Middle Teton to Cloudveil Dome Traverse

Middle Teton to Cloudveil Dome Traverse

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 43.71886°N / 110.81874°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Aug 23, 2019
Activities Activities: Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Scrambling
Seasons Season: Summer

Middle to Cloudveil Traverse - Teton Range

For years I have contemplated a ridge traverse in the Teton's.  This range is where I first attempted alpine style climbing nearly 20 years ago.  The Grand Teton was my first true alpine route, learning to manage weather, altitude, exposure and risk.  I became enamored with the peak and summited multiple times via the Full Exum and Upper Exum routes.  Over the years I read trip reports, perused topos and read route descriptions of the great Teton traverses like the Cathedral and Cloudveil.  It never quite came together as I moved to Texas, Seattle and Salt Lake City.  From 2014-2018 I took a hiatus from technical climbing to pursue other goals.  In the back of my mind was a desire to dust off those old plans and complete lingering objectives.   A few days ago I realized one of those dreams and completed a rugged Middle Teton to Cloudveil ridge traverse with Matt Davidson. This is a variation of the "Cloudveil Traverse" which typically links the South Teton to Nez Perce. Due to its increased prominence and position in the range we elected to add the Middle Teton instead of Nez Perce.  We completed the traverse on  8/23/2019 the day after my 41st birthday.

I met up with Matt Davidson a college friend, climber, skiier and SAR mountain guru.  We caught a few hours of parking lot sleep and started hiking at 3am.  We cruised the trail and switchbacks leading to the meadows.    From here climbed and scrambled the South Fork of Garnet canyon to the saddle between the Middle and South Tetons.

Sunrise in upper South Fork Garnet Canyon
Sunrise in upper South Fork Garnet Canyon

After taking in the views ascended the Southwest Couloir of the Middle Teton.  This route goes quickly but does require attention to avoid triggering rock and scree fall. We then descended the same route and were relieved to find no marmots disturbed our stashed packs. We continued up the West Ridge route to the summit of the South Teton. From here the elevation gains decrease but the terrain becomes much more technical and demanding.

SW Couloir Middle Teton
SW Couloir Middle Teton
Middle Teton Summit with Grand Teton in the background
Middle Teton Summit with Grand Teton in the background

 

Descending to the col between the South Teton and Ice Cream cone we began the first technical climbing on the route. I led the west chimney of Ice Cream Cone via a ~150ft pitch of steep 5.6 on good holds but with loose rock in places.  The ptich starts in the dihedral/chimney on the lower left of the photo and follows the weakness more or less straight up.  Protection is intermittent but secure and the more exposed and strenuous sections are well protected.  A standard alpine rack was just the right amount of gear. The exposure from the top of Ice Cream Cone was staggering as Avalanche Canyon drops steeply to the north.

Ice Cream Cone - the technical crux of the traverse
Ice Cream Cone - the technical crux of the traverse
Leading the chimney on Ice Cream Cone
Leading the chimney on Ice Cream Cone
Exposed climbing to the summit of Ice Cream Cone
Exposed climbing to the summit of Ice Cream Cone
Ice Cream Cone Summit after climbing 5.6 west chimney
Ice Cream Cone Summit after climbing 5.6 west chimney

Staying true to the ridge we continued over several sub towers and climbed another short pitch of 5.6-5.7 on good rock over a bulge. This is not the typical which is supposed to be 4th class. From here we scrambled toward Gilkey tower, nearing the summit their was a newish bolt allowing a short rappel.  We continued with significant exposure to the summit of Gilkey Tower. Gilkey Tower is named after Art Gilkey a Teton climbing guide who died while attempting K2 in the 1950's.

Navigating 4th class terrain en route to Gilkey Tower
Navigating 4th class terrain en route to Gilkey Tower

Between Gilkey Tower and Spaulding Peak we encountered a snow filled gulley which could not be bypassed. Having axes but no crampons we belayed each other across while chopping steps.   This again was time consuming but a slip on this 50-60 degree snow would have been difficult to arrest and likely resulted in severe injury or worse.  Once ascross the gully we quickly gained the summit of Spaulding Peak with its awesome views and incredible position over Avalanche Canyon.

Summit blocks of Spaulding Peak
Summit blocks of Spaulding Peak

We finished the day with the 3rd class scramble up Cloudveil Dome.  I could not contain a primal yell from the top of the peak.  The descent of Cloudveils east face was quite involved and required several rappels to navigate steep and technical 4th class rock with overhangs in places.With the technical terrain behind us we began the long slog back to Lupine Meadows trailhead. Much talus and scree was descended before finally getting back to The Meadows in lower Garnet canyon. The solidified trail was very welcome as our tired legs and feet carried us back down the switchbacks to the car.

 

Rappelling steep 4th class rock
Rappelling steep 4th class rock

 

Teton Panoram - South to Cloudveil ridge on photo left
Teton Panoram - South to Cloudveil ridge on photo left

Six Teton summits,15 miles, 8,000 ft elevation gain, 2 pitches of 5.6-7rock climbing, steep snow, many sections of exposed 4th class and approximately 10 raps descending 4th-low 5th terrain.  The was my grandest of mountaineerig adventures to date.  Fitting that it happened where I first cut my teeth on alpine rock. 

50's era piton
50's era piton

 

Middle Teton - 12,804 ft

South Teton - 12,514 ft

Ice Cream Cone - 12,400 ft

Gilkey Tower - 12,320 ft

Spaulding Peak - 12,240 ft

Cloudveil Dome - 12,026 ft

Summit of Cloudveil Dome
Summit of Cloudveil Dome

 



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