The late summer brings me to the Teton Range every year to climb. By August the snow is usually gone, the sun is high and the rock is warm. One of the most popular routes on the Grand is the Exum Ridge. The moderate climb is a long aesthetic line high on the mountain that leads straight up from the Lower Saddle to the summit. Last summer a few friends and I made an attempt to climb this route car-to-car. We decided to leave the valley floor to attempt to summit and get back to the car in time to grab a pizza at Dornans.
We left the trailhead at 3:30 a.m. and started up. It was a bit cold, but as long as we kept moving we were warm enough. A quick few hours later we saw the sun rise and light shine across the valley to explode on the side of Nez Perce. We made it up to the lower saddle just in time to see the guided groups coming down after a failed quick attempt. The problem was it rained hard the night before in the valley, so the whole mountain was covered in ice because of the cold at elevation. Lots and lots of ice…
We decided to keep pursuing our objective, and we made it up three ice covered pitches to the base of the Black face by late morning. It was slow, wet climbing as we waited for the sun to melt off the mountain. We were also concerned about how to get down safely from the top of the Exum Ridge to the rappels while it was covered in ice. We decided to bail and started the traverse over to the base of Wall Street, back down to the Lower Saddle and ultimately to get that pizza while watching the sun set across range out on the deck. It was another successful “failure” in the mountains.
What is your favorite “failure”?
Jon Jugenheimer is an Osprey sales rep with Ames Adventure Outfitters. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, is addicted to climbing and loves fried chicken.