8/28/00 Petite Grepon
We (my partner Gary and I) started hiking from the Glacier Gorge trailhead about 1:00 on Sunday, August 27th to do the Petite Grepon. We had heard the Petite can get very crowded, so we figured Monday was a better day to try. The hike in took about 3 1/2 hours, and is a very pretty hike. It rained on us for about 45 minutes on the hike in, and some climbers hiking out told us there were 60mph winds and they were unable to get on it on Sunday.
When we got to Sky Pond we hiked right up to the base of the Petite and looked for a bivy site, but they are all around the lake or in a large cave you can see from the lake to the right of the Petite. We spread out a tarp in the bivy site and I slept poorly, listening to the wind blowing hard around my head all night, and watching clouds come and go during the night.
At 6:00am, we could see 2 climbers already on the Petite, so we geared up and headed to the base. Sure enough, the wind was strong in the valley, but almost gone on the Petite. We started climbing at probably 6:45, and third-classed up about 30 feet to a ledge. The first pitch was an easy 5.4 littered with slings you can clip (if you trust them) from people who had to bail. The second pitch is where you traverse left to a large chimney and climb it past a huge chockstone. When I read the description of this pitch, I pictured doing chimney moves, but this chimney is 10 feet across! You basically just do face moves up one side of it. There are also many slings in the chimney.
After that pitch, the climbing stays at 5.7 with good belays on ledges until the belay before the crux 5.8 pitch, which is two old pitons with 2 old slings through them. I belayed Gary off this "anchor" while he led the crux. The beginning is runout, but you get in some pro before the crux, a shallow finger crack that is hard to get started on. After you get into it, its not bad. This was the first pitch with sustained exposure, and you aint seen nuthin yet!
The next three pitches to the summit are all extremely exposed but dont exceed 5.7. At this point, you have shifted from the front, South face of the Petite to its East side. Were not sure we belayed in the right place each time. I would tell Gary when the rope was running out, and he would set up a trad anchor somewhere. They were all solid trad anchors. We used walkie-talkies and they were a huge help. We heard a group in front of us screaming at the top of their lungs back and forth all day, saying "What? What?" whenever they needed to say something that wasnt standard. With the talkies, Gary could tell me when he stopped to help someone with a stuck piece, and when during a rap, he had to stop for awhile and untie a knot.
We summited at about 12:30-1:00. The summit is everything youve heard, 6 feet wide, 30 feet long and hundreds of feet down on three sides. From seeing the group ahead of us, we found out something that is very very useful you can rap down from the summit back to Sky Pond without doing the walk-off described in Rossiters book. I describe the rap below as I remember it, but use common sense and be safe!
When rapping down, avoid the gully between the Petite Grepon and the Saber. It might seem tempting because it is not as steep and less exposed, but rappelling is actually harder when its not as steep, and the gully is a bowling alley of loose rocks. The first rap is a long one off of two nice new bolts. You go past a sling nest for people doing half-rope rappels, then you end up a little right (looking down) at another sling nest (with a rap ring). This rappel is also long, to two great new bolts. It is also a little right. The 3rd rap off of the bolts goes to a large grassy ledge, which you walk along to the right (again when facing down), and you will find a dubious sling nest with some rap rings, that leads down a narrow V-slot and drops off into space. That is the way to go, and you will end up on a nice big ledge on the front (South face) of the Petite. Its just 3 more raps to the ground going from ledge to ledge for a total of 7 from the summit to the base where you started the climb. You never really rap the route itself, you are always to the right of it (when looking at the Petite Grepon).
We finished rapping at about 2:20, but that includes a short summit celebration. We started hiking out from our camp at 3:30, and hiked out in about 2 hours. Fifteen minutes after we got in our car, it started pouring!