<-- Map of summer 2016
     climbing roadtrip 
     (click to enlarge)

Route: Irene's Arête (5.8, 7p)

TR #: 237

Category: Wyoming       Top-out Elev:  ~11,000 ft      Rock Type: Gneiss & Schist

Partners: Sarah Inwood, Ben Ungs

A fun day on a Teton classic.


Late summer 2016, after a trip to Deep Lake, I happened to pass through the Jackson/Teton area at the same time as my friend Sarah. So we met up for a day and climbed Irene's Arête. Sarah's friend Ben also joined us. It was a fun full day of exercise, fun climbing, and great company. 

Irene's Arête is one of the more popular rock climbs in the Tetons, featuring seven pitches of excellent rock and exposure up an aesthetic knife-edge ridge crest. This ridge is the one in profile when looking east from the Caves (just above Garnet Canyon), and is relatively easy to access. Many variations are possible on this route.

As a group of three moving at a relatively relaxed pace (i.e. enjoying conversation but no en route siestas), we climbed the route car to car in about 12 hours. We approached via the Caves (3 hours from car to base of route) and descended via Amphitheater Lake (a little less than 3 hours from top of route to car). See the map below for our route.

Map (click image to enlarge):

This page gives some photos and route overlays for our climb of Irene's Arête.
Pitches in this trip report are based on Ortenburger and Jackson guidebook description which describes the route as 7 pitches.

Photos:  Photo descriptions: 
Lupine Meadows TH - Garnet Canyon trail - Caves - scramble to base of arete 
1. Annotated photo showing the location of Irene's Arête relative to the Caves and Meadows. The standard approach to the route seems to be from the west (i.e. from Caves). It is also possible to approach via 4th class weaknesses from the east. Although it would have been shorter for us to approach from the east, we did not have any beta on this approach so we chose the more standard approach from the Caves turnoff.
2. Another view of Irene's Arête (rightmost spire) from the Meadows. We noticed that fall colors were coming to the area.
3. Middle Teton as seen from the Meadows. I'd like to climb the Dike route which ascends the obvious Dike slicing down the face. Apparently it is 5.6 climbing, so it must be pretty ledgy, but it just looks like such a cool feature. 
4. Irene's Arête in profile from the Caves-Lower Saddle junction. Turn off here on a faint climbers trail and hike towards the base of arete.
5. The tree at the base of the route. If coming from Caves, it is common to hit the arete too low or high and have to do some extra scrambling to reach this tree. 
Climb shallow cracks to the right of the crest and belay at a flake.

6. Looking up Pitch 1. Sarah is at the first belay in the photo.
Up a hand crack and pass two fixed pitons to belay ledge on right side of crest.
7. Looking up at the start of Pitch 2. This is the crux of the pitch but the feet are good and there is a piton just above the bulge that you can clip before making a committing move if you know to look for the piton. But the piton is old, so I backed it up with a 0.75 cam.
5.7 (or 5.9)
Begin just left of crest with face climbing leading out right to a left-facing corner in a black-rock area and continue up around around to left side of arete to ledge.
Variation: Crack on climbers' right, 5.9.

8. 8. Pitch 3. We took the original route which starts just left of the arete and climbs a face (runnout but easy) back to the right side of the arete. Really fun climbing.
Climb on either side of the crest, going up on face to an area of black rock, past an overhang and face climb steep groove to sloping ledge.
Variation: climb a crack directly above the belay, 5.8.

9. Sarah leading Pitch 4. She took the direct start which is one of the 5.8 variations to the start (I think the original route goes left around the arete a bit according to the route description). This is a really fun pitch on steep juggy solid rock.
10. Ben climbing this pitch.
11-12. A couple of old pitons on the pitch. Lots of pitons in the Tetons.
5.7 (or 5.9)
Climb on left of crest via cracks and face to gain horizontal knife-edge section of the ridge.
Variation: Climb a corner directly upward, 5.9.

13. Looking up at the direct 5.9 corner. This is quite steep at the top. This is the way we went, although going around left would have been easier.
14. Ben on the knife-edge arete that ends the pitch. Awesome exposure and easy climbing.
5.7 (or 5.8 or 5.9+)
Descend 150 feet to the right and climb a break in the wall.
Variation 1: Climb arete crest directly, 5.9+.
Variation 2: Fist crack to right of tree, 5.8.

15. The standard way to do this pitch is to descend 150 feet into this gully and then take a weakness back upward. 
16. We chose to climb this weakness out of the gully, just right of the tree. This turned out to be pretty hard at the start but eased up as it went over the edge above. There is a 5.8 fistcrack just right of this that probably would have been a bit easier choice.
17. Looking at the 5.9+ option for Pitch 6. This option stays on the left side of the arete. We did not go this way, but it looked tempting (though harder) opposed to the downclimb.
easy 5th
200 feet of easier climbing gains summit plateau.
18. ~200 feet of easier climbing to the top (through the notch on the left above). The crest is the easiest and most fun climbing.
Route does not reach actual summit of Disappointment Peak. This might be how the peak got its name. =)
19. On the bench at the top of the route, enjoying a snack and packing up before hiking out.
Hike/scramble down the SE Ridge route (3rd/4th) or Lake Ledges route (3rd/4th) of Disappointment Peak. Then hike out by Amphitheater Lake trail.
20. Looking at the descent down the SE side of Disappointment Peak. This descent route brings you down to Amphitheater Lake and the trail back out to Lupine Meadows Trailhead.
21. Descending the slopes of Disappointment Peak. The summit is in the background, still considerably higher than the top of the route.
22. Looking down on Amphitheater and Surprise Lakes from above. 
23. Descending the SE Ridge / Lake Ledges route down to Amphitheater Lake. There are some cliffs to navigate on the way down to Amphitheater Lake, but mostly 3rd and just a bit of 4th and one rappel (probably avoidable). We could not find the chockstone chimney of the SE Ridge route (although we did not try too hard to look for it); it is possible we descended the Lake Ledges route instead.
24. A short rappel we made to get to easier terrain. This rappel is probably avoidable, but it seemed easier to just make the rappel than to look for a way to scramble down. Amphitheater Lake below.
25. Looking back towards Disappointment Peak from Amphitheater Lake.