|Lat/Lon:||43.74100°N / 110.8024°W|
|Time Required:||One to two days|
|Rock Difficulty:||5.8 (YDS)|
|Number of Pitches:||12|
“Possibly the most famous north face in the United States….” as the local Teton Rock Climbs guidebook exclaims. Not sure I agree, but this climb is a “grand” adventure, pun intended, particularly if you circumvent the mountain on return to your bivy via the Black Dike Traverse.
It took us twice as many pitches of rock climbing to reach the summit compared to how many we did on the North Ridge route. The North Face is by far the longest route on the Grand Teton. It takes you half the route just to get level with the top of the Grand Stand, not to mention you have to climb ice and snow to get started and if you want to return to your bivy, a potentially harrowing descent (“Black Dike Traverse”) based on conditions and time of year. There were two decent pitches on the whole route: The Pendulum Pitch and the slab pitch soon after it. They are both part of the direct finish and climb stellar and steep rock. The rest of the route is loose and typically wet. The Guano Chimney pitch is aptly named as of 2022. The descent down the snow couloirs via the Black Dike Traverse was by far the crux of the day. Pick your poison, kicking steps in steep snow or 5th classing it down rubble via many loose rock fields.
A two-man bivy is located on a narrow moraine ridge above the best water collection (2022) located in a boulder field fed by snow found by following a trail from Amphitheater Lake, northwest, up and over a col and to the west. From this ridge, descend north down to the ice below. Follow the glacier west as it steepens through a crevasse field. In late July, 2022, the middle offered the least path of resistance regarding crevasses. Then cut back left across a low angled snow filed to the left side of the bergschrund. The first pitch does not start in a true chimney feature as the local guide suggests, but rather a loose left to right ramp up and left from the left side of the bergschrund (where you want to cross it). There is a steep snow pitch that many might find it prudent to rope up for. Leaving a belayer in the bergschrund itself is a method of pro for seasoned alpinists, without the need for screws or snow pickets.
1st Pitch- 230’++ 5th Class/ Once you gain the left side of the lower wall, traverse up and right simul-climbing to any point. A slung block (2022) is one consideration.
2nd Pitch- 230’++ 5.8/ Another simul-climbing pitch for the efficient pair. Continue angling up and right. There is a short slab (a few meters) that will be difficult to surmount in mountaineering boots for many (a meter or two of 5.8). There is a piton (2022) protecting it but I am sure there are easier options around it. This slab is a good point of reference that you moved right far enough. From there continue up grassy slopes.
3rd Pitch- 200’-5.6/ What they refer to in the guide as the Guano Chimney. Someone on MP.com insisted this was no longer guano infested. They had to be off route. In 2022 you are climbing on as much guano as you are rock. Avoid snow and water by angling up and right near the top of the chimney and reach a large ledge where sunlight no doubt will greet you. Quite a few pitons in the chimney (2022).
4th Pitch- 230’++ 5th Class/ A non- descript simul pitch straight up off the right side of the ledge for the most part. It angles up and right to avoid snow in a corner and reaches another ledge.
5th Pitch- 200’+ 5.6/ Climb up and left to avoid snow. Face climb traverse left to reach a ramp back right. Climb the ramp back right.
6th Pitch- 200’+ 5.6/ Climb either the left or right side of a drainage (right side will be drier). If the right side, you will make some moves above grade to cross back left over the drainage. Catch a ramp that zig zags to the base of a wet slab (late July).
7th-9th Pitches- 800’-5.6/ Climb this wet slab left to right avoiding the snow above. More than likely some of this ground might be covered between the previous pitches and it all runs so fast and similar; I do not remember where two of these three pitches actually are and they offered little to spark a memory. One of them might be a ramp pitch separating the two good direct finish pitches.
10th Pitch- 150’-5.8/ What they name the Pendulum Pitch because no doubt the FAer’s pendulumed the middle of it. This is by far the best rock on the face. Climb great granite with cracks galore straight up to where it becomes apparent you need to traverse left on a sloping narrow ledge via a finger crack. This section offers great exposure and is more challenging than any pitch on the North Ridge. Transition from crack climbing to face climbing via an awkward move to stand up on the narrow sloping ledge.
11th Pitch- 150’-5.8/ The 2nd best pitch of the day. Climb up a left leaning corner and traverse a pure slab up and left at the grade.
12th Pitch- 200’-5th Class/ A finishing pitch to the summit shoulder, same place you end up when climbing the North Ridge.
We chose the Black Dike Traverse to return to our bivy site. It was a tough and nasty descent in July, 2022. Descend the summit via the Owen-Spalding route (highway). Before you reach the lower saddle, turn east below the black rock. Hike as though you are going to the Lower Exum start. Water can normally be found right next to the wall. Gain the first of two significant cols (after the initial small one). From here on you will encounter a lot of snow. In normal summer conditions, you have the choice to descend steep snow or steep choss. It will be a slow process regardless. Near the bottom of this first couloir, you will be forced onto the snow. Gain the next, rather large, notch. This is the main couloir that leads to your bivy. It is much longer. You can skirt a lot of it on rock, but it is not always a great trade. The rock is extremely poor as one could predict. Alpine axe and boots highly recommended. The last section is the steepest snow but you can hug the rotten rock on the left almost all the way down. The going is slow on this steep choss, but not as much energy is needed as is for kicking steps in steep snow.
70m rope is helpful. Single to #2 and small selection of wires. There are many pitons (2022) and 5th class ground to cover. I could not imagine taking a bigger rack. A dozen slings, a few more if you plan to simul climb. Crampons and alpine ax for the approach up the glacier. Hard soled boots, particularly if you plan to try and return to your bivy via the snow couloirs via the Black Dike Traverse, essentially circumventing the mountain. You will be downclimbing tons of snow as well as downclimbing choss rock. Climbing shoes will be prefered by most wanting to do the direct finish pitches, which is the best climbing on the route. Despite being called the North Face, this is equally an east face route. If you get an alpine start, you should only be in the shade for the upper, true north facing, pitches.