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Multi-pitch adventure with a scenic approach
Partway along the road between the sport climbing mecca of Lander and the big alpine routes in Grand Teton National Park, the hamlet of Dubois, Wyoming, offers up a variety of ice climbing objectives including the region’s classic, Golden Tears (aka Golden Tiers). Since the first ascent in 1984 by Michael Bailey, Greg Collins, and George Van Sickle, completing this 500-foot, three-pitch route has become a rite of passage for area ice climbers looking to step it up from single-pitch routes. Located in a stellar setting in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains, Golden Tears is a true mountain adventure at a respectable grade.
The first pitch of Golden Tears moves through two sections of grade IV ice. (Depending on your timing, the first pitch may not be completely formed, so it’s best to bring some protection for 5.8 rock moves. Or reroute to the equally classic and fun Lake Louise Gully, WI3, to the left.) If the first pitch of Golden Tears is formed, you’ll encounter 25- to 30-foot stretches of steep ice, but rests can be found between the tiers to get your feet under you and shake it out. Head for a small belay alcove on the left side of the main curtain and psych up for pitch number two, which houses the crux: a 25-foot vertical section right off the deck. After that, the climbing eases up. Although the path of least resistance is generally found on the left-hand side, the angle is typically consistent across the route’s broad face, so choose your own adventure for the remainder of the second pitch and through the third pitch.
Find It: Dubois is 1.25 hours from Lander and 1.75 hours from Jackson. Heading east out of Dubois, take a left after about 4 miles onto Trail Lake Road. Pass a series of large lakes to your left, and find the trailhead at the end of the road. There are numerous spur roads, which can be confusing, so bring a road map. Snow may obscure sections of the trail—make sure to pack some navigational tools.
From the parking lot at Glacier Trailhead (also known as Trail Lake Trailhead), follow the summer trail along the northern bank of the outlet draining Lake Louise. About 1 mile in, you’ll hit a bridge (where you can toprope some ice) and a trail junction with a branch heading south. Stay to the right and continue heading west toward the lake, keeping the drainage on your left. After a total of 2.5 miles, you’ll crest a bench overlooking Lake Louise and get a good glimpse of your objectives.
If Lake Louise is not frozen, head for a logjam at the outlet. Otherwise, slip on your ice skates and glide half a mile to the lake’s southwest corner. Exit through a stand of willows, which gives way to a scree slope and old burn area, and plod your way up to the base of Golden Tears. The approach averages 2 hours.
Gear: Bring your standard ice climbing rack, as well as some small camming devices and stoppers for the first pitch, unless you’ve confirmed that the bottom section is all the way in.
Season: Some years Golden Tears is in as early as October and can last until March. Ring one of the local gear shops—Teton Mountaineering (307-733-3595) or Wild Iris Mountain Sports (307-332-4541)—or guide services for a conditions report. Don’t forget to ask about Lake Louise, because the approach is easier if the lake is frozen.
Guidebook:Climbing and Hiking in the Wind River Mountains, by Joe Kelsey