Summit the Grand Teton via the Owen Spalding Route

Rate this Adventure 16.3 miles 7000 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Sam Reiser

Why wouldn't you summit the Grand? Offering expansive views over the entire Teton Range it gives you an excuse to avoid the overcrowded trails at lower elevations. This well travelled beginner route provides you with an easy transition into the mountains from your local crag.

Beginning at the Lupine Meadows trailhead near Jenny Lake you will follow the signs for Garnett Canyon. The sign at the trailhead says at mile 4.1 that the trail ends, but there is actually a defined path that will take you most of the way up to the lower saddle, encountering only one scramble. During the late summer season there will be fixed ropes at this initial scramble but, this will be the only protected section on the mountain.

From the lower saddle you will follow the obvious path that rises up to the left of the Grand Teton towering above you. This path involves several exposed scrambles, and to progress you must be a confident climber that can handle exposure. This path will take you to the upper saddle.

Once at the upper saddle you will move to the left of the rock wall that appears in front of you and proceed to the famous Belly Crawl section. This section involves an 18 inch ledge along which you can either crawl or climb over the edge and shimmy left, using the ledge as a hand hold and the adequate foot placements below. This section is not difficult, though it offers an exhilarating 2000ft of exposure, which can be nerve-racking. The safest option is to rope up here, but if you are confident you can cross unprotected.

After the Belly Crawl you will quickly reach the technical crux of the route: a 5.4 climb through the Double Chimney. If you brought the adequate protection this is where you should use it as it is the hardest part of the climb. There is a good crack system in which to build an anchor for belaying.

Above the Double Chimney you will climb through a series of other obvious chimneys, after which you will scramble a short way to the summit. The summit is rocky and not an ideal place to bivouac out for the night, but it does offer a spacious, well-earned place to rest while enjoying a view of the entire Teton Range.

To descend you will complete 2 rappels and several down climbs along the scrambles that you ascended to reach the summit. Rappel down the chimney closest to the summit (Sargent's Chimney) and traverse left. After this you will see a large chockstone with a belay station for the second rappel. You will need a 70m rope to belay directly off the second rappel, but a 60m rope will work if you rappel to the right hand side (facing the wall) of the belay station. If you use the shorter rope, make sure you follow these instructions correctly because if you don't you will be suspended above the ground. It is also possible take up 2 x 40m ropes or other similar combinations to extend beyond the 70m standard.

From the bottom of the second rappel, climb down the scrambles back to the lower saddle from which you will follow the path back to the car.

I did this climb at the beginning of August, and it took me 16 hours, starting at 2:30 am. If you are going to attempt this in a day I would start obnoxiously early to ensure that you are off the summit by the afternoon and have a safety buffer.

Remember to soak in the views wherever you can, especially at the upper saddle: for me this was one of the highlights as we peered out over the Teton Range, looking at all the possibilities of future trips. And though this isn’t the most challenging trip, don’t underestimate the 7000ft of elevation gain along with the varying temperatures, make sure you bring all the right layers, but most of all enjoy it and be safe! Once back at the car, reward yourself with a warm meal at one of the many restaurants in town. You’ve earned it!

Disclaimer: This is not a thorough guide and should be taken as a reference point. I would highly recommend getting the guide book to the range ( It has all the specific route information and photos for you to plan and prepare. Climbing is a dangerous sport and this climb does require technical experience for you to keep yourself safe. Seek out a guide if you don't have experience and they will be able to take you up and ensure a fun and safe experience.

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