Trip Report
Lost Tempe Spire, Wind River’s Hard Point to Reach: An Ascent of its Southwest Arete by an Old Llamero

by TWP
Monday June 2, 2014 1:34pm
Thom Engelbach with East Temple and Lost Temple Spire.  The Spire is "...
Thom Engelbach with East Temple and Lost Temple Spire. The Spire is "lost" in the face from this point of view. It's the high point of Temple's ridge line/skyline left side.
Credit: TWP
As noted in Kelsey’s guide and demonstrated by this photo of Mr. Engelbach, Lost Temple Spire “is lost from view from Deep Lake though it is separated by a 200 foot notch from the summit of East Temple ”making this most difficult to reach of Wind River points appear to be a stroll from its flat-topped neighbor. It is not.”


I felt compulsion to climb the Southwest Arete of Lost Temple Spire.

Compulsion generated by Wind River guidebook author Joe Kelsey’s inclusion of the Southwest Arete route on his list “Recommended Routes” augmented further with an asterisk denoting it as one of his “special favorites” and spiced up yet more with his description of the Spire as the “most difficult to reach of Wind River points.”

Compulsion generated by at least seven prior trips to the Alpine heaven of Deep Lake and its surrounding peaks - Haystack, Steeple and Temple - with literally miles of steep, glacier polished granite walls of gleaming white, carved by glaciation. And with each trip, while climbing lesser features and more modest routes, I had yearned to some day reach the Spire’s summit.

Compulsion generated by knowledge that my first, best climbing partner from back in days of my youth, Stan Mish, made the first ascent of this route in 1980 with partners Guy Toombes and Jay Wilson. Stan and I had fine hours in 1976 when Stan, as a young punk high school dropout of 15, had teamed up me, then an “old man” of 23 in law school but who had wheels, to ferry us to climbs like Don’s Crack on Baboquivari, a desert massif and sacred icon of the Papago Indians.

Compulsion generated by a personal desire to achieve climbs of sufficient difficulty, aesthetic beauty and proud character that my desire for self-satisfaction stemming from personal achievement which might give me momentary reprieve from the existentialist quagmire of “my life” - in which I always doubt my self worth and seek outward signs of achievement for self-validation.

And compulsion of knowing that at age 61 Father Time would only give me but a few more years in which to either climb the Spire - or live out my life with regret that I had never “given it a go.”

In August 2012, a collection of Jim and Angela Donini’s climbing friends - Steve Arsenault, Corey Fleagle, Liz Donnelley, Thom Engelbach, Roger Shimmel, Mike McNeil - using my pack string of seven llamas as freight haulers, assembled at Big Sandy Opening for the mellow eight mile trek to base camp at Deep Lake for a week of climbing. As the llamero I enjoyed certain, unspecified privileges to be feed my the group and included in the climbing ventures; thus, I felt emboldened to ask Thom Engelbach if he’d care to have a go at the Spire, though in this venture I would be more like “freight” hauled up as a weak second on the rope than an equal climbing partner.

Climber’s Bull Session: When Donini Speaks, Climbers Listens.
Climber’s Bull Session: When Donini Speaks, Climbers Listens.
Credit: TWP


Thom and I had never climbed together nonetheless he accepted my suggestion to join forces for this test piece without the slightest hesitancy, as if to say, of course, we can do it!

The morning after I first broached the idea, we sallied forth at the reasonably early hour of 6 A.M. My ambitions were modest: return alive, before dark, without making a fool of myself and in one piece. By nightfall, my ambitions were exceeded.

To a discerning Alpinist’s eye, the approach is obvious enough in broad outline, with a few questions only answered once engaged. As we approached and the bottom pitches came into view. The opening band looked complex and broken, with no obvious line of ascent. Nothing for it but to get on lead and piece together the best line. No clean, spitter on pitch one. No arete; not yet.


View of First Pitch in all its Inobviousness
View of First Pitch in all its Inobviousness
Credit: TWP


I undertook this first lead and roughly 200 feet later set up an old school, “Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills 1971” belay stance to bring Thom up as quickly as possible. Out of rope, I’d fallen short of reaching the ideal stance from which Thom began climbing a second pitch in earnest. A bit of improvisation lacking the dignity to be called another pitch in fact bridged the gap. By then, we were located on more obvious features that so much as said, “This is the way up, boys” via steep corners and cracks of clean, fine and classic granite lines. Ah yes, now we are on an arete!


Ah Yes, An Arete!
Ah Yes, An Arete!
Credit: TWP

After about five or six pitches, we reached the crux where the climbing no longer offered the security of either sinker jams or positive-edged lieback holds that had predominated below, making the climbing fun, muscular and thoroughly enjoyable. Now we faced steep face climbing where tricky counterbalancing and opposition with hands and feet and finesse were required. Eschewing any show of false bravado epitomized by a bold, rapid and sparsely protected lead, Thom sowed up the crux pitch with 14 pieces of cleverly-placed, mostly thin wired stoppers, showing his good judgment in light of our highly exposed perch, 800 feet above the deck and two plus long days from the remote possibility of rescue, as is the given on any Wind River climb if one blows it badly. The air beneath one’s feet on this pitch took away all perspective of height. Was it only 800 feet to the ground? Not in my mind’s eye!


