Mount Owen Koven Route
The Koven Route is one of the most popular and frequently used routes for an ascent of Mount Owen, as well as being the easiest route to the summit. It is also the most commonly used descent route as well. The route is named after Gustav and Theodore Koven, who along with Paul Petzoldt and Glen Exum pioneered the route on their July 20, 1931 ascent of the peak.
With an early morning start strong hikers may be able to complete the route in one long day. For the rest of us, a more realistic itinerary may be to spread the hike over 2 or 3 days, with a camp established in the vicinity of the Teton Glacier. This will require a backcountry camping permit, available free of charge at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. Refer to the Grand Teton camping guide
for complete details on camping in the park.
One-Way Hiking Distance: 6.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 6,196 ft.
Avg. Gain per Mile: 991 ft.
Trailhead Elevation: 6,732 ft.
Summit Elevation: 12,928 ft.
From the Lupine Meadows
trailhead follow the popular and well used trail for ±3 miles to a trail junction. Here the trail splits, with the left branch continuing on to Garnet Canyon. Take the right branch and continue another ±1.5 miles to Surprise Lake, and Amphitheater Lake a short distance beyond.
The maintained trail ends at Amphitheater Lake, but a prominent hikers trail continues around the north shore of the lake, where it turns north and ascends several hundred feet to a saddle overlooking Glacier Gulch to the north. The trail descends a short distance into the gulch, then heads westward. contouring along the sheer north face of Disappointment Peak
. Soon after the trail ends as it enters glacial moraine, but occasional cairns may be spotted.
The Teton Glacier will not yet be visible, but proceed northwest up the moraine over a couple of small rises until the glacier is reached. For those attempting the climb over multiple days, there are several established bivy sites in the moraine just below the final rise leading up to the glacier, near the base of the east ridge of the Grand Teton.
From the glacier there will be a clear view of Mount Owen to the northwest, and a good opportunity to study the route. On the ridge below and to the east of Owen is a prominet pillar known as the East Prong. Immediately to the left (west) of the East Prong is a notch marking the top of the Koven Couloir which must be ascended.
Traverse across the glacier to the base of the couloir and begin ascending the rocks leading up to the couloir, passing to the right of a small (seasonal?) waterfall. This short pitch of easy 5th class climbing leads to easier terrain above.
Begin ascending the couloir above the initial rock band. The lower couloir is moderately steep but increases in steepness near the top. On early summer ascents the couloir will be entirely snow filled, and will require ice axe and crampons. Most parties will probably want to rope up in the upper portion of the couloir.
The Koven Couloir tops out at the saddle (±11,880 ft.) on the east ridge of Owen, immediately to the west of the East Prong. Proceed up the ridge several hundred feet, then climb a deep chimney near the right side of the ridge to reach the benches above.
Above the chimney begin making a long upward traverse along the slopes forming the snow covered bench which circles the southern half of the upper summit block. The slope is steep in spots but a belay should not be required. Proceed to the far west end of the bench where it terminates at the ridge connecting Owen with the Grand Teton to the south.
Turn right (north) and proceed up to the base of the summit block. Climb the chimney up and left to a notch on the southwest ridge. From the notch make a northward traverse onto the west side of the summit block, then ascend the prominent deep chimney a short distance to the summit.
A series of two rappels off the southwest side of the summit block will reach the top of the snow covered bench near the southwest ridge. From this point the remainder of the descent will retrace the ascent route. The Koven Couloir can be downclimbed, or make a series of 2-3 rappels from anchors along the east side of the couloir. A final rappel near the small waterfall at the base of the couloir can be made to avoid the somewhat tricky downclimbing.
A light rack consisting of a set of medium to large nuts, 2 or 3 large hexes, and several cams to cover 1-3". An ice axe and possibly crampons will also be required. For early summer attempts an ice tool may be useful for ascending the Koven couloir, and a couple of snow pickets may also come in handy.