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From Cleated Boots to Ski Descents—December 8, 2011

Posted on: November 4th, 2011 by Tetons Section


Celebration of Teton guiding explores the birth and evolution of the craft.

Outerlocal announced today a celebration of an American legacy. On Thursday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m., in Jackson, Wyoming’s, historic Jackson Hole Playhouse, seven Teton mountaineers will gather to discuss the genesis and evolution of Teton guiding.

“From Cleated Boots to Ski Descents” will feature four generations of Teton guides in a symposium moderated by noted Himalayan author Brot Coburn. Each panelist will be given 10 minutes to present his perspectives, and a lively Q & A section at the symposium’s conclusion will give the audience a chance to interact with the pioneers.

“This evening will pay tribute to more than ninety years of guiding in the Tetons,” said the event’s inspiration, Exum Mountain Guides co-owner Rod Newcomb.

Newcomb should know. The founder of The American Avalanche Institute and a recipient of the American Mountain Guides Association Lifetime Achievement in Guiding Award, Newcomb learned the craft from legendary Teton guide Glenn Exum.

Paul Petzoldt first climbed the Grand Teton in 1924, at the age of l6, and began guiding clients in the Tetons shortly thereafter. In 1931, he hired Glenn Exum to work as a guide. More than a dozen years later, the two men officially joined forces to form the Petzoldt-Exum School of American Mountaineering.

In the mid-1930′s, both Petzoldt and Exum made trips to the Alps to climb. While there, they observed that European guides merely tied a rope around their clients and pulled them up difficult sections of a climb without giving them instruction in climbing techniques or rope handling. On descents, the guides lowered their clients instead of having them rappel on their own.

Petzoldt and Exum believed that climbers would more readily appreciate the challenges of mountaineering if they could participate in the act. Back in the Tetons, they applied this concept to their nascent guide service. They developed the philosophy that guides should provide instruction, inspire responsibility, and promote participation—a complete departure from the European model of guiding. Their changes to the old traditions were a tremendous success and became the basis of the American guiding tradition.

“This evening will start with Paul Petzoldt and proceed all the way through to the modern era,” said Newcomb.

Opening the evening will be Exum guide Renny Jackson. Jackson, a recipient of three Department of the Interior Valor Awards during his 34 years as a National Park Service climbing ranger, is the co-author, with Leigh Ortenburger, of A Climbers’ Guide to the Teton Range. He will focus on the inception of guiding and climbing in the range.

Andy Carson, owner of the Jackson Hole Mountain Guides through the 1980s and 90s, will discuss the contributions of his friend Paul Petzoldt.

Legendary Teton pioneer Dick Pownall will present his personal experiences from the 1940s, which many consider to be the “golden era” of Teton climbing, in part because of Pownall’s contributions.

Exum guide and award-winning author Jack Turner worked closely with Barry Corbet, who founded the Jackson Hole Mountain Guides in the winter of 1967-1968. Turner’s talk will focus on Corbet and the launch of the Valley’s second guiding service. Jackson Hole Mountain Guides maintains a robust presence in Jackson Hole today.

Rod Newcomb’s personal experiences of becoming a guide in the 1960s under Glenn Exum will serve as the focus of his anecdotes.

Rod’s son Mark Newcomb will discuss his experiences growing up amid the guiding life, and witnessing the evolution of guiding firsthand as one of Exum’s senior guides.

Current Exum president Nat Patridge will discuss the present state of guiding in the Tetons, and offer his perspective on its future.

Tickets are $10 in advance from Skinny Skis or $15 at the door. All proceeds are being donated to the Teton Boulder Park to help maintain the newly installed Guides’ Boulder.

The evening is being presented by, a social media website for adventure athletes. Marmot is a co-presenter of the event.

For more information, contact Mike Geraci at [email protected] or by phone at 307-413-0114.


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