Appointment with Disappointment

Disappointment Peak, that is. The Roe family is on a cross-country road trip and after cranking up the miles for two weeks we have come to a few days’ rest in Grand Teton National Park.  I’ve been dreaming about this part of our trip since we started planning it some six months back.  Today, while Liane and the children go rafting on the Snake River, I have my chance to explore those fascinating Teton peaks.

I chose the Southwest Ridge of Disappointment Peak by looking at a map – a location right in the middle of things, an independent peak right under the East Face of the Grand Teton. It turns out that this location is the origin of the peak’s name.  Apparently an early party thought that the peak would provide an easy ramp right onto the Grand itself.  They were badly mistaken!  It turns out that the route I have chosen is not such a usual one.  But that is all to good. It is spectacular and we have it to ourselves.

Five in the morning sees Liane leave me at the Exum headquarters below the Lupine Meadows trailhead.  (True love means making an alpine start so that your husband can go climbing!) I meet up with Exum guide Matt Goewert and we begin the hiking at about 5:30.   It’s going to be a long day.  How will I stand up to it?  I thought I was reasonably fit but that was before two weeks mostly spent in a van!  These thoughts, and the adrenaline of a first climb in a famous area, propel me up the trail in a rush.  The sun rises, we puff up trail and vegetation and snow and talus, and as the rest of my family are launching themselves on the Snake River, we set out up the arete of Disappointment Peak.

The first two pitches meander about a bit, but the third gets more serious, and the fourth launches us up a steep golden wall just to the left of the arete. The holds are small, but they keep turning up.  The sun is shining, the situation could not be bettered, and the lack of protection does not seem to hold Matt back.   After the wall we traverse left on broken rock,  and then back to the right and up to a large platform.  Time for some food.

The next pitch is the crux.  Matt leaves the platform up an easy ramp to the base of a vertical 12-foot hand crack.  He cruises up and disappears.  Too late now for me to admit that my jamming technique leaves something to be desired.  When it’s my turn I waste time and energy trying to extract a deeply buried nut, before I realize that it has probably been fixed there for years.  Two moves higher a jam pulls out and I am back to square one.  It takes a couple more attempts before I struggle over the lip and am back to face climbing.  The grade is about 5.7-5.8.

The struggle with the crack and the looseness of some of the rock on the next few pitches leave me slow and insecure.  Nevertheless it is a great feeling to top out on pitch 9.  We leave our packs and scramble to the summit.  The Teton peaks arc around us.

A hang-glider might make the descent easier.  Lacking one, we struggle (correction: I struggle) down over talus and fourth-class rock and steep, frozen snow – some help from the rope is needed for these – and more talus and then endless trail switchbacks.  Back to base around 5:30 and seldom was a trailhead more welcome.

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