Risk at the end of Wall Street

Risk at the end of Wall Street

Climbers ascend Wall Street, Grand Teton. Photo: Exum CollectionGiven the incessant news surrounding Wall Street’s imploding financial markets, it is comforting to recall that the Grand Teton has its own Wall Street, that it remains remarkably stable, and that it was first climbed at the height of the Great Depression when the financier’s Wall Street had—history repeats itself—crashed.

The Grand Teton’s Wall Street is a large ledge that leads almost to the Exum Ridge, Exum Mountain Guide’s signature route on the south side of the mountain. Unfortunately, as one traverses it the ledge narrows and then abruptly ends about five feet short of the ridge. On the first ascent, which he climbed solo on July 15, 1932, Glenn Exum famously jumped across the slot separating the end of Wall Street from the route that now bears his name. Glenn’s risky jump remains one of the boldest acts in the history of the Grand Teton, one that would no doubt fail to conform to the present emphasis on risk management.

Although most climbers have forgotten the fact, Paul Petzoldt soloed the route later that same day after climbing to the summit of the Grand with two clients via the Owen-Spalding route. Evidently, Paul climbed across the slot on small holds—the way we go today. Somewhat later, while guiding a client on the Exum Ridge who was a Wall Street banker by profession, Paul named the ledge “Wall Street”–thus forever entwining boldness, risk, glory, banking, and the Grand Teton.

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