“Every Bit of 5.9” – Dihedral Of Horrors (5.9, II) – Ship’s Prow – Grand Teton Nat. Park (08.10.22)

On August 10th, 2022 I reconnected with an old-friend to climb the classic Dihedral Of Horrors (5.9, II) on the Ship’s Prow in Grand Teton National Park. This short but full-value outing had a little bit of everything, and despite it’s intimidating name, and even more intimidating roof, featured absolutely excellent climbing on superb rock. Instead of spraying about a route with plenty of available beta, this article will serve as mostly a photo dump, to round out 10K2Far, plus a few route recommendations to aspiring climbers.

The Dihedral of Horrors

The Dihedral Of Horrors is about as 5.9 as 5.9 can possibly get. Tackling the striking gut of the Omega Butress’s Ship’s Prow for a near full rope-length, the crux pitch features sustained stemming, jamming and liebacking with a wide variety of protection the entire way. Dihedral of Horrors served as a benchmark tick for my alpine climbing career. Despite landing below my alpine on-sight limit, the sustained nature of the climb had me suspicious of the 5.10 grade, until I realized it was most certainly 5.9 and I just needed to get better at climbing consistently difficult terrain without rests. I managed a no-falls ascent with John Walker on belay, leading the first and third (crux) of four total pitches on classic compact Teton granite. The beauty of this climb lies in three features, a short and relatively easy approach, stellar crack climbing on superb rock and tremendous exposure for the given route length. If full-extension friction stemming and a 20 foot roof traverse above 200 some feet of clean vertical exposure sounds like fun, the Dihedral of Horrors provides quite the party.

Instead of a trip report, a pitch by pitch breakdown with some photos is available below to supplement with with beta from local guidebooks and/or Mountain Project, happy climbing!

John Walker just before the roof traverse on the Dihedral of Horrors

Approach

Via Phelps Lake and Death Canyon Trail, about 60-90 minutes from car. Recommended resources listed below.

Pitch One ** (5.7R or 4th/5.6, 45M)

Pitch one offers two choices, a 60-80 foot, mostly unprotectable 5.7 slab on insecure granite nubbins, or a reportedly mangy 4th class grovel up the weakness right of the slab. On par with the first ascent I chose the former, though after overcoming 50-ish foot ground fall potential on the friction crux I don’t think this will be my path of repeat. That said, the rock quality and movement on this slab was excellent, so if free-soloing thin 5.7 slab is your thing, go for it. Great gear is available in the obvious flake on the right, but this only protects the easy climbing, not the high crux. Above, easy rambling on forested ledges runs the rope to a large horizontal ledge for belay.

Pitch Two * (5.7+, short)

John lead this pitch, following roughly the middle option provided in the Aaron Gams guidebook, after bumping the belay 15-20 feet left before starting. Basically, the aim is to reach the base of the main attraction dihedral pitch, now directly overhead. The direct linear start above pitch one, and beneath the dihedral, is reported 5.9, dirty and loose. Whether we were actually on route is still up for debate. A fixed anchor is available at the base of the dihedral.

Pitch Three **** (5.9+, 50M)

Pitch three tackles the imposing, dark and steep dihedral head on, perhaps the most classic F9 pitch in the Tetons. From the belay, some easy juggy ground leads to a bold layback flake (5.8) protected by large cams (#3 Camalot). A no hands rest above the flake leads to tenuous stemming around a steep splitter finger crack (5.9). A mantle above very small gear (crux) onto a good ledge, with potentially some fixed tat, provides an intermediate belay position if needed. I decided to continue on, warring up similar steepening 5.9 business to the forbidding roof. Just as rumored, the roof provided godsent incut edges and ample fixed gear for an easy rightward traverse and straightforward mantle (5.7). A belay is commonly set at the end of this traverse – semi-hanging on a small ledge – about as scenic as they come.

Pitch Four ** (5.6, short)

Pitch four tackles the wide crack directly above the hanging belay, on the eastern toe of the crux pitch roof. Easy climbing on face holds with a wide crack for protection make this short top-out pitch a welcome reprieve.

Descent

From the top of the Ship’s Prow, a two rope rappel off a tree with many slings, east of the summit block, leads to sloping grassy ledges. More descent information can be obtained from guidebooks, however, the general idea is to trend southeast from the bottom of the rappel, down the grassy ledges into the short couloir immediately skier’s right, the same one used for approach. Do not be tempted to rappel into the larger gully skier’s left. Rappel slings on trees towards this area indicate other’s errors. The grassy ledges seem intimidating, and would be if wet, but with patience a fourth class descent can be deciphered. Once in the access/descent couloir, hike down and eventually skier’s right to the base of the climb and retrieve packs.

Other

Packs can be left at the base of the climb, hung originally from jammed logs. Beware of marmots.

Rack

A wide range of cam sizes are useful on this climb, from TCU’s to three inches. A bare minimum of one three inch cam is needed to protect the wide flake on pitch three. I appreciated a double set of cams from #0.4 to #3, singles from #0.1 to #0.3 and a full rack of nuts, with a few double-length slings if planning to do pitch three in one push, which I recommend. Two ropes are commonly used for descent. Alternative options may be available for a 70M cord, but I’ve only heard rumors – ask around.

Recommended Resources

  • Teton Rock Climbs – Aaron Gams, 2012 (guidebook)
  • Mountain Project (website, good photos of 5.7R pitch one slab)
A photo sequence from the top of the dihedral pitch

Ten Thousand Too Far is generously supported by Icelantic Skis from Golden Colorado, Barrels & Bins Natural Market in Driggs Idaho, and Range Meal Bars from Bozeman Montana. Give these guys some business – who doesn’t need great skis and wholesome food?



Errors? Typos? Leave a comment below or send an email to bwanthal@gmail.com

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DISCLAIMER
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.

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