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Home » Climbing Notes » GRAND TETON, GOLDEN PILLAR


The upper ca. 1,000 feet of the 2,500-foot north face of the Grand Teton as seen from the summit of Mount Owen. A. The Grandstand. 1.North Face with Direct Finish (IV 5.8, Emerson-Ortenburger-Unsoeld, 1953). 2.Goodro-Shane (IV 5.8 A1, Goodro-Shane, 1953). 3.The Golden Pillar (a.k.a. Plane Wreck Direct, V 5.12-, Collins-Johnstone, 2003). 4.North Ridge, American Cracks (IV 5.9, Colacino-Hebert, 1988). 5.North Ridge, Italian Cracks (IV 5.7, Friedman-Wollan, 1971). 6.North Ridge (IV 5.8, Fryxell-Underhill, 1931). 6a.North Ridge, Odette-Sherner Variation (IV 5.10+, Odette-Sherner, 1994). 7.Medrick-Ortenburger (IV 5.8 A2, Medrick-Ortenburger, 1963). [Photo] Christian Beckwith

Alpinists should take note of a new Grade V 5.12 on the north face of the Grand Teton. If whizzing stonefall, icy arm bars through bergschrunds and pumper cracks are your idea of summer fun, then read on.

During two dog days of July, first in 2002, then in 2003, Hans Johnstone and I opened the Golden Pillar (V 5.12-, 300m), a classic, flashable, hard crack line on the pillar of overhanging rock west of the normal North Face Route (IV 5.8). The purity of the line, combined with quality rock and hard climbing, makes this route a Teton classic.

On our first effort, we opened four pitches on the Golden Pillar, but then traversed off via the First Ledge. While skiing in the area over the winter I spotted a potential new finish above the ledge. On July 11, 2003, we armed ourselves with crampons, helmets, tape, chalk, two full sets of cams to four inches, some big wires, a hammer, two Lost Arrows and two Knifeblades. We spiked up the glacier, jumped the ‘schrund, chimneyed the remnant snow block and sprinted under a barrage of stonefall out onto the Grandstand.

Third-class terrain put us at the base of the Golden Pillar, where we climbed a short pitch (5.7, 20m) and belayed at a fixed pin at the bottom of a long, beautiful, golden crack. This was climbed via strenuous laybacking and sustained jamming to a nice ledge (5.11c, 48m). Thrutching up the crack above (5.10b) and stepping left onto a slab led to a belay below a roof. The first crux up the steep corner took big cams and fat forearms to reach the lip of the roof, where we enjoyed the spectacular exposure while de-pumping, then jammed to the First Ledge (5.12a, 45m). We followed the normal route up a 5.7 pitch and wet talus to the Third Ledge. Forty meters east of the North Face Route’s Pendulum Pitch we encountered the Rugged Prima Donna pitch, which required bouldering, stemming and laybacking (5.11a, 30m) to reach a belay on a ledge, which we fixed with two pins. The last pitch bouldered up a thin corner on small crimps into perfect finger locks (5.12a). Steep stemming and wild jamming finished the pitch. A scramble of 150 meters of fourth- and fifth-class terrain (5.8) took us to the summit.

— Greg Collins, Victor, Idaho, USA