To avoid hassle with permits, we approached the Grandstand (the base of the North Ridge) from Valhalla Canyon. The approach was a bit more technical, slipery and icy, but it avoids the crowds at Lower Saddle and the Valhalla Traverse. Just walk up the Valhalla Canyon and when under the Lower Black Ice Couloir, climb up avoiding the ice as much as possible all the way to the Grandstand. We actually never put crampons and ice axes on, but we almost did. The upper part of the approach, below Grandstand can be icy and very slipery.
Sorry for not having any pictures from the route. I dropped my Olympus camera on the last pitch while I was just topping the Grand and trying to take one last shot of Bill Krause.
If anyone climbs the original North Ridge, The Italian Cracks variation or this North Ridge without the Chimneys, please include some photos here. I included this route to the Grand Teton page, because the North Ridge and all these variations include some of the best moderate alpine climbing on the Grand, I'm not kidding.
Since the classic North Ridge chimneys looked full of water and ice, we decided to climb the Italian Cracks variation. It starts just a bit left, around the corner and out on the north face. This is really a great crack climb variation and the character of this climb is completely different than the original North Ridge. The Italian Cracks are steep, finger to hand cracks at 5.7 and 5.8 dificulty. From the Grandstand, climb the first two pitches of the original North Ridge route to a large ledge. Move left on this ledge and find steep crack system. Three pitches go straight up on great crack climbing to the Second Ledge. At the Second Ledge you can traverse right to rejoin the standard North Ridge route at the corner. We opted to climb the face just a few feet right of the termination of the Italian Cracks. One pitch of 5.9 hand crack straight up, one pitch of 5.8 face, easing to a pitch of 5.7 face climbing which deposits you right on the summit. The late Leigh Ortenburger called this route "The North Ridge without the Chimneys" but somehow, our variation from the Second Ledge to the summit never made it into the Guide Books. In any case, this is a recommended option, if the chimneys of the classic North Ridge are icy or wet.
50m rope, set of SLCDs, set of wires, extra carabiners, slings, ice axe and crampons depending on conditions, helmet, bivi gear.
If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.
"That rug really tied the room together."