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Trad climbing
Alpine climbing NCCS rating
Grade IV
Elevation Gain
8,000.00 ft (2,438.40 m)
16.00 mi (25.75 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Grand Teton barely needs an introduction. While it’s not even near the tallest mountain in the lower 48, it is one of the most spectacular, especially surrounded by the rest of the craggy Teton Range. Skiers, mountaineers and climbers have long revered this mountain and summiting is a big deal.

There is no route to the summit that doesn’t involve some rock climbing (and/or snow climbing). The easiest route to the summit is the Owen Spaulding, which goes at 5.4 and generally requires around three pitches of roped climbing (though this is obviously up to each climber). Climbers with more trad climbing experience will choose to ascend via the steeper Upper Exum (5.5), which can be accessed by climbing up the Owen Spaulding approach before breaking right and scrambling up Wall Street. Climbers on the Upper Exum will generally rope up for roughly 7 pitches, though your comfort may vary.

For those looking for an even bigger adventure, you can link the Lower Exum into the Upper Exum, adding 6 pitches of stouter “5.7” climbing (this 5.7 rating is pretty sandbagged). For those who have sufficient alpine skills, the Complete Exum Ridge is a proud objective that you’ll never forget.


A note on skillset: While the route "only goes at 5.7", it and any route on the Grand, are extremely serious, and you should make sure you're prepared for any alpine conditions you might encounter, including steep snow and lots of downclimbing.


The Specifics

  • Seasonality/Snow: This route will generally be dry from July to September, though it can be climbed earlier if you're prepared for steep snow.

  • Route Add-ons/Alternatives:

    • If the Grand isn't enough, you can also tag the Middle and South Tetons (which aren't technical).
  • Number of Days: People climb the Complete Exum in a car to car push, but it's a very long day. A two or three day trip will be more pleasant, but you'll have to pull the permits which can get scarce in midseason.

  • Permitting: You'll need to pick up a permit at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station, more information here, either by advance permit (January through May) or walk-up.

  • Camping Zones

    • Most climbers will stay at the Lower Saddle (11,600'), as it's the highest camp and you can get eyes on the route, though it's also the least protected, so you'll feel any bad weather.

    • Moraine Camp (10,800') - this zone is more protected, though you're 800' below the Lower Saddle and below the fixed line.

    • Caves Camp (9,700') and Garnet Meadows (9,300') - these are options if you can't pull a better permit but they're not very convenient.

  • Navigation: Bring a map, GPS and route beta, it can get a bit tricky out there.

  • Thunderstorms/Weather: They're common on the Grand, and are extremely high consequence. Try to make sure you're descending by the early afternoon.

  • Other parties: Be prepared for other parties on the route, especially on the Upper Exum and at the rappel stations on the Owen Spaulding.

  • Gear:

    • Good gear for scrambling and moving fast in the mountains.

    • Rope/Rack: 

      • Rope: Some will solo the Grand but most will choose to bring a rope. A 60m works, though one of the rappels goes a bit easier with a 70m.

      • Rack: You'll want a double rack with some extra small gear and a ton of alpine draws.

    • Crampons/Ice Axe: Check in with the rangers at the


Leave No Trace

The Tetons are a fragile alpine environment, and Moraine Camp and the Lower Saddle get a ton of traffic. Make sure, while you're up there, to be following Leave No Trace principles.

  • Plan your trip (you're already doing that, good work).
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces (use established campsites not alpine meadows).
  • Carry all your trash and feces out.
  • Leave what you find up there.
  • Don't have campfires.
  • Protect your food from critters (and definitely don't feed them).
  • Be respectful of other visitors.

A few more location-specific thoughts: The alpine zone of the Tetons in particular is very vulnerable to human presence, as it's very alpine and has a very short growing season. Make sure you're staying on trails and while you can use rock walls set up by others, don't set up your own.

And since there will be so many parties up there, make sure you're modeling good behavior and checking in with folks who may be newer to backcountry travel. Stewardship only works if we support our community in treating our wild spaces right!


