Midway through the 20th Century on a summer trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I gazed upon the awesome Grand Teton for the first time. At its base near Jenny Lake, I met mountain-guide Glenn Exum and his attractive blond wife. Exum's appearance was a cross between the movie actors, Errol Flynn and Gilbert Roland, the latter whom I had just seen in a class-B movie entitled "High Conquest" where the Cisco Kid played a Swiss guide somewhat reluctant to undertake a death-defying climb of the Matterhorn. The prospect of reliving this movie inspired me to borrow thirty dollars from my father to pay Exum to guide me up the "Matterhorn of the Rockies."
I was disappointed when my guide turned out to be not the handsome Exum but rather a younger member of his staff, Bob Merriam. Bob led his wife, Doris, Ronald Davis, and me up along switchbacks that led through the forest and up a glacial ravine to the 12,000-foot saddle between the Grand and Middle Tetons. There we camped for the night before ascending steeply to a higher saddle where we roped up and traversed horizontally along a narrow exposed ledge called the "Cooning Place" (as I recall). A few more terrifying pitches subsequently put us on the slabby summit of the Grand Teton.
The weather was good and we could see every peak from Mount Moran and Jackson Lake on the north to South Teton and Jackson town to the south. Bob and his wife sat on a ledge below the summit. I was able to catch them from above through my viewfinder with their legs dangling over the abyss and Jenny Lake 7,000 feet below their feet for a very vertiginous photograph. A kodachrome of sixteen-year-old me sitting on the summit appears in my profile.
This was my first experience with technical climbing. Subsequently that same year (1950) I wrote an account of the climb that covered a newspaper-size page in the Salt Lake Tribune Sunday Magazine Section entitled "Feet on the Teton." A photograph of our guide and his wife taken from the summit looks down on their boots suspended above Jenny Lake is one of five pictures that appeared with the full-page article. The yellowed newspaper sheet remains folded among my most precious momentos.
Here is a picture of your actual summit signature. I'm not sure if you have seen this, but I thought it was pretty awesome.
I'm not sure why I let my little Brother talk me into leaving the tent at 4:30am.. We ended up climbing to the top in the dark.. Since we had not been their before,,, we left the Owen Spalding route before the belly crawl and ended up with a direct ascent.. All in all,, it was great.. We sat up on top and watched the sun come up.. warmed up in the sun for about an hour,,, We didn't see the next climber until we were on our way back down..
Had bad weather from the lower saddle to the peak, with only a few brief shots of the sun. Near zero visibility with some slight rain.
My third summit of the Grand, first by Owen-Spalding, second by Direct Exum, and this, my first time crossing the Wall Street gap. The route was more memorable this time around, with my wife. 3.5 hours from the Lower Saddle, and we jumped every group of guides we encountered. My first pleasant experience with the guides in the Tetons. All were happy on the summit.
Fun climb to a great summit. The Golden Staircase was the best climbing on the route. I didn't even know I was on the Friction Pitch until it was over. Simul-climbed with my wife and found the ridge to be shorter and easier than expected. Mostly 4th and very low 5th class climbing.
Passed 5 Exum guided groups as the ridge was wide and hosted many variations.
A true Classic.
One day climb. Very windy at the lower saddle and opted for OS route. Mostly class 3.
Wow, what an awesome climb! This was my first technichal climb of a mountain and it was a great experience. We had great weather and had a clear view at the top (only blemish was the hazy smoke from all of the fires in the midwest at the time). Wall Street, Friction Pitch, and the Golden Staircase were all fun. We descended down the Owen-Spalding and completed the long rap. The hikes up and down were enjoyable too.
Climbed with big wall speed climber Miles Smart to the summit in about 6.5 hrs from Lupine Meadows. We made very good time to the Lower Saddle, had a quick break, and took only about 1 hr on the route itself (from Wall Street ledge). The climbing was fantastic - beautiful rock, interesting moves, and great views and exposure. The Golden Staircase and Friction Pitch are absolute classics! After a few minutes on the summit, we descended by down-climbing the Owen-Spalding route, avoiding the long lines at the rappel. We were back at the parking area in less than 12 hours. This was probably my best day in the mountains to date. The weather was perfect, I felt really strong, the climbing was first rate, and climbing with Miles was really a great experience. I can't wait to get back to the Tetons.
This was my first rock climbing experience other than training. The Pownall-Gilkey route is challenging for a beginner, but attainable and quite exhilerating. It branches off from the Owens-Spaulding route and it is an enjoyable climb with several 5.4 - 5.6 pitches, and one 5.8 aided pitch. We left the JHMG base camp at 4am and were on the summit from ~10:30-11am. Clouds were already blowing in. We were socked in about 25% of the time, but fortunately were able to enjoy partial views in between clouds. My thanks to guide Evan for getting us up and back safely. It started to rain as we reached the saddle on the way down.
Sadly, some other climbers weren't so lucky. Lightening struck a climber near the summit later in the day, killing one person and injuring 5 others. We heard several helicopters coming and going high on the mountain about the time we reached the Petzold Caves and we knew something terrible had happened. My thoughts and prayers are with the deceased and her family.
Partner: Steve Reynolds
Left Lower Saddle at 5:30 am. Reached Wall Street just after dawn. Summitted 12:15 am; crowded but very fun. Yellow ribbon for climbing friend Don Hutchings (being held hostage in Kashmir) left in summit cracks. Very lengthy wait for raps down. Back at tent /Lower Saddle at 5:00 pm. Wild thunderstorm that night.
A 74 year old mother was in the party ahead of us (Hutchison). Golden Staircase warm & beautiful & joyous to climb. Missed V-Pitch -- did a more strenuous variation.
Awesome climb, great views and exposure, routefinding pretty straightforward. Next time I'll try it in a day!
Great Climb. Next time wanna get a longer permit for the lower saddle and do other routes.
Wonderful route, especially Black Face, weathered off, descended in a thunderstorm from Wall Street (not fun)
Nice route from Grandstand, route finding below (Valhalla traverse) was not trivial
First time to the summit
Climbed car to car with JZ. Finished on the Ford Couloir rather than traverse to the the Exum. The Ford was 4th class mud. I always imagined this mountain bigger than it turned out to be. We met some nice people from the Mid-West who shared the walk back to the lower saddle.
Bill Krause and I climbed the lower and upper Exum in 1989 from our camp at the Meadows. Great route.
In summer of 1991, Bill Krause and I climbed the classic North Ridge from Valhalla Canyon. We climbed the Italian Cracks variation(5.8) and above, added a 5.9 hand crack pitch and two 5.8 face climbing pitches to reach the top. Tom Turiano (local Guide) and the late Leigh Ortenburger called it "The North Ridge without the chimneys", but somehow it never made it into any of the Guide Books after Leigh died. We thought it was a great, clean climb, avoiding the wet chimneys of the regular North Ridge.