Southwest Ridge(YDS 5.7) of Symmetry Spire, Teton Range, WY
Looking down the Northwest Ridge from the top.
The Southwest Ridge is a classic moderate trad climb located on Symmetry Spire in the Teton Range of Wyoming. Fun pitches and massive exposure combine to make this route quite the adventure. The route involves lots of 5.6 sections with a 5.7 headwall thrown in. There is also a 5.6/5.7 chimney near the top.
On the final pitches the exposure is quite intense, with cliffs on all sides dropping 1000 ft or more down to the symmetry couloir. The summit ridge is a windy 4th class/ low 5th class scramble, which leads eventually to the main summit. The route can be climbed in 4-5 pitches with a 70 meter rope, or 6-7 pitches with a shorter rope. There is a total of 4000 feet of elevation gained hiking and around 1000 feet climbing.
Baxter's Pinnacle seen from the horse trail, Teton Range, WY
Start hiking from the String Lake trailhead towards Jenny Lake. After hiking around Jenny Lake into the mouth of Cascade Canyon you will reach a fork in the trail. Take the fork called the "horse trail", which leads up into Cascade Canyon. The trail will lead through the forest for a little bit, passing by Baxters Pinnacle which is a knob that juts out of Cascade Canyon(and is an awesome climb in its own right). Symmetry Couloir is the canyon/valley that bisects the two large peaks, to the left of Baxters Pinnacle. The forest along the right side of the trail will thin out a little bit and you will be able to see symmetry couloir. There is a climbers trail that takes off from the right side of the horse trail and through a large brush/boulder field. Follow the trail through the thick underbrush, until you reach a wall. The trail should lead you to the right side of the couloir, where there is a steep face you must scramble up(this is NOT the main rock wall at the center of the couloir, but a much easier one in an alcove on the far right side of the mouth of the couloir).
Cascade Canyon(left) and Symmetry Couloir(bottom right) seen from the top of Baxter's Pinnacle. The mouth of Symmetry Couloir is visible at the bottom of the picture.
Scramble up and left to a series of ledges to regain the trail. Rock cairns mark the way. The trail winds up the right side of the couloir for quite a ways, eventually crossing the creek in the middle of the couloir. From there it is steep switchbacks up a field of wildflowers(or snow depending on the season), following the left side of the couloir, until once again a small rock butress must be scrambled up.
Looking down Symmetry Couloir from the top of the wildflower field. Jenny lake is visible at the center of the photo.
A view of the second rock butress scramble, and the Southwest Ridge of Symmetry Spire(upper center of the photo).
From here the trail veer off from the one going to the saddle and takes you to the base of the Southwest Ridge of Symmetry Spire. The route starts on the left side of the peak near the mouth of the upper Symmetry Couloir. There is a group of trees at the base of the route which is a good location to get all racked up.
View of the Cathedral Group from the base of the Southwest Ridge.
Sorting gear at the base of the Southwest Ridge.
The first pitch is low 5th class and is very easy. If time is an issue, this pitch can easily be scrambled up. Start climbing at the base of the ridge(or arete whatever you want to call it) near the mouth of the Upper Symmetry Couloir. Go up easy cracks inside a corner until you reach a ledge. This is a good spot to belay from, espectially if you climbed the 1st pitch unroped.
Scrambling up the 1st pitch of the Southwest Ridge of Symmetry Spire
The Cathedral Group seen from the base of pitch 2
The dihedrals on pitch 2(or 3 depending on where you start pitch 2 from). The left leaning corner can be seen clearly at the top of the roof, to the left of where the cloud meets the rock. It is a single stiff 5.6 crack with vegitation mixed in.
Looking down from the top of the left leaning corner at the top of the diedrals. If you build an anchor here it is basically a hanging belay since there is very little room to stand. If you still have more rope left there is a flat spot just above a small bulge right above this spot.
From this spot it is possible to combine the 2nd and part of the 3rd pitch, provided you have a 70 meter rope and are willing to belay from a precarious exposed notch. There is a short section of 5.5 which melds into twin 5.6 cracks in a corner which goes up quite a ways until it levels off a bit.
