ON ROCK: Hidden Arete
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – My on-going checklist to tick off climbs in the Tetons first done by John Gill brought me to Garnet Canyon in Grand Teton National Park last weekend. We were in search of an obscure climb called Hidden Arête (I, 5.9) near the mouth of the canyon.
For those of you that have never heard of Gill, he was one of the best, if not the best, climbers in the Tetons during the late 1950s. He was the first person to climb the 5.10 rating before it even existed. Some of his boulder problems in GTNP were even 5.11-5.12, and his boulder problem on the Red Cross Rock near Jenny Lake done his way, statically, he claims is 5.13d! He also invented the rating system used for bouldering, and because of his background in gymnastics he was one of the first climbers to use gym chalk for climbing. Several of the hard climbs at Blacktail Butte were also his. Most of the time Gill would solo-climb his routes, which then was illegal in the park.
He is now retired and living in Colorado, and I have never met him. I can only compare him to the late Alex Lowe, both having stature. Several times while climbing with Alex, I watched him climb/solo some of Gill’s routes. The Diagonal Crack route (5.1lc) at Blacktail, the Gill variation (5.10+) on Baxter’s Pinnacle (left of the start of the last pitch), and I once watched Alex downclimb free solo the north side of Baxter’s (5.10) after he tossed the rope down to our clients and me. He never ceased to amaze me.
I am sure watching Gill would have been the same. Some of Gill’s first ascents in Garnet alone include Satisfaction Crack, Satisfaction Buttress, Grunt Arête, Almost Arête, Fifth Column, The Knob, Beelzebub Arête, Lance’s Arête, Delicate Arête, and Hidden Arête. Needless to say, I am not sure we actually climbed the true Gill line on Hidden Arête (even though we found an old piton) because at times it was not super-hard climbing. But we knew we were on the Hidden Arête, which we found above the right corner of the first switchback in the canyon. After five small pitches, we topped out and meandered down to the Surprise Lake trail. For gear: 60-meter rope, full rack, helmets, harness, shoes, and the usual stuff for a high-alpine climb. For Beta: There is not much, except “A Climbers Guide to The Teton Range” by Ortenburger and Jackson. Rock On!