Upper Exum: a Legitimate Classic

Upper Exum: a Legitimate Classic

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 43.85037°N / 110.83008°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Nov 30, 1999
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Summer

The Skinny...

Trip reports can entertain, amuse, thrill, frighten. They can also provide information, or simply stupefy the reader with tedium. This one is submitted with the aim of effecting the former vice the latter. At any rate, I'll try to keep it brief. I recommend that you consult A Climber's Guide to the Teton Range Third Edition, by Leigh N. Ortenburger and Reynold G. Jackson (Paperback - Nov 1996), to put this trip report in context. Besides, it's a great guidebook.

Bill and I had hiked up to the Lower Saddle in September 04 with light packs and the intention to do the Upper Exum, car-to-car in a day. However, a goodly gale was blowing, with minimal visibility, snow squalls, and the Exum guides were buttoned up with their clients in their hut for the day. Bill's total experience was a brief top-rope clinic, and I had never climbed the route before. The guides told us that Wall Street was coated in hard, high angle snow. Building apprehension and increasing convinced us to turn around and walk back down the mountain, into late summer sunshine and tourists clad in tank tops and shorts.

Middle Teton from Lower Reaches of Garnet Canyon

Two years later, in late June of 2006, Bill and I drove over from Idaho for another shot. Our plan this time was to make a leisurely hike to the Lower Saddle, camp, and then take our time the next day with the route. We didn't have a permit for the Lower Saddle, but the rangers at Jenny Lake were totally cool, and since their computer was gummed up and they couldn't print out a permit, they just wrote us a note. We saw several other rangers throughout the day, and they were all friendly and informative--nobody shook us down for our permit. A lot better than Inyo National Forest.

Garnet Canyon

We made steady progress to the Saddle, mostly on snow from the Meadows on. We went far left of the "fixed ropes" and just kicked steps up 30 degree snow.

View East from near Lower Saddle

We reviewed some basic skills in an almost deserted bivy site, and then watched the sun set over Idaho. We quizzed a few late arrivals as to the start of the climb. The light was such that we couldn't definitively pick out Wall Street.

The next morning, we did walk past the right hand turn to cut over to Wall Street, and we ended up gaining a little too much altitude before we just cut over the intervening ridge/arete. To avoid this:

(1) read the guidebook carefully. Although the talk of the "Eye of the Needle" can be obscure and confusing, in retrospect, there are enough clues to get you there.

(2) The right turn to cut over to Wall Street across a ridge and a couloir is almost immediate--50 to 100 meters after entering the initial couloir mentioned in all the guidebooks.

Wall Street

The route itself is straightforward. Bear right if in doubt, but stay as close to the ridge as is reasonable. Be prepared for snow. It was postholing for us, but it could just as well have been crampon-terrain.

We had great views of the Middle Teton all the way up.

Middle Teton at 9 am

We were passed by a couple of guys who had sprinted up from Jackson Hole that morning, and a soloist who gave us an annoyed grunt as he cruised by. That's all right... we had the summit all to ourselves:

Bill s first summit

The rap stations are farther to the south than you might initially assume from reading the guidebooks. Use common sense--they are basically just above the high point of the Upper Saddle.

Looking up at 2d rap station

The descent is also straightforward--get in the middle couloir and head down.


Teton Evening Shadows

Grand Teton, Upper Exum Ridge, II, 5.4.


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