Has anyone here done both the East Face and Southwest Couloir route on Teewinot (not just from the plateau connecting Teewinot & Owen as part of the Grand Traverse, but all the way from down at Amphitheater Lake) in late summer (~ August)? The east face crux looks just a bit beyond my comfort level, and I was wondering how sustained the class 4 of the southwest couloir is, and how difficult its crux would be by comparison.
I know it would be more tiring and less direct going this way, but since it meets back up with the east face route right below the summit, after the tricky crux section, I was thinking about going this way instead. Many have done the east face without needing ropes, but most all of them seem to have significant past experience with technical climbing, which I don't have. That summit view is awesome, and it seems like the southwest couloir would offer some nice views of the Grand & Owen along the way as well, if we couldn't make it all the way to the top. It appears that for the east face you don't get these nice views unless you make it all the way to the summit.
To be specific, I was wondering more about the part of the route from Amphitheater Lake up to the flat plateau between Owen and Teewinot (I've seen photos from the plateau to the summit and it doesn't seem too difficult). Ortenburger's guide just says that some of the couloirs leading to this plateau are difficult and require careful routefinding, but doesn't elaborate beyond that. In a low snow year, in late August the east face is doable without crossing steep snowfields. Does the same apply for the couloir/couloirs? I'm just trying to get a feel for the technical difficulty compared to the east face.
I actually went about this the same way as you the first time I climbed Teewinot 14 years ago: I was intimidated by the East Face due to lack of experience. I think a big part of the intimidation comes from the fact that you always see the East Face straight-on, so it looks really fierce. Having done it several times, I can tell you it's really not that bad, especially late in season when the snow's gone. That said, having the snow there on the descent makes life on your knees so much easier.
Back to the southwest side: Almost nobody goes this way. When I did it was also snow-covered, probably mid-summer. Very steep, as I recall, but doable for a couple of neophytes with brand new ice axes. We survived. Can't say what it's like sans snow.
You're right about the views, though. On the south side, the Grand's North Face is always looming over you, bottom to top. Plus, nothing wrong with a tour of Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes and Glacier Gulch while bagging Teewinot.
I have done both, and both my experiences (an almost fatal fall on snow in the big crescent-shaped SW couloir in August, a mellow experience on E face in July) are described in the SP summit log. But in some years and some snow conditions the SW couloir might even be the easier route. Both ways are highly scenic in their own way--in terms of scenery, it won't be a wasted day even if you don't summit, in either case.
You're right that once you're on the Owen-Teewinot plateau, the difficulties are pretty much over.
Thanks for the replies! It sounds like the less-traveled route may be a fun alternative with awesome views, so maybe we'll try that way first. If anything it will give me more experience on steep snow & class 4 rock to get me more ready for trying the east face later on.