At this point you are at the base of where most people choose to start pitch 3. However if you scrambled high enough on pitch 1 and have a 70 meter rope it is possible to climb to the top of the dihedrals and roof above you and belay from there. There is a left leaning corner that is at the top of the dihedrals and bisects the roof, leading to an extremely exposed, tight notch. Luckily there are several good cam/nut placements here, and you can build a solid anchor.
A view of the upper Southwest Ridge from the notch at the top of pitch 2.
A view out towards the valley floor from the notch at the top of the dihedrals/roof/corner.
From this point you climb over a small bulge above the belay notch, onto a small section of "flat" ground and arrive at a larger 5.6 golden slab. Rope drag can become a huge problem at this point or later on in this pitch, so make sure you are using slings and quickdraws as liberally as possible. Above this is the crux of the climb, a 5.7 bulge(called the nose) which can be protected with a nut and an already fixed piton. It requires a couple friction moves, and is a bit exposed. Above this is a ledge followed by more broken easy terran interrupted by more 5.6 bulges and faces. This eventually leads to a ledge at the base of the upper ridge. This is the best spot to set an anchor and belay from.
The rope trailing down the ridge from the belay at the base of pitch 4.
Climbers at the base of the 4th and final pitch of the Southwest Ridge.
The final pitch starts easy with a low 5th class ramp that takes off from the far left of the belay station. Above this ramp is mixed moderate 5.6 terrain, which although easy, is very exposed with the steepest parts of the ridge dropping all the way down to the Symmetry Couloir. Above this is a 5.6 chimney, which requires a few awkward moves and is hard to fully protect. From here there is a exposed 5.6 crack up to a pie piece shaped ledge. Above this point you have only a few more easy moves to reach the top of the ridge!
Looking down at the belay station from the 5.4-5.5 ramp at the start of pitch 4. As you can see the pitch starts far to the climbers left of the belay.
Looking down from the 5.6 section above the low 5th class ramp. At this point the rope is quite runout from the last gear placement.
The chimney three quarters of the way up pitch 4.
Standing on a ledge at the top of the chimney, near the top of pitch 4. As you can see this secton is very exposed and somewhat runout.
Looking down from near the top of the 4th pitch on a pie piece shaped ledge. The top of the chimney is visible below.
Looking down from the top of the 4th pitch. Almost the entire Southwest Ridge route is visible from here.
At the top of the ridge you are pretty much done with the technical climbing. The traverse along the ridge to the main summit is very mazelike and winds left and right across the ridge. Follow the obvious 4th/low 5th class line and you should stay on route. If you run across a giant impassable drop, backtrack. Supposedly there is a rappell at the gap between the Southwest Ridge and the main summmit of Symmetry Spire, but if you head to the right side of the ridge(facing the summit) there is a 4th class way to down climb. Once you are on the main summit block, it is a short distance of 3rd class rock hopping to reach the true summit. For the descent follow the climbers trail down the Northwest Ledges(supposedly class 4 but more like class 3) to a saddle at 10,300 ft. From here you must descend the steep and loose Upper Symmetry Couloir, down to the main Symmetry Couloir.
The top of the Southwest Ridge route. This ridge continues for a bit further, eventually meeting up with the main summit.
The summit ridge of Symmetry Spire, looking towards Jackson Lake.
Teewinot(left), The Grand Teton(tallest peak), and Mount Owen(snowy peak) seen from the summit of Symmetry Spire at sunset.
The Jaw and Hanging Canyon seen on the descent down the Northwest Ledges of Symmetry Spire at sundown.
If you are climbing the Southwest Ridge in the early season an ice axe and crampons are a must as the Uppper and Lower Symmetry Couloir will be filled with snow. While not necessary a 70 meter rope is reccomended for this climb as it allows you to complete the route in 4-5 pitches instead of 6-7. If you are climbing with a party of three or more people, then two 70 meter ropes are advised. As far as pro goes a doubles rack up to number #3 should cover all of your needs. In addition it is helpful to have a set of c3s(or another brand of micro cams) and a set of nuts(stoppers) as well. Bring lots of slings, you should have nearly enough to extend every peice of pro you place. The rope drag can be horrendous on some of the longer pitches, to the point that the lead climber is unable to move foreword and has to down climb to unsnag the rope.