the car.

 

The next dash southward is towards Arizona’s Sonoran Desert with its promises of warmth and sunshine. Depending on the total time of the planned trip I can find places along the way to waste minutes, hours, or days; but my real goal is Tucson and beyond. Tucson’s Mt. Lemmon has always drawn me in for at least several days of climbing. However, last year’s fire there may have caused some problems and I will have to investigate. Mt Lemmon is an area near Tucson offering many, many climbs, both traditional and sport, on a good granitic rock. Expect to spend some time being lost at first, as there are a bewildering number of separate crags crowded together on steep slopes. When climbing there, opportunities abound to visit with other local climbers, since I am forever asking others about where I am versus where I think I am. It is usually a very humbling interaction, but I manage to make it worthwhile by getting updates on the popular Mexican eateries and such local tidbits. One thing about these pleasantries which constantly amazes me: when asked the “what and where” of my trip I always mentioned Cochise Stronghold and Baboquivari Peak and am surprised by the universality of their response, which is essentially “Oh, I have always wanted to go to those places.” Hell, they live in Arizona and I have to come a thousand miles and will continue to do so.

 

Baboquivari Peak is about 60 miles SW of Tucson. Although I am not one to wax poetic about spirituality, I can understand why the Tohono O’odham Indians hold the mountain to be sacred. Even without a climbing motive, I find the surrounding countryside beckoning. Although the mountain offers a number of Grade VI climbs on its east face, I find a couple of routes more compelling (and they certainly are more in my ability range): They are the classic 5.6 SE Arête and the 5.8 Don’s Crack. They are 7 and 10 pitches long, respectively, and should be considered adventure climbing as opposed to sport climbing. Don’s Crack hosts a lovely poison ivy plant, which can be bypassed via a delicate stem; but because the rope will go through the bush, people who are very sensitive to this plant should consider not doing this route or making sure they are adequately protected when handling the rope afterwards. If not, you may have intimate knowledge about where you put your fingers that day. Such lessons seldom come cheaply. Nonetheless, it really is a great climb and well worth doing. These climbs can be approached on either side. The east side has a road that may require a more rugged vehicle, but one can get much of the altitude out of the way with a car. The rest of the approach is relatively non-trailed and one risks bleeding to death by cactus. The west side has a trail that starts in a rather dirty and ill-maintained campground, but it has the advantage of being a quick trail to the base of the mountain. Also, in spite of the trash, it has good birding habitat. I don’t think that I have ever gone anywhere up on the mountain without getting a little bit disoriented, not knowing exactly where I want to go, and having to poke around for a good route or the right direction.

 

Cochise Stronghold is in the Dragoon Mountains and consists of two areas the East Stronghold and the West Stronghold. The areas are flanked by the towns of Willcox and Tombstone, AZ. The west area is much wilder that the east side, but more routes seem to exist on the east side and the approaches certainly seem tamer there also. Innocent climbers need to beware of the Arizona boys (and perhaps girls) who climbed there first. They set high standards and must have climbed in a very confident manner, considering the dearth of protection on some of their climbs. Both short climbs and multi-pitched ones abound, although I prefer the longer multi-pitched climbs as they seem more in character with the place and its history. Another warning should be entered, one pertaining to birds. The authorities close seasonally the area around Rockfellow Dome and the area around What’s My Line because of nesting falcons in the spring.

 

On the approaches there, I entertain myself with trying to find some of the many examples of Indian art and, of course being a bird nerd, I am always stopping and whipping out my binos to look for unknown birds. This proclivity of mine really tests my partner’s patience, but the quality of the climbs seems to be worth it to them to put up with my idiosyncratic behaviors. Back to climbing: A list of climbs that I enjoy or climbs that I think I would enjoy would include the all time great What’s My Line(5.6, A0), The Wasteland (5.8), Beeline(5.9R), and Abracadaver (5.11)(this is the one that I think I would enjoy assuming that I can get past the 5.9 off-width which might well be the crux of the 5/11 climb). The rock where Abracadaver is, Rockfellow Dome, has a number of other climbs which look very nice. On the west side Moby Dick (5.8) and Warpaint (5.10c) are both outstanding routes. As I said before, this side is more remote, primitive, and the approaches can be adventures in themselves.

 

This short list really doesn’t do justice to Arizona climbing. Sedona and Oak Creek have quite a lot of climbing. If anyone is looking for an exciting climb, consider the original route on the Mace, near Sedona. It was done in 1957 by TM Herbert, Rearick, and Bob Kamps. While you are clambering over the poor quality rock, just imagine doing so with lesser shoes and without any of those huge cams! And if the bolt at the top crux falls out, as it did when we bypassed it, just stuff it back in its hole for the next party. And, of course, it is obligatory to try to get your partner to jump back down over the gap on the decent as was done on the first ascent, especially if you can get him to do it and you can avoid doing it yourself. Beware jumping the gap wearing tight climbing shoes. I have been told that it really hurts. And I can’t believe that he really did jump. Just looking at it scared me, and the thought of ….. Yikes!

