Disappointment Peak’s East Ridge is perhaps the best moderate multi-pitch alpine climb in Grand Teton National Park. Ease of access combines with straightforward route finding, sound rock and epic views to create a one-of-a-kind 5.7 Teton experience. As Bobbi’s first alpine climb of the year, we sought this route in hopes of landing her first true alpine lead and park summit of summer 2022.
Originally we’d planned to climb the CMC Route on Mount Moran – after all, it was our two year anniversary weekend – but Bobbi’s peroneal tendonitis had other ideas. Two weeks earlier she suffered through brutal foot pain on Storm Point’s Guide’s Wall and has been forced to the bench ever since. Our consolation prize was the East Ridge of Disappointment Peak, a classic one-day itinerary cleaved into two, by way of a base camp at 9’750 foot Surprise Lake. The motivation to drag overnight gear was two-fold – reduce the load on her fragile tendons and enjoy a romantic evening at one of the more scenic lakes in the Tetons. I had climbed the route before – which reduced the likelihood of epic’ing to virtually zero, and the approach trail is very well maintained – decreasing the aggravating twisting and torquing motions which plagued her on Guide’s Wall. Armed with overnight supplies and excitement to share an alpine adventure again, we set sail from the Lupine Meadows trailhead just before sunrise on Saturday July 9th.
One of the many reasons I am hot on the East Ridge is the route’s simplicity. Finding the base is about as easy as they come for alpine climbing (simply head northwest on a well-beaten climber’s trail beyond Amphitheater Lake), and once beyond pitch two, route-finding entirely dissolves. After shedding our overnight gear and smashing an almond butter sandwich, we were tied in and ready to fly by 11:00AM. The traditional first pitch climbs the true first step in the ridge, beginning in an easy broken crack on the south side of the slabby ridge toe. A one-move-wonder crux (5.5) leads to easy rambling above, up and left of a prominent golden roof feature, past two trees with several slings for belay. This seventy-plus meter pitch, often simul-climbed, is an enjoyable warm up, both muscular and aerobic.
After reaching the forested ledges above pitch one, we shuffled the belay at least 100 feet, just left of the next prominent ridge toe. Here we continued simul-climbing through another rambling pitch of low-fifth class terrain, mostly ledges with another short lived hand-crack crux (5.6) beneath an obvious large right-facing dihedral/corner/slab system sporting a very large tree. Herein lies pitch three, and the first place we built a proper belay.
With Bobbi’s foot feeling loose and nearly pain free, I handed her the rack to tackle a slightly run-out pitch three, a low-angle slab with a few cracks and overhangs for protection. Right of the corner is supposedly a 5.6R slab, perhaps the route of first ascent, but I have always climbed near the corner with marginally better protection. Nevertheless, run-outs and wandering climbing characterize this pitch, and Bobbi did an excellent job dispatching her first true rope-length trad lead in the alpine. Her anchor atop the slab was sturdy and we were moving efficiently, staring up at the obvious “money pitch” ahead.
As the leader I broke the top pitch into two, mostly to reduce rope drag and give Bobbi the chance to lead one more pitch. Teton Rock Climbs has a “5.6 flakes” variation drawn to the south of the obvious 5.7 hand-crack crux, which splits a small roof at the terminus of the pitch three dihedral. Having already climbed the crack, I was intrigued by the variation but couldn’t find it. Instead I fired the crack, which still felt slightly un-intuitive for 5.7, wandered up obvious face holds for a while, then stopped to analyze the terrain ahead. There are two finishing options for the East Ridge, a 5.7 hand-crack which climbs another short bulge dead ahead, and a 5.6 layback flake on a steep textured slab five-ish meters to the left. Both variations funnel through a dead obvious 5.5 body-width chimney granting access to the summit ridge. I traversed left to the layback flake and set a semi-hanging belay with hopes Bobbi might steal the rack for pitch five, but at this point her foot was starting to twinge. I enjoyed the last 25 meters of stellar climbing, easy but bold movement with nearly 800 feet of exposure above Amphitheater Lake, popped over the juggy chimney and slung a Volkswagen sized boulder for belay. Bobbi’s face was nothing but joy when she crested the ridge, and after a leisurely lunch break her foot pain mellowed back to non-existent. What a success!
To The Summit!
We continued to the beautiful summit of Disappointment Peak via a scramble of the broken east face and north ridge. We were back at the lake by 6:00PM, just in time to get torn to pieces by hoards of mosquitos. Instead of down-scrambling the standard fourth-class Southeast Ridge, we rappelled back to Amphitheater Lake by way of three slung trees, descending the second forested buttress east of the Spoon Couloir. The faint path to these rappels is vague and involves some tricky, occasionally loose, fourth class down-climbing in it’s own, but saved Bobbi’s foot an extra 600-some feet of scrambling. Writing this five days in the aftermath, I am happy to report her tendonitis seems to have enjoyed the East Ridge as well.
Route Summary & Rack Considerations
All in all, the East Ridge of Disappointment Peak is a gem of a route for its’ difficulty and location. Though grade two seems a bit of a sandbag, 5.7 is definitely fair. Tremendous views, morning sun, simple route finding, sound rock, access to a prominent Teton summit and an especially quality upper two pitches makes the East Ridge a route I look forward to repeating time and time again.
For the rack, a single set of cams and wires up to 3 inches should provide adequate protection. Long slings assist on wandering pitches. Extra small-medium cams may help the beginner leader “sew it up”, and a long cordalette is helpful for slinging a final belay boulder.
- Teton Rock Climbs, Aaron Gams, 2012
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