Although dwarfed in size by the major Teton peaks like Grand Teton and nearby Teewinot Mountain, Symmetry Spire is an excellent peak of solid granite sporting 3 classic free routes: SW Ridge (5.7), Durrance Ridge (5.6), and Direct Jensen Ridge (5.8). It is the highest point in the group of peaks lying between Cascade and Hanging Canyons, immediately west of Jenny Lake. This group also includes Storm, Cube, and Ice Points. Any of the classic routes make excellent one-day climbs with the approach from the boat dock on the west side of Jenny Lake taking only 2-3 hours. The approach is straightforward, but a bit of a slog, and ascends the Symmetry Couloir which leads to the col between Symmetry Spire and Storm/Ice Points (referred to here as Symmetry Col). A Class 4 route to the summit is also available via the East Ridge, which is approached through Hanging Canyon (see route description below). This route can also be used in descent, although the standard method is to walk down the Northwest Ledges (Class 4) to Col 10,300 on the west side of the peak and then descend the SW Couloir (Class 4) back to Symmetry Col and the start of the SW Ridge. The SW Couloir can also be used in ascent, but is probably only of interest as a snow climb in early season. Of the three classic routes, the SW Ridge is probably the best choice for one's first climb on the peak. The Durrance Ridge is considerably longer and easier and contains long sections of 4th class and easier 5th class climbing. The Jensen Ridge is considerably more difficult but the rock is apparently less solid, particularly in the middle sections. All of the routes are described briefly below and the SW Ridge is described in detail it's SW Ridge Route Page.
1) SW Ridge (II 5.7) -- This route is one of the best moderate rock climbs in the Tetons and is fairly sustained with many pitches of 5.6 and 5.7. The route consists of approximately 7 pitches is described in detail on the SW Ridge Route Page.
2) Durrance Ridge (II 5.6) -- Another classic route, but substantially easier that the SW Ridge. There are 10 pitches of climbing. The route can be located by first identifying the deep couloir which splits the south face of symmetry spire (Templeton's Crack). The Durrance Ridge forms the left boundary of this couloir. The first 5 pitches are climbed on the crest (mostly 4th class) until a 25-foot section of steeper rock is encountered halfway up the ridge. This is passed via a crack with fixed pins (5.5) to reach 200 ft of additional 4th class. A final steep section is climbed on the left of the crest, first by a long crack system with fixed pins (5.6) and then a chimney to reach the top of the Durrance Ridge. By scrambling up and west, the upper SW Ridge is reached and followed to the summit.
3) Direct Jensen Ridge (III 5.8) -- This classic route also consists of 10 pitches and forms the right boundary of the south face couloir mentioned above (Templeton's Crack). The climbing is more sustained than the SW Ridge with many pitches of 5.7 climbing. See one of the Teton guidebooks for a complete route description.
4) East Ridge (II Class 4) -- Hike the trail along the west shore of Jenny Lake to reach a clearing and the drainage from Hanging Canyon. Locate the path climbing uphill into the canyon and follow this, passing a cliffband on the right, and then continuing to a second steep area and a waterfall (Ribbon Cascade). Pass this steep section, also on the right to reach Arrowhead Pool above Ribbon Cascade. Cross the stream west of the pool and follow a grassy shelf out onto the East Ridge. Follow the ridge to the summit. This route can also be used in desent.
5) SW Couloir (II Class 4) -- This route is the standard descent from the peak, but can make a fine snow climb in early season. From Symmetry Col, hike north to enter the couloir and follow it for 600 ft to its to at Col 10,300. Head east up the ridge for 100 ft, then traverse out left, following an obvious path which zig-zags up ledges to the summit.
Approach Grand Teton National Park from the south on US 89 and enter the park on Teton Park Road at Moose Junction (entry fee required). Teton Park Road can also be accessed from the north in the vicinity of the Jackson Lake dam. Turn off the road following signs to the Jenny Lake Visitor's Area (this is also where Exum Mountain Guides have their offices). There is a large parking area here with clear signs pointing the way to the Jenny Lake boat dock, just 5 minutes from the parking area. Take the boat across to the west side of the lake (10 minutes) and walk up the steps to intersect the Valley Trail. It is also possible to hike around Jenny Lake from the marina to reach this point (1.6 miles) or to hike from the String Lake parking area. The approach begins on the Valley Trail (see route page).
See the Grand Teton page for more info on getting to the park.
An entrance fee is required for Grand Teton National Park ($20 per vehicle for 7 days or $50 for a 1-year pass valid at all US National Parks). There is a charge for the boat ride across Jenny Lake ($7 round-trip, $4 one-way). The first boat is at 8AM and the last return is at 6PM. There is typically a huge line for the return trip at the end of the day, so plan to wait for about 30 minutes.
Complete details on entrance fees can be found on the Grand Teton page.
When To Climb
Symmetry Spire is typically climbed in the summer months (June-September) when the temperatures are favorable for climbing rock. The amount of snow in Symmetry Couloir depends on the time of year, but is usually completely gone by mid- to late-summer. In early season an ice axe and boots may be required.
Camping is permitted at designated campgrounds within the park, such as the one found at Jenny Lake (no RV's). Sites fill up very quickly at the more popular areas, especially Jenny Lake. I recommend Gros Ventre Campground, located about 6 miles east of US 89 between Moose and Jackson ($14 per site, per day, no showers). There is also a Climber's Ranch operated by the AAC located on Teton Park Road south of Jenny Lake. There are cabins here which accomodate 8 people each at a cost of $8 per person, per night. There is a large pavilion for cooking, as well as showers, bathroom facilities, and a very impressive library of climbing magazine and books. Bivying in the back-country is allowed but a permit must be obtained from the ranger's station.
An extensive listing of camping and lodging options can be found on the Grand Teton page.