The Historical Wall at the Teton Boulder Park describes the Grand Traverse (V+ 5.8) in Wyoming's Teton Range as follows:
This coveted enchainment is a traverse of the Tetons’ central peaks: Teewinot Mountain, Peak 11,840'+, East Prong, Mount Owen, Grand Teton, Middle Teton, South Teton, Ice Cream Cone, Gilkey Tower, Spalding Peak, Cloudveil Dome and Nez Perce. The route, which features more than 25,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, traces an eight-mile, high-altitude arc through the serrated skyline at the heart of the Range.
On Saturday, August 24, Jackson Hole Mountain Guide Philip “Weeze” Jones, 41, added a new twist on the enchainment by climbing all its major peaks via north-facing routes.
Jones departed the Lupine Meadows parking lot at 4:10 a.m. and started up the normal route on Teewinot’s east face. Approximately two-thirds of the way up the mountain, he traversed right across the north face and finished climbing via the Tunnel Route (II 5.6). From Teewinot’s 12,324-foot summit, he descended to the ridge between that mountain and 12,928-foot Mt. Owen, dropped down past Peak 11,840’, and continued via snow, ice and loose scree to the Teewinot-Owen Cirque to 10,200 feet, where he crossed Mt. Owen’s northeast snowfield. He crossed that to the bottom of the Run-Don’t-Walk Couloir to the North Ridge (IV 5.9) of Mt. Owen.
Though he had climbed the North Ridge three times before, he got off route on a direct variation that necessitated “at least a half pitch of A1.” He had a forty-foot rope, but didn’t employ it, instead moving multiple pieces of protection up at a time to permit progress. “I was fulling aiding A1, hanging off nuts and cams,” he said.
Once back on route, he climbed the North Ridge including the 5.9 crux, to Owen’s summit, which he reached at 5 p.m. “It took me forever due to all the loose rock on the approach and the A1 pitch,” he said.
From Owen’s summit, he continued along the standard Cathedral Traverse to the 13,770-foot Grand Teton’s North Ridge, which he climbed via the Italian Cracks Variant (IV 5.7). He summitted at 8 p.m., then downclimbed and descended to the moraine and continued on to the Jackson Hole Mountain Guides’ high camp, where he bivied, which he reached at 9 p.m. after roughly 17 hours on the go. It was, he said, “[a] little bit Euro-style using the hut.”
He remained at camp for 11 hours, then left at 8:30 a.m., ascended to the Lower Saddle, and climbed the North Ridge (II 5.6) of the Middle Teton (12,804’). From that summit, he dropped down to the North Face (II 5.6) the South Teton (12,514’). After climbing up “a little bit of an ice field,” he started up the ca. 600-foot face, which he called “quite a good moderate route, with some finger cracks and hand cracks.” His itinerary on the face wandered. “The book says go straight up from the center; I went up from right to left and back to the right.”
From the summit of the South Teton, he dropped down the east face to the col at the base of the Ice Cream Cone (12,400’+). He climbed this via the standard West Face route (5.6) for about 15 feet, then traversed left for ca. 100 feet to climb “a nice, left-facing corner with nice crystals in it on the north ridge.” This ascent entailed a few hundred feet or so of climbing.
From the top, he downclimbed to the Ice Cream Cone–Gilkey Tower col, then continued down an ice field to a big bench, which he used to access the North Face (II 5.4) of Gilkey Tower (12,320’+). The route is “supposed to be 5.4, but there’re lots of ways to go,” he said. “I found easy ledges and steep sections too. Big exposure.”
He descended the east side of Gilkey, downclimbed an ice field and continued over to the Northeast Ridge (II 5.4) of Spalding Peak (12,240’+), which he called “super fun 5.4—good, easy rock.” From Spalding’s summit, he continued down the regular route on the east side and crossed the snowfields known as the Zoro Face on Cloudveil Dome (12,026’). On the west side of the face, he descended a narrow couloir, staying on rock, then cramponed up snow to the base of the North Face (III 5.6).
Cloudveil’s North Face is “a pretty daunting wall,” he said. “It’s 5.6 on good rock, but it’s also super loose.”
He began up the route at 5:30 p.m. and reached the summit at 7 p.m. Descending via the standard route on the east face, he “basically ran down” toward the col between Cloudveil and Nez Perce (11,901’).
“I hugged Nez Perce to the base of the Hourglass Couloirs,” he said. “I’d already decided to climb the [III 5.6 North Face] route in the dark, so I started up it at 8 and got a few hundred feet before I had to stop, get out the rock shoes and put on the headlamp.” He says of the route, “It’s really good stuff, but again, it’s really loose in places. Vertical loose, not like scree-at-your-feet loose.”
He reached the summit at 11 p.m., then descended to the base of the northwest couloir, where he picked up his crampons and axe. He reached his car at 2:15 a.m. after 35 hours of climbing and an 11-hour break at Jackson Hole Mountain Guides’ High Camp.
This appears to be the first time a climber has completed the Grand Traverse via north-facing routes.