EMPLOYEE FAVORITES: Holly Merriman, Irene's Arete (5.8), Grand Teton NP
Here at Black Diamond, the inspiration to innovate is driven from within. When we're not at the office, our dedicated crew of employees is out cranking at the crags, putting in miles on the trails and questing around the mountains in search of untracked descents. In this ongoing series of posts on the Journal, we'll be highlighting some of our employee's favorite rock and ice climbs, ski descents and trail routes.
This month's favorite comes from our Marketing Coordinator, Holly Merriman.
As if anyone needed an excuse to head to Jackson, Wyoming; a lap on Irene's Arête is well worth the trip. A classic technical Teton alpine route, Irene's Arête is just below the Grand and heads up the ridge on Disappointment Peak. The climb it not terribly difficult, nor is it a gimme. The approach starts at the Lupine Meadows trailhead and can be turned into a two day adventure if you backpack up to the meadows and camp but I prefer the 'car-to-car" approach as you carry much less gear and make it down in time for pizza and beer.
With a hot July weekend approaching, it is way too hot to climb in Salt Lake so my husband and I decide to head to Jackson after work. We get to the trailhead parking lot at the usual 10:30 pm arrival along with two other coworker/friends, pack our bags for the next day and try to discretely sleep in our cars. At 5 a.m. the dreaded alarm goes off but since I slept in my climbing clothes, all I have to do is roll out of the car, take a caffeinated GU shot (because there's no time to make coffee), pull my pack on and head out on the trail. We get to enjoy the majority of the hike in cold temps before the sun peeks out and it turns into a nice sunny and 70-degree day.
While hiking, my turbo-charged husband, Andy, gets farther and farther ahead of me. Oh well, I think, he'll at least be waiting at the base of the climb. As I pass through the meadows and begin ascending the moraine boulders I can't help but realize I haven't seen him yet and I am past the route turn off. I figure I better keep heading up on the slim chance he decided to climb something different. I make it half way up to the lower saddle before hearing a very faint "Holly!" Looking down I see what appears to be a very tiny, not-so-turbo-charged Andy waving his hands at me. He had accidentally turned up towards Surprise Lake instead of heading left at the fork due to a large group of boy scouts blocking the signage while taking a rest. Luckily he was able to expend some energy and catch up. Pooped from a bit of extra hiking, we scramble up to the base of the route and set off. With Andy in the lead, we simul-climb through the first two lovely 5.7 and 5.8 pitches expecting the typical afternoon Teton thunderstorm to sneak up on us, but it never came. After that we head climber's left and end up on an unexpected, steep 5.10- fist to hands crack that is pumpy but good. Next pitch we're back on route and I'm on the sharp end for beautiful, clean 5.9 fingers in a corner which exits out on an exposed 5.7 run-out slab to the top of the pitch.
On the last pitch Andy tells me, "You get the burly 5.8 fist crack" which of course makes me nervous since I don't do well with fists. Standing at the belay, the crack does look mean, exposed, steep and has a bit of a roof to pull. I sigh and nervously take off and after a few grunting moves I realize I'm having a blast! After pulling the roof there is another long slabby 5.7 stretch to the belay with plenty of options to build an anchor. And wow, what a gorgeous view! We hang out at the top to wait for our comrades, take in the view and have some lunch before heading down the other side (past Amphitheatre). A nice snow field gives us a short relief from hiking and a fun glissade down before we link up to the trail and make our way back down to the trailhead.
Back at the car, first things first, we bust out the camp chairs, crack some tasty Wyoming beers, spray about the day and make fun of Merriman (Andy) for getting lost. We're in no hurry to leave the park. Before heading to the campsite we have one more thing on the agenda; head into Jackson for some pizza at Mountain High Pizza Pie and more tasty beer from Snake River Brewery. Back at camp we crawl into our sleeping bags thoroughly worked and chat about where we're going fishing in the morning. I call that a perfect day!