After waiting nearly two weeks on a truck repair, our pair finally got their resources together and made the drive from Cody to Pinedale, WY. What was on the list??? Sending the big peaks of Wyoming deep in the Wind River Range. On the list was Mt. Helen and Fremont Peak, both in Titcomb Basin, the 5th and 3rd tallest peaks respectively in Wyoming!
As is typical with this pair, the start was late, especially considering the 11 miles of trail on the list of things to do for the day! Luckily, waking up late and still crushing trail miles was easy work for this strong pair, as it had been for this entire road trip.
The Wind River Range is phenomenal in its beauty! The trail winded through dense forest, past countless alpine lakes and incredible vistas. We marched with packs weighing about 30lbs, loaded up with food for 6 days, a tent, an 8mm climbing rope, and a small rack of cams and nuts as well as a pair of mountaineering axes and crampons.
We arrived just in time! Pending thunderstorms had been building in the West behind us. Ugly clouds began mounting as we faced the final mile of trail. Ana requested kindly of the weather gods to give us just a few more minutes, and it paid off! Just as the rain came pouring down, we find a small grove of Doug fir trees to nestle under. We pulled out a light tarp, huddled under it, and took a much deserved nap/rest as the squall passed through. Finally, we pulled out the tent and established camp at one of the most beauuuuuuuuutiful places of my life!!!
The next morning we rose bright and early! The rain of the night put snow caps on our mountains, but we knew this was the day to make it up Frement. We began our approach early in the morning, weaving between clouds, up and down hills and past a lake on our approach to the Class III ridge of Fremont.
At the base of the class III climbing, we realized we had a perfect window in the weather. Clouds had built up deep in Titcomb Basin, but Fremont was sitting in between. Climb and climb we did, slowly but surely making progress up rocky Fremont Peak toward its summit.
Success! We hacked our way all the way to the top of the class III slope, working around icy cracks and exposed ledges to the ridge, where we made a final traverse to the summit. Great smiles, eh??! Ana was suffering from lactose intolerance at the time of this picture.
The top of Fremont afforded incredible views into the wild backcountry beyond. A rocky landscape covered in glaciers lay out for miles and miles in all directions.
One of the more incredible parts of this ascent were how we managed to weave inbetween the storm clouds. By the time we descended from Fremont, it was getting slammed by weather. We wandered through the basin below in the sunshine, watching the chaos take place on Fremont and at our campsite, but of course the cloud cleared just in time for us to arrive home and dry.
That evening the clouds cleared and the milky way was out. We lay awake watching shooting stars and staring at a perfectly reflection of the cosmos in Island Lake. I was so full of energy I could barely sleep. Indeed this was a special place!
The following day we awoke and decided to take the morning off. We occupied ourselves by drinking coffee, talking about our dreams and love for mother nature, skinny dipping in Island Lake, and making sweet tea from glacier melt water. The next morning we packed up camp for a 5 mile hike into Titcomb Basin proper!
Another picturesque trail led deep into Titcomb Basin. Winding between boulder piles, up slabs, and past a cascade and more alpine lakes, we were getting closer to the promised land...
Arriving in Titcomb Basin was pure ecstasy!!!! All around us were jagged, granite peaks. Glaciers dripped down their sides feeding azure blue lakes. All around us were incredible granite peaks, with unclimbed buttresses, walls, spires, and ridges everywhere you look.
Everybody mentions it, and nobody is lying about it: the bugs are bad in the Winds! They come in sorties of the meanest squadrons of black flies and gnats. Clouds will surround you without warning and are relentless in their attacks. You have been warned!
The next morning we awoke to more high-grade mountaineering! Today's objective was Mt. Helen, via the East Ridge, a Class IV Grade IV ascent. We began the day with a winding slog up a mountainside, sometimes climbing rock, sometimes grass, sometimes mungy gullies filled with rocks encased with mud and slime. This lead to thousands of feet of talus.
Gaining the ridge, and descending to the backside we were confront with a glacier! No big deal, we wandered across this and into a steep half-snow-filled gully. I led this part with an axe and crampons, and Ana managed to safely follow with an axe and micro-spikes! It was a proud ascent of the most questionable part of the climb!
The final class 4 ridge climb was incredibly fun! Easy scrambling up an exposed ridge provided the highlight of alpine climbing for the day.
Skooooooooweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!! What a summit! This climb was incredible, the register was loaded with great stories from all sorts of groups, and we enjoyed a must deserved vista and tower all to ourselves. We were completely ecstatic! But a long descent was still in front of us, so we got on our way.
This photo, taken from the top of the snow/rock gully was an exciting part of the downclimb. What you missed is Ana declaring, "I love loose gullies!" just before she made her descent.
Finishing the down climb required a few rappels down waterfalls and frequent referencing of the beta-photo I took before we began, but we made it! This summit was a huge tick for both of us, and the source of top-notch adventure.
The next morning, we woke up late (as usual) and crushed 15 miles of trail in no time (also as usual) with plenty of daylight left to grab grub in town. Dude, climb the Winds!!!!!!!