August 27, 2017

Direct Exum Ridge- August 25, 2017

21 years ago, a friend and I attempted the Lower Exum Ridge in a cool August morning. I had been climbing a whopping 1 year, had no idea what I was doing and I remember it took us probably 6 or 7 hours, got caught in a lightning storm, ax was buzzing and we bailed one pitch away from the top of the Lower Exum route! The first ascent party in 1936 completed the Lower Exum in 5 hours! In sneakers and driving pitons!

On Friday, August 25, 2017, Marc N, who had never climbed the Grand Teton and who had always wanted to and who is an excellent climber accepted my invite to go do the Direct Exum.  We left our car at Lupine Meadows at 2:20 AM on Friday, arrived at the base of the traverse to the first pitch of the Lower Exum at 5:40 AM, waited for light to come and then proceeded up the pitch at 6:30 AM. Once again the weather looked to be rough. We pitched out the 1st, 2nd and then linked pitches 3 and 4 together. Pitch 5, on the magnificent and steep Black Face, we did the direct Black Face Variation and then completed the 6th and final pitch of the Lower Exum in a crazy Teton micro-burst of snow and brutal winds, making for an epic morning. We completed the route at 8:30 AM. 

Now at the top of Wallstreet, beginning of the Upper Exum and at the base of the Golden Stair we hunkered down. Once the weather broke, we then stashed the ropes and soloed up the Golden Stair to the Wind Tunnel, where we hunkered down again for a more serious burst and realized it wasn't getting better so we needed to move if Marc was going to summit. We continued soloing up the Friction Pitch, V-Pitch and then roped for an icy last move heading to the final ridge. We summited at 10:40 AM, with sub-optimal conditions. Static electricity was building and my camera got fried. We took one summit pic and then moved quickly down to the rappels in freshly fallen snow, grateful to get off the mountain.  

Of course the weather got better as we descended. Reaching the car just after 4 PM in sunny, warm late-summer conditions with the great mountains surrounding our view. We had a most wonderful time.

Top of Pitch 4
Marc and the beautiful Black Face Pitch (5)
Top of Black Face and then off to final Lower Exum Pitch
Friction Pitch
Marc enjoying some brief sun on the Upper Exum
Another burst
Grand Teton
Awesome sky between storms
Marc
Complete Exum Ridge

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