Tetons - Jenny Lake

Red Cross Rock
JG  Red Cross Rock
Photos 1986 & 1963 
Problems done 1959 & 1957
V9 & V8
Classic Cutfinger Crack in the 1960s -
 Don Storjohann starts the move

Jenny Lake Boulders
In Grand Teton Park in Wyoming, a few climbers had practiced on the three Jenny Lake Boulders (Falling Ant Slab, Cutfinger Rock(1987) , Red Cross Rock(1987) ) from the late 1940s through the mid 1950s, when I got started there. About 1956 I recall  watching Dick Pownall, a Tenth Mountain Division veteran and mountain guide, along with Dick Emerson, a naturalist ranger, pat the brown forest duff - drying their hands - before trying Cutfinger Crack(5.9+),

I produced my block of medicinal-quality, anti-constipation chalk, obtained at the Jackson Drug Store, and the three of us left the first chalky handprints on these delightful rocks. The late Glenn Exum exercised here - he gave credit for the first ascent of the classic route on Red Cross (5.9) to Dick Pownall, as related to me by Dick in 2003. And it's possible that climbers like Jack Durrance (died November 7, 2003 at the age of 91), Hank Coulter and Paul Petzoldt had "practiced" there as well in the 1930s.

As an example of the attitudes about bouldering held by older, traditional climbers in the early 1960s, the late Orrin Bonney, a well-to-do lawyer and a past president of the American Alpine Club, stated, in his 1963 Field Book:The Teton range : "The big boulders at the north end of Jenny Lake Campground provide a great deal of unconventional climbing, where the most expert tumble from holds no sane man would ever use on a mountain" .  Orrin was reluctant to accept my prediction that within twenty years or so climbers would be doing such moves higher up, and would be trying dynamics far above the ground.

These are actually rather small boulders, and when I started climbing them it took some ingenuity and a bit of contrivance to design a number of new problems on the smooth pegmatite. But I was able to experiment with both dynamics and the use of chalk, treating the three boulders as apparatus for "gymnastic" exercises. This was an unusual approach to rock climbing that reflected the perception of climbing as an extension of gymnastics, rather than an extension of hiking. 

Some of my problems were essentially ungradable, even using the B-system I devised: e.g., the one-arm (OA) problems and no-hands (NH) problems I did. For instance, center of Cutfinger(OA), classic cutfinger(OA), classic OH on Red Cross(OA), tiptoe-only routes on Falling Ant(NH)). I also practised harder individual moves like a gymnast would practice a specific stunt, probably just reaching what now are called double-digit V-levels.  It was a time of experimentation. I was joined occasionally by Dave Rearick - an amateur gymnast like myself, who appreciated the interplay between the two athletic activities - as well as by Yvon Chouinard and Bob Kamps.

Guide to the Jenny Lake Boulders

by  John Gill & Yvon Chouinard

Bouldering is a game of pure climbing skill –a test, so to speak,of a climber’s physical ability
to climb difficult rock. One should simulate actual climbing conditions by making the
most of the climbs listed in good form, i.e., without lunges or irreversible dynamic moves.

The boulders are big boulders,big enough to cause their own weather and to hide some of
the early signs of changing weather. Very severe storms can come up quickly. Be
equipped for them – keep the car close.

Boulders and boulder routes can be made as difficult as one wants merely by eliminating hand or footholds. If you feel a route is too easy, then do it with a banana or beer in one hand or even with no hands!

GEOLOGY:  Once upon a time glaciers covered Jackson’s Hole,then once again the glaciers
retreated leaving remnants which through a process of weathering come to be what is
now the present shape of the boulders. They are composed of stone.

EQUIPMENT FOR BOULDERING:  Klettershue work nicely on most routes. Platform boots will make some of the no-hands routes easier. Zillertals and Kronhofers seem to dominate the scene at the boulders, but other footwear, or the lack of it, has from time to time made its appearance in the area. A block of magnesium carbonate helps eliminate the greasy spots on the handholds

Cutfinger Rock:  Number 37 on the self-guided nature walk. In the beginning there was
nothing. Then the old timers spotted Cut-finger Rock and Teton bouldering was born. Dick Emerson,one of the pioneers, forced a route up the immense Marmolada-like south wall,
which to this day is called Cut-finger Crack,even though the number of cut fingers has been reduced drastically due to a breaking off of the guillotine-like hold in 1958. It has become the most popular boulder due to its proximity to the road, its clean appearance, and
its wide range of difficulty. It is a good boulder. Virtually every hold has been eliminated at some time or other,so the boulder has an infinite number of combinations. Warning : Do not be misled by its safe girl-like appearance. It has already been the scene of several accidents,i.e.,
Leighton’s Folly of1958.

Red Cross Rock:  Located 50 yards north-east of Cut-finger Rock. The reason for
naming this fearsome, ominous rock “ Red Cross “ will become apparent to anyone attempting its awe inspiring overhangs on its gigantic east wall. This fiendish boulder requires both strength and coordination : all routes with the exception of one can be done gracefully and with a flowing smooth style. This boulder contains the most difficult routes done so far in the Tetons. It is a hard boulder. 

Falling Ant Slab:  (missing)  [there were a number of traverse variations, plus a couple of no-hands problems more or less up the center - one a difficult eliminate :]

Photo: 1960s

This fragment may be all that is left of a humorous guide to the boulders that Yvon and I did in the summer of 1958. I recall it was bound between two pieces of cardboard, and about 5" wide by 7" high, with drawings of the three rocks, having routes placed by dotted lines. We gave it to the climbing rangers at Jenny Lake, and they kept it under the counter for many years. Who knows where it is now - if it still exists. 

Boulder City, near String Lake, is a more diverse and much more recent development - perhaps first explored in the 1980s. Most current Teton climbers who boulder go here.

I've recently been informed that bouldering was underway in the 1950s at  Pete's Rock and Little Cottonwood Canyon by members of the Wasatch Mountain Club. Ron Perla tells me that in the Phoenix area Dave Ganci and others may have been doing some serious bouldering in the late 1950s.

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