On Saturday December 10th, 2022, Connor James and I climbed two different ice routes on the south side of Teton Canyon. Lehmans Lament is a two pitch ice/mixed route, generally WI3-4, on the Grand Wall. The Green Pea Pillar is steep 15M nugget of demanding vertical ice between the Grand and Waterfall Walls, typically forming as WI4 with or without a bit of mixed. We also took pictures of popular routes on the south wall.
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As time wanes on I am continuously surprised by the variety of ice climbs in Teton Canyon. Once an area revered as mostly bare has flourished into a landscape of hidden gems. On Saturday Connor James and I made the four mile ski to the south fork summer trailhead with an open mind. Originally we planned on checking out the “Landslide” area – a series of cascading flows just left of the Waterfall Wall summer climbing zone – but stopped up-canyon for two striking and unseasonably well formed climbs, Lehman’s Lament and the Green Pea Pillar. The former climbed climbed at WI3 and a bit of easy mixed in two short pitches, and the latter at ~15 meters of WI4+ or WI5-. What follows is a short breakdown of our experience climbing on both routes, with pertinent beta, for prospective climbers. To my knowledge these were the first 2022/23 ascents of each respective route.
Lehman’s Lament, Grand Wall (WI3-4, 60M)
Standing at the base of Z-Crack with eleven ice screws and not a single cam was novel in it’s own, exponentially compounded by thigh deep snow and twenty degree temperatures. I mentally associate the Grand Wall with t-shirts and rock shoes – heck, I had only heard vague rumors of it harboring elusive ice. What we found on Saturday morning was an interesting two pitch affair. The second half of the first pitch and the first half of the second pitch – the middle 50 percent – was stellar, with the outer quarters lacking in solid ice and climbing pretty dicy.
I traversed onto the first pitch from the base of Z-Crack, gaining the horizontal ledge system that caps the bolted 5.7 approach slab for Wild Kingdom, Thimbleberry and the like. It appears ice could form to the base of the slab by mid-season, but for now the short first pitch is climbing at WI3-R with no reliable protection for the first 8-10 meters. After cozying in with the generally poor ice quality I made quick work of a short WI3 headwall, slogged up a snow ramp and set an ice belay directly beneath pitch two – the main attraction.
The second lead began steeper and more technical than expected. The ice was brittle, poorly adhered and too thin to simply wail away, so I stemmed off small rock crimps with my left body and tip-toed my right foot up as gently as possible. Above the flow hit it’s prime, devouring long screws for breakfast on 15 meters of stimulating, bulgy, shale-green WI3 terrain, then once again devolved into insecure and poorly protected mixed climbing in a steep 60 degree gully donning far more bushes and turf sticks than ice or quality rock. Clearing a meter of faceted snow from this 10 meter channel without any decent protection was the emotional crux of my day, and will likely bar repeat ascents lest the upper gully chock with ice. Gripes aside, we emerged from our first winter Grand Wall experience grateful to have found such an interesting winter climb in unseasonably fat, and reasonably climbable, conditions.
Route Summary: Having climbed Lehman’s in the summer as a vegetated 5.6 traditional tango, I would suppose that relatively little ice would be needed for the route to be considered climbable in winter, so long as the lower guardian slab is passable. That said, Lehman’s would be at its’ best when the upper constriction above the main flow is chocked with ice. We rappelled the route easily via a small pine and a thread with a single 60 meter rope. A two rope rappel would reach the ground from the top of the route. A small litany of cams and wires, maybe a spectre, could be helpful in thin conditions.
Green Pea Pillar (WI4+, 15M)
After sandwiches and a lazy debriefing we resolved to skin up canyon and have a peak at Green Pea, solely for the purpose of scouting. The time was approaching 3:00PM, and this time of year the sun sets not long after 4:30. After braving a relative lack of continuous ice on Lehman’s we suspected poor conditions, but pleasantly spotted a monstrous 15 meter nugget of steep ice emerging from an unassuming cleft just east of the South Fork bouldering area, maybe 200 meters east of the Grand Wall. Darkness or not, we just had to climb it!
Upon close inspection the three meter thick pillar was freestanding from the granite alcove behind, slightly chandelier’ed and once again, of entrancing green hue. Water trickles stricken the right side while the left remained dry. My first few hacks produced more shatters than sticks and bent my mindset closer to retreat than ascent, though after clearing the extensive veil of new ice from the base I was able to sink a stable screw and proceed up the Pea. The technical crux occurred only a few body-lengths off the ground, where deteriorating feet forced gently overhanging climbing on generally insecure footholds. Towards the top the quality improved, and a few fresh ice fingers allowed for stemming stances to relieve upper body strain. Green Pea Pillar, albeit relatively short, represented my hardest technical ice lead to date and though I have no reference point, climbed harder than any of the dozen WI4’s I’ve led before.
Route Summary: Green Pea Pillar is the rightmost route in the 10 meter wide alcove generally referred to as “Green Pea”. At least three brotherly/sisterly flows are rumored to form in this area, ranging from WI2-WI4. In December 2022 the rightmost pillar was formed at WI4+, and the left flows were only beginning to touch the ground. Top ropes can be easily set with 60 meter ropes from a grove of trees above the climb and directionals. One more mysterious dagger/curtain was trying to appear just east of Green Pea, perhaps we’ll call him Green Bean, along the same granite buttress.
South Wall Condition Report (Left Ghost, Reunion Falls and Boy Scout Falls)
The pictures below indicate December 10th conditions on the popular north-facing Teton Canyon ice routes. The Left Ghost (no picture) appeared formed to the ground and relatively fat. Reunion Falls seemed potentially climbable but thin – probably not worth the effort. Boy Scout Falls looked about as fat as it was last month – from a recent first-hand report, the first pitch is still lacking in continuous ice. Yes, I know these pictures are generally horrible.
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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.