September 5-7, 2020
With the most peculiar summer drawing to a close with Labor Day we headed once again to Wyoming for some climbing. This time we were focused on some alpine climbing. The weather looked great for this, clear, no rain, and moderate temperatures. For a warm up we did Guide’s Wall (5.8) on Saturday. This is a route I did with Chris way back on my first trip to GTNP. Carly and I also tried to do it a couple years ago but got rained off. This time around we had no problems with the weather other than being a little warm. Typically people rap with two ropes, which we hadn’t brought on the trip. We figured there might be another party that would team up for the double rope raps. As luck would have it at the base just as we arrived was another party, Jess and Seggi that were also climbing with a single rope. They climbed fast, and linked the six pitches into just three. We did the same and it was a great day.
Sunday brought our main objective of Irene’s Arete (5.8). The approach is a good way up Garnet canyon and took us about 3 hours to get to the climber’s trail to the base. Unfortunately the approach didn’t go super smooth and we burned an hour just trying to scramble to the start of the route. Once there we were happy that no one else was climbing the route yet. I started up and got about 50′ up the first pitch and noticed some sunglasses sitting in a little alcove. We’d packed our bags the previous night for a quicker start in the morning. With it being dark when packing Carly had forgotten her sunglasses. Such good luck to come across a perfectly good pair she was able to scoop up and use for the rest of the climb.
The second pitch is where the business started for the route. There is a tooth feature which looks much more difficult than 5.8 since it is a flaring mostly bottoming crack. Luckily there are a couple placements right under the tooth and the feet are good enough that a big reach was able to get me to the sloping hand above. Even better is in that sloping hand hold is a piton to clip. A few more good moves lead to easier climbing above.
Another party came up a slightly different P1 as I was starting P2. Luckily the belays are all pretty spaced out and comfy. We learned that Justin and Tom, the party behind us, were from Bozeman and MSU. The route has a number of variations for almost all the pitches so we were able to climb nearly at the same time.
P3 was an exposed pitch, it started on a rib of the arete going back and forth a little with not much protection. Eventually I went right for a variation on the original line. This line was steeper than it looked but juggy. Definitely some exposure with 1000′ of air below my feet as I pulled some roofs.
A few more pitches put us near the end of the climb, just one more short thuggy section to deal with. This looked not too bad but as I got into it I realized it was more difficult than it seemed. The crack was awkwardly tight and the protection I’d initially placed not great. On top of that there was a breadloaf sized rock which really could have been a thank god jug, but was loose. My first pass at it was a bit scary. After downclimbing and collecting myself I placed a couple better pieces of pro and then went through the difficult section though not with grace. From there it was an easy 200′ to the ridge crest and the summit.
The walk down wasn’t too bad luckily there was a great description of the walk off online which we were able to follow more or less without a hitch. Our good luck with the sunglasses keep going too. We had gone into town on Saturday evening for food and to try and buy bear spray. I have some but had forgotten it at home. It was a busy weekend in Jackson and the usual places were out of spray. I’d resigned that it would be unlikely to see a bear and therefore we’d be OK without some. As we were heading into the descent gully I found a full can of bear spray laying on the ground. Someone must have put their pack down and it had fallen out. I grabbed it and we headed down. Not much more than an hour later Carly was walking down the trail and stopped in her tracks and then turned around and whispered there was a bear and a cub on the trail about 50′ away. I pulled out the spray and removed the safety trigger. Luckily momma bear hadn’t made eye contact with us and was moving perpendicular to the trail. We made some extra noise and watched closely as momma and two cubs walked through the underbrush. They then turned back towards the trail but on a line above us. We took this as a queue to start moving again and away from the bears. We kept a close eye behind us for another 5 minutes as we went down.
After a long day on Irene’s we enjoyed some simple tortellini and italian sausage dinner and a beer. A long but good day. We slept in the following morning, made eggs and bacon then headed towards Jenny Lake for some low key bouldering and enjoying the views across the lake.