In a playground of its own Mt Moran stands apart from the other mountains in the Tetons! Too big to fit amongst the other peaks near the Grand, it has plenty of room at the north end of the range. Defined glaciers are seen on its east face, the skillet and falling ice. Geologically prominent is the black dike that extends upward away from the face near the summit. This feature of Diabase rock offers irresistible eye candy while climbing the CMC route. My brother Jared and I made a brilliant decision to climb this route early in August before our families backpacking trip. If we played our cards right we could climb Mt Moran on the 11th and after a rest day, head into the Wind rivers for more classic climbing.
After failing to find a canoe for the approach I was relieved when Jared suggested we use his father-in-law's canoe. I jumped on the offer and picked it up on my way to Jackson hole. We met in moose junction on the 10th around 4:00 P.M. We had to hurry since we planned to be at the CMC camp before dark, involving both canoing and hiking. After bagging our packs at String lake we loaded the canoe and began the hour and a half paddle session to Mt. Moran. Oh, and don't forget hauling the canoe across the 100 yard trail between String and Leigh lake, the best part! I remember the weather was looking a little scary at first but as we got closer to the base of Mt Moran things began to clear up. I can only imagine what the canoe ride would have been like in a bad wind storm and was relieved we missed the experience.
We arrived at the base and began the long hike up the boulder field toward the CMC route. Steep? Yes!, but the view was most impressive as we gained altitude. We arrived at the camp just before dark and it looked as though we would have the whole camp to ourselves. Like the books said, the CMC camp was a sight to behold, located in the trees along a flat ridge section with a view to die for! Certainly the “best high camp in the range”. There was also a nice spring 100 yards south of the camp. After quickly eating some good grub, we set up the tent and sorted through our gear. I was not entirely sure how much gear to bring for protection, to be safe I decided on several cams and a set of nuts. I said to Jared, I think we should leave around 4 A.M.? He thought it would be too early and dark to find our way to drizzle puss. I agreed, and we set the time to leave at 5 A.M. (turned out to be a life saving decision, continue reading). The next morning we studied the topo and headed toward drizzle puss. There was a little scrambling involved, but there was a good trail to follow for most of the way. Where did the name drizzle puss come from anyways? We contemplate several distasteful explanations and then gave up the effort. I remembered the book saying that during the first ascent it was rainy, but the name still alludes explanation.
After about 2 hours we were at the notch between the west horn and drizzle puss. It was light enough to see and we hiked up the east face. Once at the top we looked off the west face for the easiest down climb. It looked really intimidating but after some steady moves we found our way down to the rappel. At the rappel, we had just thrown the rope down when we heard what at first sounded like a large rock fall somewhere on the walls that surrounded us! My instincts almost made me jump for cover. Then, as I looked towards Mt Moran and I could see huge blocks of falling snow and ice exploding down the notch between onsoeld's needle and the face, and we looked at each other in horror! Two things surprised us, our timing was extremely lucky as we would have crossed(roped up) in the very spot that the snow fall occurred, and it was a good thing we left that morning when Jared suggested! The second surprise, how often does snow and ice fall at 8:30 in the morning when its still cold and frozen? We concluded that a huge overhanging cornice had remained between onsoeld's needle and the face collapsing at just the right time, wow!! We made the decision to continue despite the fact that at the top of CMC near the black dike we could see another cornice waiting to fall. This cornice however would not fall directly over the CMC route and instead down the chimney between the black dike and the route. We concluded it would be safe(with our fingers crossed).
We repelled and made our way out onto the face, I peered cautiously up by the needle and could see only small pieces of snow left, the coast was clear! We began climbing the first of several pitches before reaching the summit. The climbing was good! Especially the last pitch, a 5.6 variation of solid rock. It felt good to be at the top of this monster mountain. The view was to die for! We could see the north face of the Grand in all its glory. We celebrated by eating some pepperoni and jerky, much better than the power bar diet I had been living on! SICK! (especially the gas) I was anxious to get down so I nagged at my brother and started back to the beginning of the repels.
Repelling was pleasant considering neither of my twin 8.3 mil 70 meter ropes got stuck on any flakes. After returning to the base of drizzle puss I lead an exciting pitch half way, and then Jared courageously lead his first trad lead to the top. Great job Jared! A little bit of scrambling and we had returned to the CMC camp. We packed up our stuff and hiked down to our canoe. By this point I was beginning to be convinced that we might just survive the trip. We enjoyed a peaceful paddle session while listening to bugling elk. We loaded up the canoe and looked back at Mt Moran in respect at its magnificence. And hopefully the next time there would be no onsoeld's surprise. What a great trip!
Daniel, and Jared