 

May I digress here for a moment for a moral consideration? When I was clutching the afore-mentioned bolt, I was possessed by a need to possess that bolt. It had, if I remember correctly, a hanger made from an early Lost Arrow (?) and had T.M.’s initials stamped on it. Oh, how I wanted it for my collection. But reflecting on how much fun it was to happen upon it, I thought I had best leave it where it was – a living climbers’ museum where future climbers could happen upon it, feel the same joy and fear, and reflect how it was in the “old days” I only hope that the future climbers concur and act in a similar manner.

 

Below I listed a few of the area climbing guide books that might be of interest to climbers.

 

  • Rock Climber’s Guide to Sedona & Oak Creek Canyon
  • Castles in the Sand (another Sedona & Oak Creek guide)
  • A CheapWay do Die (also a Sedona area guide)
  • Rock Climbing Arizona – a Falcon Guide
  • Paradise Forks Rock Climbing (sort of a traditional sport climbing area, does that make sense?)
  • Jack’s Canyon Guide (a sport area, lots of short, well protected climbs)
  • Backcountry Climbing in Arizona by Bob Kerry
  • Squeezing the Lemmon II
  • Desert Rock-Rock Climbs in the National Parks (this is for Zion, just in case)

 

If more time, money, and energy still exists, consider a less direct trip back through back through Joshua Tree and Red Rocks at Las Vegas to experience a couple of other great climbing areas. Then, of course, the way back might include the Virgin Gorge, Snow Canyon; oh, the list seems endless. This might be the time to check out a climber’s traveling bible: “Rock N Road” just to make sure you do not accidentally go past a good climbing experience. This could turn into the ENDLESS CLIMBING ROAD TRIP!

 

If your interests include things other than climbing, such as hiking and/or birding; a little effort and research will reward you with many great areas for these activities. The American birding community views this general area of Arizona as one of the great birding areas because of the many Mexican species not seen elsewhere in the U.S. Now, just where did I leave my skis, shovel, and avalanche beacon? Even if I wasted the last of the winter powder, I still will have the corn.

  • Photo courtesy of summitpost.org

Too Cold for Mountaineering? How to Spend Your Winter

For most climbers, cold weather comes with the terrain—literally. Depending on personal experience, the length of the trip, and your general health, low temperatures may prove prohibitive for stretches of the winter season. While there is no consensus on “how cold is too cold,” many climbers won’t camp out if temperatures are lower than –10F. However, temperature isn’t the only factor to consider when deciding to head out on a cold day. Moisture, wind, and cloud cover are all essential to make smart, informed climbing decisions.

 

If you decide to head out in subzero weather, you should take several safety precautions. First, you should check for avalanche warnings in your climbing area. The Bridger Teton Avalanche Center has updated information for those looking to plan winter and spring excursions. Second, you should provide several people with your itinerary. Though it is always smart to alert friends and family to your whereabouts, cold weather presents additional chances for danger. Finally, you must dress for the occasion, wearing several layers of moisture-wicking material, as well as the appropriate equipment.

 

While some might feel comfortable venturing out into the cold, others will want to seek out alternative activities. If you’re looking for substitutes to climbing on cold winter days, consider picking up a pair of skis and exploring the powder. In the Teton Range, you’ll have a couple of alpine options to choose from: resort skiing and backcountry skiing. Each presents its own benefits and disadvantages, but both are sure to provide an excellent time.

 

Resort Skiing—Regardless of weather, conditions, or skill, you’re nearly guaranteed a run or two at a ski resort. Resort skiing is a safe and popular option among winter sport enthusiasts. If the weather turns sour, you’re never more than a few minutes away from the safety and security of the lodge. Plus, the Teton Range has several impressive ski resorts to choose from. Though you won’t experience the thrill of discovery that you might while climbing, resort skiing can pack an adrenaline punch.

 

Backcountry Skiing—Similar to mountaineering, backcountry skiing incorporates aspects of other outdoor activities: hiking and climbing. Backcountry skiers explore unmarked and unpatrolled areas of the wilderness. However, backcountry skiing is significantly more dangerous than resort skiing; only experienced winter athletes should attempt this type of skiing in the Teton winters.

 

Discover a Love of Winter Sports

Whether you want a break from the wall or simply can’t justify heading out on a multi-day climb, the Teton range has additional winter sports options you may want to consider. Perfect for every ability level and preferred experience, skiing the Tetons is one of the best alternatives to climbing available.