Direct Petzoldt Ridge

Page Type
Wyoming, United States, North America
Route Type:
Trad Climbing
Time Required:
One to two days
Rock Difficulty:
5.7 (YDS)
Number of Pitches:

Route Quality: 3 Votes

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Direct Petzoldt Ridge
Created On: Sep 27, 2012
Last Edited On: Jan 19, 2018


A climber on the Petzoldt Direct.

Located on the Grand Teton's striking Petzoldt Ridge, the Direct Pezoldt is a classic route with memorable pitches and huge exposure. It was first climbed on August 30, 1953 by Willi Unsoeld, LaRee Munns, James and Rodney Shirley, and Austin Flint.

The Direct Petzoldt is great for those looking for an alternative to the Lower Exum. It is a 5.7 variation of the standard Petzoldt Ridge route which is rated 5.6(There is also a 5.9 variation). The Direct Petzoldt starts at the base of the Petzoldt Ridge while the standard Petzoldt Ridge route starts a good ways up the Stettner Couloir.

The crux of the climb is on the first pitch, but the later pitches have the most exposure. These include the famous "Window" and "Knife Edge" pitches. From the summit of the Petzoldt Ridge, a 50 foot rappel down to a ledge will allow you to traverse to the Upper Exum Ridge and summit, or summit via the Ford/Stettner Couloir. Summiting via the Upper Exum Ridge is classic, and is the way that most people choose to summit after climbing the Petzoldt ridge.

Petzoldt from the Exum
The Petzoldt Ridge as seen from the Exum Ridge.
Looking down at the Petzoldt Ridge from the Upper Exum
Looking down at the Petzoldt Ridge from high on the Upper Exum Ridge.

Getting There

Follow the trail from Lupine Meadows parking lot up to Garnet Canyon. Continue up to the Lower Saddle, and begin heading partway up the trail towards the Upper Saddle until you reach the "black dike"; a dark colored band of rock. Follow the "black dike" towards the base of the Petzoldt Ridge which is located to the right of the Exum Ridge. The Direct Petzoldt route starts directly at the base of the ridge and the Stettner Couloir(which is located on the right side of the Petzoldt Ridge). Watch out for rockfall coming down the Stettner Couloir!

The Petzoldt Ridge
View of the Petzoldt Ridge from the Black Dike.
Looking back at the lower saddle from the black dike.
Looking back at the Lower Saddle from the "black dike".

The base of the lower Exum Ridge-seen on the approach to the Petzoldt Ridge
Passing the lower Exum Ridge on the way to the base of the Petzoldt Ridge.

Petzoldt Start
The base of the 1st pitch of the Direct Petzoldt, located above the "black dike", and adjacent to the Stettner Couloir.

Route Description

In order to reach the base of the 1st pitch one must first climb up and onto a 4th class ledge, which is located at the base of the Stettner Couloir. This ledge traverses to the left and leads to a small belay platform. The first pitch is rated 5.7 and is technically the hardest pitch on the entire climb. Follow the first pitch up a steep but protected slot/face up to a chimney which leads up to a belay roof. 

View down from the top of the first pitch of the Petzoldt Direct
Looking down from the top of the 1st pitch of the Direct Petzoldt.
Heading up the Direct Detzoldt
Belaying on the 1st pitch, which at 5.7 is the crux of the Direct Petzoldt.


Looking down from a spectacularly exposed belay spot midway up the Petzoldt Ridge

Nearing the  Knife Edge
Nearing the "knife edge".

From here the exposure gets a little more intense, with the route leading out to the left to a roof which takes you around and up a terrifyingly exposed corner. There are several moves which require you to step out and onto a gigantic cliff. Luckily there are good juggy holds to cling to in these sections. 

The Direct Petzoldt-Not a good place to fall
Looking down at the "black dike" from the 4th pitch.
The terrain then gets less steep and angles to the right. The "Window" (a large hole in the rock) can be seen here, and it is a good idea to belay just beneath it. Climb through the window to a section of ledges which then lead to a short but difficult crack to regain the crest of the ridge. The next section stays slightly to the right of the sheer crest, leading eventually to the famous "knife edge". The exposure here is pretty intense on lead. Luckily there are several good places for cams here(although these may not be immidiatly noticeable). 

A final pitch of moderate climbing leads to the top of the ridge. A 50 foot rappel must be made to reach a ledge which leads to some 4th class scrambling, meeting up with the Upper Exum near the "Wind Tunnel" pitch. The rappel station is just below the summit of the ridge. Do not rappel directly to the north, as there is a large drop! 
Looking back at the  knife edge  on the Direct Petzoldt
The end of the 5th pitch, looking back towards the Middle Teton.

As for the descent you can use the standard Owen-Spaulding rappel if you summited, or rappel down the Petzolt if you did not summit. You can follow a chain of rap stations down most of the way, but may be forced to leave some gear behind in places.  Alternatively it is also possible to descend via the Upper Exum Ridge route, although this requires down climbing the exposed "Wall Street" pitch. 

Getting an early start on the route is highly recommended(this could mean leaving the camp/parking lot as early as 1:00 or 2:00 AM, depending on where you are starting from). Always check the weather forecast before climbing! The Direct Petzoldt is a committing route, and a quick escape may not be possible should bad weather roll in. 

Looking at the Middle Teton near the top of the Petzoldt Ridge
Near the top of the Petzoldt Ridge, just as the sun is setting.

Looking up towards the Upper Exum from high on the Petzoldt Ridge
Looking up the final pitch of the Direct Petzoldt and the Upper Exum(left).
Looking down the Petzoldt ridge as i prepare to rappel.
Rappelling down the Petzoldt Ridge near dusk.


Essential Gear

A teton rack up to 2" will probably be sufficient, however i brought along a 3" Camelot and found it useful on several occasions. I also brought a couple of large hexes, and found them useful as well. Bring lots of webbing/slings in case you need to make an emergency rappel. It is best to bring two ropes along, as many of the rappel sections are very long. An ice axe/crampons is a must if you are climbing in the early season. Make sure you bring warm clothes and plenty of food and water. Even the best climbers run into bad luck from time to time, and being prepared can be the difference between having fun and enduring living hell. Although the Direct Petzoldt is only rated 5.7, the exposure and commitment level of the climb is very high. Make sure you check in with the climbing rangers at Jenny Lake Ranger Station, before attempting an ascent of the Direct Petzoldt. They have up to date information about the conditions on the route, and can offer very helpful advice.

On pitch 3 of the Direct Petzoldt
Looking out from pitch 3 on the Petzoldt Direct.
Petzoldt After Dark
The Petzoldt Ridge after dark.

The Lower Exum Ridge as seen from the Petzoldt Direct route.
The Exum ridge seen from the Direct Petzoldt.

Heading down from the Petzoldt Ridge as night falls
Heading back home from the Petzoldt Ridge, near dark.

Direct Petzoldt Ridge

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