One Crux Sown Up!
One Crux Sown Up!
Credit: TWP


With the crux pitch dispatched and but a single lead remaining to the summit, we turned out attention to the cloud build up which showed the potential for an ugly, drenching squall at any moment. Thom was clothed in short sleeves and shorts, perfectly attired for an August day on Miami beach and confessed he’d brought not a stitch of rain gear, so he counseled a short rappell to a ledge where he hoped to find a shallow recess where he might hide and wait out the impending storm. Rappell we did and naturally the corners which had looked promising from 80 feet above proved to be desultory and worthless if rain did come. In this moment, I felt wiser than Thom, the wily veteran of Alaskan and Patagonian weather madness and frozen ascents of Fitzroy, St. Exupert, etc. for I did have a storm parka in my sack. Luckily for us both, in twenty minutes the threat abated and we resumed upward progress, throwing in an extra stretch of 5.10 jamming and liebacking to regain lost ground, before completing the incredibly enjoyable last pitch.


Summit's of Both The Spire and East Temple
Summit's of Both The Spire and East Temple
Credit: TWP

Approaching the top while still on belay, I remember an odd moment in which I heard Thom speaking in conversational tones with someone - but obviously not me. Had he lost his mind? No. The summit of the Spire and the summit of East Temple, though separated by a mighty chasm, stand a mere stone’s throw apart. Thom was casually bantering as if at a cocktail party with an ascensionist standing at that moment on East Temple’s hiker-friendly, true summit.



An Old Llamero on a "Lost" Spire, Haystack in the Background
An Old Llamero on a "Lost" Spire, Haystack in the Background
Credit: TWP


The descent follows the route of ascent with well-placed ledges such that a single 60 meter rope took us back to the base in about six low-stress, easy-to-set, easy-to-start, non-overhanging rappells.

I was most pleased that before darkness set in, though after sunset, we waltzed back into camp - victorious, exuberant, and well-pleased with ourselves. A fine and complimentary reception from our fellow climbers topped off the feelings of contentment and satisfaction with which I fell fast asleep that night.

The pleasure of the ascent continued. After this trip with Donini, Engelbach, et al. ended, another began immediately on its coattails. My old buddy Stan Mish and his long time friend Gloria Hardwick met me the next day at the trailhead with fresh supplies for our own 12-day excursion. Upon arrival, it gave me immense pleasure to greet Stan, the route’s first ascensionist, with news of my just-completed ascent.

Months later Thom sent me a wonderful email, sharing his feelings about the climb. It portrayed well the melodramatic, self-deprecating, graveyard wit of Mr. Engelbach as climbing philosopher. In tones of mock seriousness, he recalled our brush in near death and successful completion of the ascent, which had been in doubt to the last extreme. I would quote it directly - if only I could find it again.

“He followed his compulsions” - let that be my epitaph. Lost Temple Spire vindicated the credo.

A Big Bird About to Fly
A Big Bird About to Fly
Credit: TWP


View of the Spire/East Temple Chasm While on SW Arete Route
View of the Spire/East Temple Chasm While on SW Arete Route
Credit: TWP

  Trip Report Views: 2,568
TWP
About the Author
TWP is a trad climber from Mancos, CO, looking forward in August 2014 to a fourth installment of his now-annual Wind River escapades with his pack string of seven llamas and a passel of fellow rock climbers.

Comments
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mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Jun 2, 2014 - 01:46pm PT
Awesome Terry. Man I gotta do that one. Just another reason why Wyoming is so great for climbers. Thanks for all of your hospitality on the trip and I hope you are recovered from your illness last year. Mike
TWP

Trad climber
Mancos, CO
Author's Reply  Jun 2, 2014 - 01:49pm PT
Mike: Yeah, recovered from kidney stones in time to get in last year's Wind River trip albeit started one week late. Can now say that kidney stone's are not overrated as a painful and nasty condition! Thanks for going along on the trips. Glad you enjoyed them!
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Jun 2, 2014 - 02:10pm PT
Great TR Terry......I see Thom had restored the saftey bend in that last photo. Yeah Mike.....Wyoming is sorta okay, now when they dome it and eradicate the mosquitos you'll have something!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jun 2, 2014 - 02:06pm PT
Wow.

