Cloudveil Dome is essentially the eastern terminus of the East Ridge of the South Teton. Most people use this as the jumping off point for the more rigorous traverse to the summit of the South Teton. However, there are also many alpine rock routes featured on the south face that are worthy objectives for Teton mountaineers who are looking to explore more than the mega-classic peak routes that attract so much attention. Due to it’s proximity to Garnet Canyon and all of the mountaineering glory that exists there, this is a summit that you can still enjoy alone.
The Grand Teton Page has all of the pertinent information as far as travel to Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. Start from Lupine meadows trailhead and follow the well-marked trail into Garnet Canyon until you reach the Meadows camping area. Cross the creek and continue past the campsites and up to the bifurcation of the drainage, below the Black Dike of the Middle Teton. Follow a trail up and left of the large rock outcrops (avoiding the obvious couloir just southeast of the Middle), to the South Fork camping area. From here you can see the small col between Nez Perce and Cloudveil Dome, as well as the striking, banded north face of Cloudveil. Ascend talus and scree, staying close to the base of Nez Perce to avoid the lower cliffs. At some point it will become easy to traverse west (right) towards the gully beneath the col. If the gully is filled with snow, it is possible to ascend rock ribs adjacent to the snow (3rd class). If you plan on an attempt of a south face route, you can leave extra gear at this col, and continue down the other side for about 200 feet. You should notice a very red, very steep, and very loose couloir breaking down and skiers right. Descend this gully for about 30 feet and traverse right onto a widening ledge that wraps around to the south face. The routes start on a very broad bench that cuts across the face. The traverse can be hard to spot. Be careful not to descend too far down the red gully. It is very difficult to re-climb due to loose rock and dirt.
The climbing season can be short for the Tetons. But Cloudveil offers very nice early season access. The big rock routes face south, and get good afternoon sun. However, the descent can be tricky when the upper slopes are wet. Use extreme caution when descending the East Ridge route. This route starts easy from the summit, but gets much steeper as you descend. There are two rappel stations that can be used if conditions are bad. As of July 2005 both stations were in good shape (the upper one had rap rings, and new webbing).
The Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers are some of the best in the business. They are patient, helpful souls that really enjoy talking to people about climbing in the Tetons. Having worked in the service industry, I appreciate the effort it takes to stay happy while dealing with too many people. They have the most up to date, and accurate information out there. Feel free to call them with questions (307-739-3343), but be organized! Think about the people standing in line waiting for the ranger to get off of the phone (that will be you if you climb there!). They have incredible aerial photos and first hand beta to offer if you stop in. The station opens at 8:00 for camping reservations, but if you go during peak season, expect a line to form before that. And if you really need a miracle, then you better bring some coffee to share!
South Face Routes
I have included an overview of some of the routes on the South Face. The information provided in the Ortenburger/Jackson guidebook is more than adequate. I will not replicate all of that information.
Armed Robbery – IV 5.8: 8 pitches (5.6, 5.6, 5.easy, 5.8, 5.8, 3 pitches of low 5th class). Directly to the summit.
Silver Lining – IV 5.10: Same start as Armed Robbery, but uses the right side of the big central pillar (5.10) and then continues to the summit.
WFR – III 5.8: Right of center, slightly shorter than Armed Robbery.