On July 24th, Liam Wylie and I climbed Open Book, a six pitch, 450 foot, grade III rock route on the southeast face of Grunt Arete, the first rock feature east of Disappointment Peak’s SE Ridge, beginning in Garnet Canyon. Open Book is a Teton classic by all standards, with a stacked deck of unrelenting 5.8+ to 5.10- climbing above dramatic exposure. We finished the route in about eleven hours car to car, and had a tremendous time doing so.
Liam wanted to climb Irene’s Arete, but after a long day on the Grand Teton only 36 hours before, my knees were eyeing a different pace. I suggested Open Book, a route of similar stature and clout, if not more difficult, located at least an hour closer to the car. The climb had been on my radar for a while, known for sound rock, impressive exposure and views, stellar finger crack climbing and a big ol’ airy roof pull atop pitch four. Teton 5.9 has been my limit alpine grade this summer, and after an intense experience on the Chouinard-Frost Chimney (5.9, IV) two weeks earlier, I was a little leery of stepping out onto like-difficulty rock for a few trips. However, armed with a motivated, and far stronger than I, partner willing to gun the crux pitch, I’d be a fool to pass up an opportunity on this classic Teton outing. A combined eight hours of sleep and one Grand Teton summit in the past three days aside, I was in the Lupine Meadows parking lot at 6:00AM ready to fly.
Unlike most Teton alpine routes, finding Open Book is trivial. A few hundred feet before the “Platforms” camping area and the end of the maintained Garnet Canyon trail, a faint spur leads up and north through talus and steep grass, aiming just right of the only obvious rock band impeding access to the large north facing cliffs above. Once above the lower cliff, a westward traverse leads to the base of Grunt Arete, with Open Book now clearly identified from below. A closer inspection reveals the left facing 5.9 golden flake/crack of pitch one about 100 feet off the ground. An easy eastward scramble from the toe of the ridge (3rd class) leads to the very base of this flake, a ledge which has plenty of room to arrange gear and comfortably belay. By way of an ultra-casual pace we tied in by the 2.5 hour mark.
Our strategy was to swing leads, with Liam taking pitches one, three and five, and I the evens. This landed Liam with leads up to 5.9+, and capped myself at 5.8. My lead of the Chouinard-Frost two weeks earlier taught me that despite being physically capable, leading 5.9 in the alpine was serious and demanding business for a body that hasn’t even climbed two full calendar years. I was eager to watch a far more experienced climber harness the reigns for pitches which would surely have left me with sweaty palms, cottonmouth and Elvis legs.
Right off the deck we were straight to the business, dancing with a flared 5.9 hand crack situation that wanted so dearly to barn-door out my backpack lugging, Grand Teton lagged legs. Liam dispatched it smoothly, yet I was surprised how subdued to gravity I felt. I paddled out around the mini-roof, rambled up the next 20M of five-easy and despite a few cautionary thoughts, snatched up the metal for pitch two. What I hoped for was straightforward 5.8, and what I received was wandering, committing and slightly vegetated 5.8, protected by tiny gear. No one move was particularly difficult, but compared to other 5.8’s in the park I felt this pitch was of the stiffer variety. Friction stemming and black chert crimping characterized this sustained and surprisingly excellent stretch, and by the belay I had adrenaline-shook the fog – we were officially headed to the sky.
Pitch three was the money pitch, and Liam took it down in commendable style. Much like a souped up rendition of pitch two, no single move stole the show, but sustained stemming and powerful motion on thin footholds made this beauty of a finger-crack corner quite the bear. Liam set a sloping belay beneath the pitch four “improbable roof” and gave me the pleasure of leading the most scenic roof pull of my Teton career. 400 feet of sheer granite sprawled beneath my slippers as I jugged the overhang on adequate, though slightly awkward holds, belaying just above in a grassy alcove to reduce rope drag.
The standard finish to Open Book continues up the dihedral for one last pitch, culminating in yet another, slightly more difficult, 5.9+ roof. Our original intentions saw us through this line, but now the sun was cooking the orange protrusion like a crispy Cheeto. I was whooped, Liam was buzzed from two full-value leads and together we opted for the lay-person variation, a 5.5 slab pitch traversing east and around the final dihedral. Liam hiked the refreshing pitch five and found an amazingly shady alcove for belay. I chugged us to the top, with a full sixty meter improv pitch involving the standard 5.7 crack and a dirty face climb above and right of the final “rotten 5.8”, generally not recommended, uppermost off-width. In hindsight, if not climbing the lichen stricken off-width like most parties, it’s probably best to traverse east onto the ridge shortly after the 5.7 crack, as upward continuation involved more loose and grimy rock than I’d care to repeat.
Route Summary, A Personal Reflection and Rack Discussion
We reached the car around hour eleven, after a leisurely scramble to the summit of Grunt Arete (low 5th class, recommended), an underwhelmingly thirsty lunch and a few pit stops for H20. Sifting through Mountain Project comments, I was surprised to find so many unsavory reviews of this superb climb. On all but the uppermost pitch, rock quality was on par with the likes of Guide’s Wall and Baxter’s Pinnacle. Bonus stars for a short approach, minimal route finding and a casual 2nd class descent via the Amphitheater Lake trail make this route a must do. I look forward to repeating Open Book time and time again, including leads on pitch three and the uppermost roof we bypassed.
As for protection, a smattering of fixed gear would allow competent parties a well protected ascent with a single rack up to three inches. A duo of climbing rangers floated this thing with a half dozen cams and a set of chocks only minutes ahead of us. That said, as a team of 5.10 leaders, we brought a full double rack of cams to two inches, one number three Camalot and a full set of nuts, and were happy to have every last lick. If deciding gear to part with, finger sized protection should be emphasized. Pitches one and two can be linked (just barely) with a 60M rope, though we broke them into two. As of July 2022, pitch two has a shmogasbord of stuck wires. In the event of a storm, the belay beneath the pitch four roof could provide solace. Both the 5.9+ and grade III classification seem fair.
For myself, this climb marked the very first time I’ve stepped down from a piece of rock in the alpine – the 5.9+ pitch five variation. Historically speaking I’ve always been first in line for a quest into the questionable. Despite holding a bold attitude in high-esteem, I also recognize the inherent danger of that mindset. Today, facing sleep deprivation and a sunbaked roof at my alpine limit, I was pleased with an ability to release from the vice grips of ego and raincheck for another more qualified day. I nod the same cap to Liam. I look forward to more adventures within this new partnership, in the sacred realm of (in the words of my dear friend Fred Most) the Grand Teton National #spaceplace.
- Teton Rock Climbs, Aaron Gams, 2012
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Ski mountaineering, rock climbing, ice climbing and all other forms of mountain recreation are inherently dangerous. Should you decide to attempt anything you read about in this article, you are doing so at your own risk! This article is written to the best possible level of accuracy and detail, but I am only human – information could be presented wrong. Furthermore, conditions in the mountains are subject to change at any time. Ten Thousand Too Far and Brandon Wanthal are not liable for any actions or repercussions acted upon or suffered from the result of this article’s reading.
my two worlds colliding! love it! look forward to seeing more liam-brandon adventures
we’re looking forward to some liam-brandon-john adventures!
Excellent post with some great climbing!
Furthermore, your photos and the topo (by Open Book) are really great and helpful.
Thanks for sharing, keep on climbing and greetings from Greece.
Greetings from Wyoming – I’m glad you found the topo helpful!
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