Wonderful!!
W.L.

climber
Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
  Jun 2, 2014 - 02:51pm PT
It's not politics, name-calling, or climate babble...but I dig it! Thanks for posting!
skcreidc

Social climber
SD, CA
  Jun 2, 2014 - 02:59pm PT
Wow! The Winds. Excellent. Did you lose a Llama in 2011 per chance?

llama on the loose
llama on the loose
Credit: skcreidc
alina

Trad climber
CA
  Jun 2, 2014 - 03:18pm PT
Nice writing. Hopefully going to the Winds this summer. Thanks for adding to the excitement.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jun 2, 2014 - 05:38pm PT
A most excellent story sir!!!!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Jun 3, 2014 - 09:17am PT
...most difficult to reach of Wind River points.

Sounds like an enticement to me, too!!!!!!
And isn't everything in the Winds difficult to reach????
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Jun 3, 2014 - 09:48am PT
Sweet!
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Jun 3, 2014 - 09:53am PT
Actually, hiking in the Winds is pretty mellow....good trails that aren't very steep. ESPECIALLY mellow when Terry's llamas are carrying all of the gear including the kitchen sink.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Jun 3, 2014 - 10:12am PT
The tip of Lost Temple Spire
The tip of Lost Temple Spire
Credit: mike m
Credit: mike m
Credit: mike m
Credit: mike m
Here are a few more photos from the trip. The first one is some climbers near the summit of Lost Temple Spire.
TWP

Trad climber
Mancos, CO
Author's Reply  Jun 3, 2014 - 10:19am PT
Viz: Isn't everything in the Winds difficult to reach.

Don't want to contradict God; however, in the big picture given the incredible sloth and laziness of the typical American (rock climbers included) the answer is "yes."

First point of difficulty is reaching the trailheads.

The closest city is Salt Lake City so if flying that is often the airport of choice.

Once in Wyoming, still nothing is "close." More like, hundreds of miles of sagebrush between here and most everywhere.

As an example, to reach the Big Sandy trailhead (from which climbers reach Cirque of the Towers, Deep Lake, East Fork Valley and Shadow Lake, the minimum amount of dirt road once leaving pavement is approximately 40 miles. The last ten miles of dirt degenerate from high speed to much slower and steeper. Passenger vehicles can make it the whole way.

Mr. Donini's description of access begins at the trailhead and his characterization of the typical Wind River trail is accurate - as good as mountain trails get and the scenery! Wow! And never more than one miles from a lake and great fishing.

Overall, the isolation and difficulty of access - relative to the Sierras or Colorado's Front Range for example - provide an excellent buffer against massive invasion. The number of cars parked in the Big Sandy Trailhead at the height of the season hasn't really changed much over the years, in my humble opinion.

So, the access may be extended and undemocratic but like most things - "you get what you pay for."
yanqui

climber
Balcarce, Argentina
  Jun 4, 2014 - 06:25am PT
Thanks for the report, never got a chance to do this one. The Winds was one of my favorite places to climb in the US. Speaking of approaches, Deep Lake is pretty much a stroll in the park, but the Musembeah, the Monolith and Titcomb Basin, for example, were pretty long huffs. Not steep, but long distances. That's how I remember approaches in the Winds. Maybe we were lucky, but we never got stopped by weather once. That's more than I can say for Patagonia.
EAD

Trad climber
Boulder
  Jun 4, 2014 - 10:38am PT
Awesome Trip Report, Terry! We are looking forward to another glorious week with you later this summer.
steveA

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
  Jun 6, 2014 - 01:20pm PT
Terry,

Great TR!

I see the fire is still burning.
Remember this trip? I think Mike took the photo.
Remember this trip? I think Mike took the photo.
Credit: steveA
moosedrool

climber
lost, far away from Poland
  Jul 3, 2014 - 09:12am PT
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jul 3, 2014 - 06:54pm PT
Bump for the real deal!!!!
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Jul 3, 2014 - 08:08pm PT
Very nice! True spirit of adventure!
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Jul 3, 2014 - 08:09pm PT

Whoo hoo!!!!

Real men. Real climbing!!!!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jul 3, 2014 - 08:23pm PT
Looks super fun, thank you for posting and well done. Seems like Jim is everywhere these days.
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Jul 3, 2014 - 09:07pm PT
I love these good TR'S. TFPU. Bump to the top again.
Mark Force

Trad climber
Cave Creek, AZ
  Jul 3, 2014 - 10:05pm PT
Sweet! You and your crew know how to do it right. Thanks for the story and the pics.
TWP

Trad climber
Mancos, CO
Author's Reply  Jul 9, 2014 - 10:00am PT
Moose:

Thanks for sharing the MooseSpeak Youtube clip.

I never knew moose speak Polish! Now I know why you understand all things Moose so well!
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Jul 9, 2014 - 05:25pm PT
Terry: Thanks for the great trip-report. I'm glad I finally was around to catch it, since I got rained out of Idaho's mountains this afternoon.

mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Jul 9, 2014 - 06:11pm PT
Scribo tamen non ea nos agamus.  "Stop dickin' around."
Scribo tamen non ea nos agamus. "Stop dickin' around."
Credit: mouse from merced
Good to meet you, sir.
And that's a fine TR, too.

Glad you could get it ticked after all this time.
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