North Face of Nez Perce
Upper West Hourglass Couloir
Summit looking south
West Hourglass Couloir is a superb snow climb and rock scramble on the north face of Nez Perce. The route can be done from the Lupine Meadows Trailhead as an all day climb, or from the Meadows/South Fork Campsites in Garnet Canyon as a half day climb.
The views from this route are stunning. You see the south aspects of the Grand Teton, Middle Teton, Disappointment Peak and Teewinot; the east aspects of Cloudveil Dome and South Teton; and, the rugged north aspects of Mount Wister and Buck Mountain.
Click for the Full Trip Report on my photography website.
Hike the Lupine Meadows trail roughly 4.25 miles to the Meadows campsite in Garnet Canyon. From the Meadows campsite you get a full view of the West Hourglass Couloir on the north face of Nez Perce.
From the Meadows campsite, hike west up the trail toward South Fork. When you arrive at the talus slope below Nez Perce, turn south and head straight up to the base of the Hourglass Couloirs. For most of the summer, this talus slope is covered in snow which makes for easier travel. Crampons and an ice axe will be necessary for the hard pack snow. This slope grows from a 20-degree pitch to a 30-pitch at the base of the Hourglass Couloirs.
The West Hourglass Couloir (the right couloir) is a continuous ribbon of hard pack snow up to the upper Northwest Face of Nez Perce. The first two-thirds of the couloir begins at a 30-degree pitch and grow steeper to a 50-degree pitch. After the 50-degree section, the final one-third of the couloir angles back to 35-degrees and gradually grows steeper to 40-degrees at the top junction with the Northwest Face.
At the junction with the Northwest Face, you'll find a hiker's trail leading up the mountain. This is the standard route up Nez Perce (Northwest Face route). Follow the trail up the Northwest Face. The trail will disappear as you reach a series of cliffs and ledges. Cairns are visible in this area and are a helpful guide up the mountain. To ascend these cliffs and ledges, traverse east around the north face of the mountain until you find a suitable 4th class gully to climb up. Once on the next ledge, continue traversing east until you find a suitable 4th class gully and continue up. Follow this sequence up 3 or 4 ledges. Again, look for the cairns. They show the way.
When you reach the final summit block, you are now directly on the north face of the mountain. Looking at the final summit block, you'll see white granite on the right, mossy black rock in the middle, and red/peach granite on the left. We took the left red/peach route (see photo on this page). This is a steep 4th class head wall (60-80 feet). This section is exposed but the rock is superb.
After this summit block, you'll see a short hiker's trail to the summit marker. Take in the views!
There are two ways off of the summit block:
1. Downclimb the same route you ascended;
2. Hike west off the summit and follow a hiker's trail to the west end of the summit block. There are rappel anchors that necessitate a 60m rope. This rappel will place you down on the Northwest Face where you can follow the hiker's trail down to the snowfields between Nez Perce and Cloudveil Dome. Take the snowfield down South Fork to the Meadows campsite.
Helmet, axe, crampons.
60-meter rope, harness, rappel device if you plan to rappel off the west side of the summit block.
There are great aerial route photos of the North and Northwest Faces of Nez Perce in the guidebook "A Climber's Guide to the Teton Range Third Edition" by Leigh N. Ortenburger and Reynold G. Jackson. There is a copy of this guidebook in the American Alpine Club Climbers' Ranch Library at Grand Teton National Park.