PrologueMountains: Petit Grepon (12,000’)
Route: Glacier Gorge TH – Sky Pond – South Face (5.8) - Summit
Elevation Gain - 2700’ (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage – 9.5 miles (approx)
Snow up in the Tetons and stellar weather down in Colorado led us to settle for Colorado-time this weekend. Joe picked a solid route in the park and early September made sense weather-wise to knock off a committing route like this in a day. Joe piqued my curiosity by mentioning that the South Face 5.8 was a classic top-25-type route. At three 5.6 pitches, four 5.7s and one 5.8 crux pitch (per mountainproject) this promised to be a good stepping stone to more involved alpine climbs. We would carry two ropes, a 60m, a 70m, a rack of cams, nuts and a ton of various sized draws. Apart from this we packed the usual bivy stuff, first aid, over a gallon each of water, lamps, spare lamps, radios, down jackets, jetboil, ramen, tons of food, etc. and ended up with packs in the 30-40lb range again.
On Friday evening I set off to sleep at the trailhead and Joe was to meet me at the trailhead at 4AM. I was woken up by a ranger at around 10PM… apparently you can’t sleep at a Park trailhead before a climb anymore#@$?? I slept in my Jeep somewhere outside the park and returned to the Glacier Gorge TH at ~3:45AM. Joe swung by shortly after and we decided to crash for another hour or so in our respective cars. A few others arrived headed for the Saber. We took off alongside them at ~5:15AM. In an hour we were at the Loch. 30 minutes after we were at sky pond and took a bunch of pictures of the route. We scrambled up easy talus to the base of the climb and brewed a pre-climb ramen. We screwed around at the base of the 5.6 pitch for quite a while waiting for the sun to come up and warm the rock up a bit. In the interim a second duo arrived and got ahead of us by free climbing the alternative 5.4 start. At this time we saw/heard the Saber-bound duo return because it was too cold to climb.
We stashed our approach shoes, jetboil, extra water and food in the rope bag but still carried both our packs with probably around 20lbs of gear and water. We started the first 5.6 pitch at ~8AM with gloves on because the early part of the pitch was in the shade and still fairly cold. This first pitch went long and I only had about 5 feet of rope left on the 70m before Joe’s voice crackled “Off belay” into my handset.
Pitch #1 - 5.6 in the shade
Joe set up the first anchor on a broad grassy ledge in the sun…
Belay Station #1
The rest of the route looked lengthy and at looked like it wouldn’t make sense for me to lead any of it. My turtle-powers at trad leading wouldn’t be of much use, plus it seemed like Joe was thrilled at the idea of leading all of it anyway. He led up pitch 2 but had to wait a while for the group ahead of us…
Starting up pitch #2
Atop a large chockstone in a large cave, the second anchor was placed…
Chockstone below the cave and 2nd belay station
Awkward moves led out of the 2nd belay station…
Left slanting chimney above the 2nd belay station
Few moves on the third pitch felt 5.7-ish like mountainproject said… especially after leaving the chimney that exited the cave. Climbing past the chimney up to a ledge, Joe set up a third anchor. The rest of the pitches appeared fairly vertical …
The 3rd and 4th pitches begin looking vertical and exposed
Joe does a split on the 4th pitch
The fourth pitch involved awkward moves in a chimney with the pack getting in the way from time to time. I was doing a fair bit of stemming and mantling on pitches 3 and 4. At the fourth anchor we were upon the crux. At about 11:35AM Joe set off up the crux 5.8 pitch… it was a dozen feet or so including an exposed traverse out right before he was able to put in a piece and pose for the camera.
Joe begins leading the crux 5.8 pitch
The route angles back left above the belayer…
Joe begins leading the crux 5.8 pitch
Sky pond looked pretty special from my perch.
Sky pond from halfway through the crux pitch
Joe meticulously continued up pitch 5 as the route begins slowly curving east…
Crux pitch on the Petit Grepon S. Face
It took 50 minutes for both of us to finish the crux pitch. We felt like it had 2-3 5.8 moves in our estimation. The next belay station was large enough to park a tuk-tuk… I arrived there at ~12:25PM with the sun directly overhead.
Belay station #5 on the Petit Grepon S. Face
Approaching belay station #5 on the Petit Grepon S. Face (c) Joe Brannan
We would have the sun in our eyes for the next pitch or two…
Looking up at the last 2 pitches on the S. Face route of the Petit
The lake of glass as seen from the fifth belay station…
Lake of Glass from the penultimate pitch on the S. Face route of the Petit
Here we saw the other group at the pizza pan belay station. It seemed like a fairly lengthy single pitch (or two short ones) to get there. The rope drag was insane on this pitch and we both grumbled at each other for not giving / taking-in enough slack before realizing that the drag was to blame. This was the hardest pitch we both thought since by now the sun had also gone behind the arête leaving us in the cold and wind.
Up towards the pizza pan belay station on the S. Face route of the Petit
The next pitch had a spicy start in the cold. My down jacket went on as Joe set out.
Up towards the summit - Last pitch on the S. Face route of the Petit
I watched Joe’s shadow cast against the cliffs on the Saber as Joe went up the arête…
The shadow climbs the arete - Last pitch on the S. Face route of the Petit
On my way up I had to stop and snag a picture of the fantastic exposure… almost 900 feet of air below my feet...
900 airy feet below my feet as seen from the last pitch on the S. Face route of the Petit
The climbing on that last pitch (5.7) was my favorite. The rock reminded me of the grippy, knobby stuff on eldo… great rock quality in my opinion.
Following the last pitch on the S. Face route of the Petit (c) Joe Brannan
That last pitch brought us to summit at ~3PM.
Joe on Summit of the Petit Grepon
Prakash on Summit of the Petit Grepon (c) Joe Brannan
We saw a group on the Sharkstooth…
We watched our shadows dance on the Saber…
Shadow puppets on the Saber
We ate and fooled around for a while longer before preparing to descend. At ~3:40PM we made our way over to the rappel anchors.
Six long, near-vertical double-rope rappels were supposed to lead us to the bottom. Joe starts the first at 3:45PM…
Joe on rappel #1
And the second at 4:10PM…
Joe on Rappel #2
From the second rap station head straight down rather than move to climber’s left like we did. We found a makeshift bail-off rap-station when we went left but the new bolts are climbers’ right of it. The ropes were a bit of a nuisance with the knot getting stuck on ledges occasionally. One re-climb was necessary to release the rope when it had looped around a horn in our urgency to get the ropes down. The double fisherman had to be secured down with duct tape to mitigate the problem on future rappels.
Double fisherman secured down with duct tape
Joe at the bottom of Rappel #4
The penultimate rappel brought us down near the first belay station a little before 6PM…
Prakash on the penultimate rappel (c) Joe Brannan
And the last one brought us to the base at about 6:10PM…
Prakash on the last rappel (c) Joe Brannan
We took a long break at the base, packed up, recoiled the ropes, ate some food and left the base of the rock… a satisfying day. The hike down went pretty quick and we were driving off to the nearest chipotle in no time.