This year the Tetons were unseasonably dry, so I decided to swing over for a few late-season days to try to get another long alpine route in. Jeff, who I climbed with on several other trips and who recently earned his IFMGA Mountain Guide pin, was also free, so it was a perfect time for another adventure! We decided to aim for Mount Moran, the only 12,000' mountain in the Tetons that I hadn't climbed. The most popular route on the mountain is the CMC, a 5.5 where most of the vertical gain is in the hike up. We instead aimed for the Direct South Buttress, one of the longest technical rock routes in the lower 48, and one of the 50 Classics. The book says:
"This was the first major climb in the Teton Range to combine hard free climbing and fairly extensive use of direct aid. For a number of years it remained the most difficult technical climb in the park, and if one followed the entire ridge to the summit, it ranked as one of the most difficult climbs in the country."
I only had four days in Wyoming, and the DSB route takes most groups three, which wouldn't give us much time for side trips. We made the call to try the DSB in two long days, which gave us the first day to crag, and the fourth day off since the forecast called for rain. We headed to the Guides Wall route up Cascade Canyon, a classic 6 pitch route on some of the best rock in the area.
After the day out cragging, we packed up for the DSB and got our canoe prepped. The approach to the route involves canoeing up String Lake, portaging to Leigh Lake, and paddling a mile and a half to Leigh Canyon. We were able to accomplish the first half of the trip the day before the climbing began, stashing the canoe in the woods so we could skip the first lake and portaging the next.
To climb the DSB in two days rather than three, we needed to get an alpine start, and then put two long day in. We were out the door at 4:00, and hiking by 4:30.
The canoe ride in was under pitch black skies, and we saw about a dozen meteors over the hour ride in. First light was just coming up over the horizon as we landed at Leigh Canyon to begin our hike in.
We roped up right around 8:30. The route was dry, but terribly cold in the shade. The first four pitches of the route were 5.4ish chimneys and ledges, before the real climbing began.
The South Buttress itself only brings you about 1/3 of the way up Mt. Moran. Most groups rap off from here. To summit, there is about 2500' of low 5th class climbing to go comprising the Upper South Ridge, lots of which is on super exposed knife edge ridges. There was still several hours of light left in the day, so we moved up the ridge to look for a bivy spot for the night.
Right as the sun was setting we stumbled upon the perfect bivy spot in an amphitheater about 2000' below the summit, with just enough room for two sleeping bags. We planned on doing an open bivy to save the weight of bringing a tent, and the temperature was perfect for this.
Day two began with an incredible sunrise and a small breakfast. We only had about 2 liters of water each for the day, but the temperatures were pretty low so we would be able to manage.
Once back, we finished the evening with a celebration dinner of oysters, microbrew beers, and venison, a contrast to the previous two days! I was way too worn out to take on any other climbing objectives the following day, so we slept in, made breakfast, watched a movie, and had a dinner party with some of the other Exum guides who were still around for the season. 24 hours later I was back in NYC. Not a bad short adventure!
The Direct South Buttress to Upper South Ridge, Mount Moran