Friday, August 10, 2012

Failing upwards

Failing is just a part of climbing.  Sometimes you fail and head straight down, sometimes you fail and keep going up. Contrary to "The summit is the yardstick of success", I believe in the route, the style, the experience, not just a geographical pin on the map as success.

The other day Kevin and I headed out to attempt the Direct North Ridge on Teewinot.  This 12,000+ foot mountain in the Teton range makes up the eastern most of the Cathedral group (Grand, Owens, Teewinot) and is the closest to the car, although it is still over 6K in elevation gain.  The route follows the longest of the  right sky line for 6-7 pitches of what was described as "quality rock" in the guidebook. 

We left the car in the early am and headed for the base of the route.  After hours of hiking up a ridiculously  steep approach trail we made the base of the route at the Crooked thumb col after turning the corner of the east face via the scree coverd ledges seen in the photo below.

I lead out from the col for 60 meters on good rock up to the top of the "Grandstand".  Pitch two started in a "right facing corner" that climbed up and left, up and left.  Pitch two sucked.  Some shitty rock was found right off the deck and I hoped it would get better the higher we climbed.  We found an old bail sling and set up a belay.  Kevin was less than impressed for his first real alpine climbing experience, and I hated to give him the impression that Teton rock sucks, as there are some really quality routes in this range.

                                                   Really? this is alpine climbing???

We only had one rope with us, and the third pitch started by us talking about bailing,as loose rock is not fun to climb.  We decided to climb up to see and pitch three was actually quite fun! We found some fun corners,  with a bit of face and small slab climbing thrown in for good measure.  This one pitches was the only good 50 meters on the whole climb! 

                                          Kevin following Pitch 3.

Pitch 4 ended up being a "10 awkward" chimney according to the topo.  I though we were still lower on the face according to the topo, but it was obviously it.  I lead up the chimney and it sucked. No gear till the top and it was hard.  I hate chimneys and avoid them at all cost...should have read the route description better...

                            The lower part of pitch 4, before I had to take off my pack and head up into the chimney. 

We got the top of the chimney after hauling up both packs and grunting our way up.  The wall above was vertical and looked hard.  Not knowing 100% where to go we decided to try right as the line on the topo trends slightly right and over a small roof, which was above.  I gave the first two attempts and could't find a way!?!  This is only to be a 5.8 route!  On my third go a foot chip broke off and I slammed my foot into the wall, which really hurt, shoved in another cam and lowerd back to the belay. Kevin then gave it one attempt, couldn't see the moves either, decided to pull the gear and down climb back to the ledge.  

                                                    Kevin on the face for attempt #4.

We decided to bail back down to the large ledge level with the base of the chimney pitch and traverse it west onto the north face proper. We slung a large horn and rapped to the ledge.  We ended up traversing this ledge onto the north face for about 100 meters and ended up climbing into some really shitty rock.  Probably the most junk rock I have seen in the Tetons. 

After the traverse ledge I lead up, then back left on super broken rock with lots of rope drag.  After I couldn't pull the rope any more, I set up our last belay on the route and brought Kevin up onto our deteriorating belay ledge made of two cams into some cracks in a boulder stuck to the side of the mountain.  One last 30 meters and we were back into the sun on the top of the mountain vowing never to venture out onto that face again! 

                                         On the top.  

Failing upwards.  Yup, we didn't finish the route we started out to climb.  We decided it would be "easier" to climb to the top via a different unknown path than rappel with one 60 meter rope.  Making at least 8 rappels, each being 30 meters would have eaten up the rack and our time. Now knowing what I know about the dangerious climbing above, I am not sure yet if I would have just gone down or still made the traverse out right.  

Sometimes there is something to learn by still climbing up. 
Sometimes there is something to learn not to bail. 

1 comment:

  1. I and Sue Schroder had a similar experience just short of the big traverse on DSB, Moran. Nasty, long runout off width or layback flake.....nope. Out right to cross and rope drag to top of flake. Up blank face, center. Nope. Up to right. Nope. Took the rack, slid out left, dropped in two micro cams above a system of 2-3 foot lodges, ran it out 30-40 feet to bottom out, flared seems. Started to rain. Took 10 minutes to rig first gear in pitch above those ledges and micro cams. Moved up, found a pin form the 60's and the itty bitty traverse ledge....ahhh, back on-line! Congrats on falling upward! One of these years, you need to kidnap me from me family for some climbing in the Tetons or C-Rockies, John.