The Route

The Approach

You'll start at Lupine Meadows trailhead. Head up the trail, into the long switchbacks, climbing up almost 2,000' before the trail begins to enter Garnet Canyon and the views just keep improving. You'll pass by the Garnet Meadows campsites before following a steep trail up alongside Spalding Falls. Pass the Caves Camp and continue climbing up the faint trail. At 10,800', you'll be at the Moraine Camp. Camp here or continue up to the Lower Saddle. At 11,400', you'll reach the fixed line, which has a few exposed class three moves at the top (which are made significantly easier by the rope).

From the top of the fixed line, traverse southwest to the Lower Saddle. Enjoy the views of the Exum Ridge from the saddle before heading up!

From the lower saddle, head northeast up toward the Owen Spaulding approach gully. You're staying below the black dike. Climb up to 12,000' before descending right at a cairn toward a unique bicolored saddle (black on the north, red on the south). As you approach the saddle, you'll see an obvious chimney above you - this is the first pitch. You can scramble steep terrain directly to it, or continue east to an easy ramp (with a cairn at the bottom). If you go too far, you'll reach the Stettner Couloir.


The Climb

Lower Exum (5.7)

  • Begin by scrambling up the ramp. It's third class, so you shouldn't need to rope up. Stop scrambling when you're below the obvious chimney.
  • P1 - 5.6 - Climb up the obvious chimney. End at the obvious ledge.
  • P2 - 5.5 - Climb up easy 5th class moves to another big ledge.
  • P3 - 5.7 - Climb up the left-leaning hand crack before moving right into easier fifth-class terrain. End at the ledge.
  • P4 - 5.7 - Climb up an awkwardly wide dihedral under a chockstone to a ledge.
  • P5 - 5.7 - The Black Face (crux of route) - Climb up and right, looking for fixed pins (though there's also a fair amount of gear placements). This is a long and heady pitch. End at a ledge.
  • P6 - 5.7 - Climb up the awkward crack before reaching Wall Street ledge.

Upper Exum (5.5)

  • Begin with the Golden Staircase, a low-fifth knobby face without much pro. It's great climbing but is pretty short. At the top, consider stashing your rope and scrambling.
  • Move up and right into a gully - this is the Wind Tunnel gully. Scramble up over ledges until the gully ends.
  • As the Wind Tunnel ends, continue up an easy crack before reaching a ledge below the Friction Pitch.
  • The Friction pitch is quite obvious - there's not much pro, but it's good easy climbing. Keep scrambling up the ridge until you reach the V-Pitch.
  • The V-Pitch is a spectacular dihedral along the ridgeline. At the top there's a large ledge.
  • At the far side of the ledge is the Petzoldt Lieback - a few moves of fifth class and then some more scrambling. Once you reach the ridgeline, you'll find the "Boulder in the Sky" pitch.
  • The Boulder in the Sky pitch is an easy handcrack over big exposure.
  • On top of the Boulder in the Sky pitch, follow the easy ridgeline to the summit.

Enjoy the summit views before getting ready for the long descent.


The Descent

From the summit, scramble down and skiers left to Sargent's Chimney - the first rappel site. Rappel down and then move further skier's left to another rappel station (with both bolts and a sling anchor). Toss the ropes slightly skier's left from the sling anchor. For this second rappel, you'll get all the way to the ground with a 70m. A 60m works but just barely with stretch and you'll need to do some shenanigans. You can also double rope rappel with another party.

Now you're at the Upper Saddle. From here, you're through the most technical terrain. Continue down, staying west to avoid the loose Wall Street Couloir. Follow your nose through this section - there are many ways down, try to stay on third and low fourth class terrain. You can generally stay skiers left (as long as you don't enter the couloir), though you may need to rappel one last time down another chimney.

At 12,500', you're through the meat of the descent. From here, it's an easy hike down a climber's trail to the Lower Saddle.


From the Lower Saddle, descend your ascent route, all the way back down to Lupine Meadows, thousands of feet below. Back at the trailhead, you'll barely be able to see the top of the Grand, but it's worth finding, thousands of feet above.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Open Year-round





One of the most famous climbing routes in the country. Spectacular views.


Can be very busy on the route.

Pets allowed

Not Allowed

Trailhead Elevation

6,700.00 ft (2,042.16 m)

Highest point

13,770.00 ft (4,197.10 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas



Typically multi-day


Permit required


Permit self-issue on site


Primary aspect

South facing

Class / Rating

Lower Exum = 5.7, Upper Exum = 5.5

Drinking water




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