The history of Exum Arête, Rock Springs Buttress’ classic climb

In 2001, when Exum Mountain Guides realized that the beginner climbs in Grand Teton National Park were becoming more crowded, Tom Hargis and Bill Dyer were sent to scout out and develop a new beginner route on what was then a less developed climbing buttress south of The Resort. Their now classic climb, Exum Arête, was one of the first modern climbs on what is now a beloved climbing area for locals, Rock Springs Buttress.

“We were having more and more issues with climbs in the park, so Al Read, who was one of the owners of Exum, knew I had put in routes in Lander, so he said why don’t you and Bill Dyre go and bolt a route at Rock Springs that would be a nice alternative to Baxter’s Pinnacle,” said Hargis.

“We went back and forth searching for something that wouldn’t be harder than 5.7, and finally we said ‘screw it’ and started working on this thing which involved a tremendous amount of trundling,” said Hargis, still smiling as he recounted his adventure.

“Eventually we got to the point where we could cruise it in approach shoes. I said, ‘I think it’ll be 5.8,’ and Bill said, ‘I don’t think there’ll be anything harder than 5.8.’ So they gave it an original rating of 5.7.

Tom Hargis, who still occasionally guides for Exum Mountain Guides

Hargis said that when some of the owners of Exum finally got around to testing his work they came back scoffing at the 5.7 rating and joked that it should be called “Sandbag Arete.” The climb now has a rating of 5.10a in the Rock Climbing Jackson Hole, Pinedale, and Wyoming guide book.

“It took a lot of work, but I was always pleasantly surprised to see that everyone thought it was a classic years later,” said Hargis.

Rock Springs Buttress is now experiencing another renaissance of route development.  Local climbing guidebook author Wes Gooch has added variations to every pitch of Exum Arête along with other new climbs. Mike Abbey, another Exum Guide, is known for his harder routes and locals Greg Collins, Nate Brown, and Hans Johnstone continue to explore new terrain.

To book a climbing adventure with Exum, where Hargis still occasionally guides, visit exumguides.com.

For up to date local climbing information including new route development visit climbingwyoming.com.

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