Woodring (E Ridge, 5.1)

Crux step (crack on right)

Crux step (crack on right) and summit


With an unexpected day off, I had to quickly come up with something to climb. The previous day’s early-morning jaunt up Teewinot had left me too tired to do anything too big, and the short notice gave me too little time to prepare mentally for anything serious. I had yet to climb Woodring, which Ortenburger describes as a nothing-burger, but which has a non-trivial east ridge. The summit has views of some of my other objectives, and I had yet to see Paintbrush Canyon, so I threw some stuff in my pack and set my alarm for a “lazy” 4:00 AM.

After breakfast and a drive up to String Lake, I got started a bit before 5:00, using my headlamp for only a few minutes in the woods. The Paintbrush Canyon trail is about 1.5 miles around either side of String Lake, and by sheer luck I chose to go around south, avoiding the northern route’s lack-of-bridge. As the trail turned west up-canyon, I looked north at Leigh Canyon and Mount Moran and wondered again why the preferred non-canoe approach goes around the north side of Leigh Lake. While the bushwhack from Paintbrush to Leigh is supposedly horrid, it is much shorter both on- and off-trail than the northern route, which is itself fairly awful.

Continuing up-canyon, I met a few patches of snow, then crossed the bridge where Ortenburger says to leave the trail. With almost no bushwhacking, I reached the base of a partly-melted snow chute. Avoiding the gaps and waterfalls via slabs and steep ground to the left, I regained the snow through some krummholtz, then put on my crampons and chose a line up a narrow, steep rightward branch of the main chute. Much of the snow was too soft to require crampons, but the snow in the avalanche runnels was still hard. I was sweating profusely in a t-shirt and, feeling yesterday’s effort, stopping to rest more often than I should have.

I finally reached the ridge at a notch with a view down into Leigh Canyon, and found most of the rock to be bare and dry. There were several minor sub-summits between me and the summit, a few of which were annoyingly vertical on their west (back) sides. While I gratuitously 5th-classed one, they were easily passed on the north without losing unnecessary elevation. The one seemingly-unavoidable difficulty was a steep, golden face near the summit. After pulling out several loose flakes and blocks, I climbed it via the short, angled 5th-class crack on its right.

From the summit, I took in some views useful for future objectives: upper Leigh Canyon and Grizzly Lake, and the north faces of Owen and the Grand. I looked over at Paintbrush Divide, and briefly contemplated coming out via Cascade Canyon. Then I saw a nice flat rock, and the warm sun and my early start got the better of me, causing an hour nap in just my t-shirt and overshirt.

I had noticed what appeared to be a fat snowfield southeast of the summit, perfect for the descent. The upper part was knee-deep slush by the time I started down, but mostly painless. Unfortunately, it hid a smooth cliff-band partway down. After some moments of unease, I found my way around the left side on outward-sloping but (fortunately) dry slabs. The snow became firmer as I descended, with excellent boot-skiing near the bottom. After a final altercation with 3rd-class bushes, I was back at the popular trail less than a mile above where I had left it in the morning, and a couple podcasts from the trailhead.

2 responses to “Woodring (E Ridge, 5.1)

  1. DUSTIN ERICKSON says:

    Hi Sean, I have followed you for years and used much beta, but wanted to chime in as I did this traverse on 6/28/21 and just wanted to add a bit since there is very little other beta online. The crux you mentioned is passable on the right, and while still the most serious part of the traverse, it is a bit easier than tackling the crack head on. Kudos for that as it is intimidating to start unroped. I normally would not even bother to clarify, but if the aspiring soloist goes in and thinks that the crack is supposed to be 5.1 they might be in over their head as it appeared more like 5.6 with an opening move that is remeniscent of the JCOB wall here in the Wasatch that might even be 5.7, to get directly into the crack itself, that and the rock is slightly suspect. Anyways with careful routefinding a 5.1 route does go around on the north side and is now a bit “cleaner” after my traverse.

    1. drdirtbag says:

      Thanks for the tip! I had almost completely forgotten this climb, so I’m glad I wrote about it at the time. Looking back at the photos reminds me how dry it is this year, and how crazy I was back then.

      I’m glad you’ve found the site useful, and wish you many more happy days in the mountains.

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