The Grand Teton, Upper-Exum Ridge

{last three pictures taken by Michael Mock}
The Grand Teton is the biggest and most prolific mountain in the Teton range. The Upper-Exum Ridge is a classic route up the Grand, and one of my favorites in the park. Conditions weren't perfect (high winds and snow/ice in the chimneys and cracks), but there wasn't a cloud in the sky during one of the longest days of the year (6.23.12). The climb took me and Mike a bit longer than expected and despite a few challenges, (my headlamp running out of batteries and a new personal record for self-arrests in some terrible snow), it was an all-around success. I want to dedicate this climb to my dad, who as a 15-year-old Iowa boy took a bus to the Tetons and successfully climbed the Grand via the Owen-Spalding route with his 16-year-old brother. The two had hardly any mountaineering experience and learned everything they knew through books and boy scouts. Their story continues to inspire me to challenge myself in the mountains as only an Iowa boy could.


Anonymous said...

"The legends, they grow and grow."

Well, let me preface by saying that we're all glad that you have been consistently smarter than us. Keep doing that.

For the record, just before your Pa's 15th birthday we did our first multi-pitch climb, McGregors Slab Right Standard (more or less) in Rocky Mountain NP, proving; 1) you can lead if you just read (mail-ordered books about climbing without anyone showing you how), 2) it's stupid to start the approach in the early afternoon, 3) descending on the wrong (west side) after dark without lights is very, very scary - and leads to a midnight campground arrival & your Dad shaking you by the jacket, not sure whether to hug you or smack you up side the head. For the record, hugging won but not by much.

When your Pa was 15 and turned 16 in the Tetons, we rode the Greyhound from Des Moines to Jackson and hitched into the park and failed (gloriously because that's the way it always happens in retrospect) on the Grand. I turned the corner on Wall Street on Upper Exum during a very cold, gray, slightly snowy & windy morning and the three of us (with friend Mark Ferguson) became frightened enough to retreat.

The next year your Grandpa Floyd let us drive the VW Golf all the way out and on the day Dan turned 17 he failed on one possibly life-changing experience, but probably for the good (that's a story for when you're even older).

This time we failed on the side of Mount Moran, helped carry down a Florida teacher with a broken ankle, received & listened to some good advice, and finally climbed some stuff including the Upper Exum. However, not having exhausted our capacity for the stupid and naive we did, on bad advice, descend the Owen-Spaulding unroped. My strongest memory is falling behind Dan on the descent, getting stuck in an icy chimney, thrashing back and forth with some abandon to loosen my jammed backpack - with one fist in the crack and big boots slipping on the ice. Suddenly I thought, wait a second, paused and very slowly and carefully looked back over my shoulder and straight down the Black Ice Couloir.

I was, let's say.. somewhat chastened. And yes, a whole lot better educated (yet again) about descending.

So we Brothers Olsen are both proud that you're doing what you're doing and not what we did - both. Enjoy making your own legends and stay safe!


Note the "Olsen Variation"


MK and David said...

This is great! Thank you for the stories and the pictures. I would love to hear more!


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