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High on the Outdoors
Joined: 15 Jul 2010
Posts: 2030 | TRs | Pics
Location: Grand Junction
After hiking Francs Peak, which completed all the Wyoming 13ers outside of the core Wind River Range for me, I took another couple rest days and relaxed in Cody and slowly made my way around to Pinedale, where I would meet Eric on the afternoon of the 20th to finalize packing, food and to go over our route once more. The following text is copied from my Black Tooth Mountain trip report for clarity, since this is the beginning of the big two week slam where I climbed the remaining 28 13ers to finish off the list.
Over the course of the past month or so (July 11th through August 3rd to be exact), I completed the Wyoming 13ers, which took a pretty big effort to climb 31 of the 35 total peaks on that list in such a short period of time. With my month vacation I took in the summer of 2020, due to Covid all my big international climbing trips had to be postponed to at least the next year, therefore I had to stay in the US for the summer. I had been milling the Wyoming 13ers for many years, but never put them high on the priority and for over 5 years had deferred the project in favor of bigger and better things. However, given the circumstances, 2020 seemed like an excellent year to finally finish these peaks off. I had completed 4 of the 35 Wyoming 13ers many years ago (Downs Mountain, Point 13,062, Grand Teton and Cloud Peak), and back in May, Eric Gilbertson who was also looking for something to do in the summer this year due to his international trips also having to be postponed, sent me an email and asked if I wanted to join him for a full Wyoming 13er slam. Since I had already been thinking about doing just that, the trip was spearheaded! He spent most of June and the first half of July in Colorado climbing all the Centennial peaks in a new FKT of 32ish days, so we agreed on a start date of July 21st to hike into the Wind Rivers. My vacation began on July 11th, so I drove up to Wyoming that morning and would take the 9 days before our scheduled start date for the Wind Rivers to climb the remaining 3 peaks I hadn't yet done outside of the core Wind River Range. These three peaks included Black Tooth, Wind River Peak, and Francs Peak.
First, I'll start with a little bit more background and historical information about the Wyoming 13ers. Before this year, only two people had publicly reported completing them (although I have no doubt others have quietly completed them, as I have heard stories of old timers climbing every visible peak in both the Winds and throughout the state back in the day). There are 35 peaks on this list using the 300 foot prominence cutoff rule (see the list here) and all but 5 of them are in the core northern Wind River Range. The remaining 5 peaks are scattered around the state, one of which is in the southern Wind River Range (making a total of 31 peaks in the Winds), one is in the Absaroka Mountains just southwest of Cody (Francs Peak), one is in the Tetons (Grand Teton), and the last two are in the Bighorn Range (Cloud Peak and Black Tooth Mountain), which is another fault block mountain range further east close to the city of Sheridan. Fun fact: the Bighorn Range has some of the best kept alpine climbing secrets in all of the lower 48, but you didn't hear that from me! As of this writing, there are now 5 reported finishers of the 35 Wyoming 13ers, as there was another young climber who coincidentelly was also climbing them this summer (who we actually ran into out there...pretty cool). The current list of finishers is described in the table below.
Rank Name Final 13er Finishing Date Notes
T1 Teresa Gergen Black Tooth Mountain August 7, 2015 Finished first together
T1 Sarah Meiser Black Tooth Mountain August 7, 2015 Finished first together
3 Matt Lemke Bow Mountain August 3, 2020 First male finisher
4 Eli Boardman Francs Peak August 6, 2020 First to complete in one summer season
5 Eric Gilbertson Grand Teton August 7, 2020 Holds the FKT for the WY 13ers at 16 days and 17 hours
See the following links for trip reports for the other WY 13ers I completed up to this point:
Downs Mountain and Point 13,062 - August 2011
Grand Teton - August 2012
Cloud Peak - September 2015
Black Tooth Mountain - July 2020
Wind River Peak - July 2020
Francs Peak - July 2020
Since I did not (and never will) care about FKTs, I did not repeat the 4 peaks I did years ago on this trip to enable Eric to be able to achieve the FKT for all 35 of them without any competition between us.
At 7:30am on the 21st, Eric and I got up from our motel in Pinedale and quickly drove to the Elkhart Park (AKA Fremont) Trailhead. This massive trailhead is probably the most popular jumping off point for the entire range, and is the typical starting point for most Gannett Peak climbers. We planned to meet our mule packer here at 8:30am to load up our food bags to be packed in to Island Lake. They rolled in at about 9, and we each gave them three large Ursack bags full of food, and I gave them my overnight pack to be carried in on the mule. I just left my axe, helmet and some food and water in my 18 liter day pack. Eric decided against bringing a second small day pack and simply left his tent, climbing gear and sleeping gear with the packers. Once we visually saw they had everything placed into the large leather sacks, we started hiking up the Pole Creek Trail towards Photographers Point.
Each of us started with 40 pounds of food, and about 30 pounds of gear totaling roughly 70 pounds each of us brought in. We planned for 20 days, thinking we would need to sit out most afternoons due to the daily thunderstorms that are so common in the Rockies in summer. Our estimated itinerary had us finishing after 16 days if we didn't need to use any of the 4 weather days. After it was all said and done, we completed the whole trip in 14 days. See the summary below for a shortened version of what we did each day. A detailed map of our route and ascents, as well as the long version with detailed route beta will follow. Note that Day 1 is July 21st, and ascends from there. Astrisks indicate the route was one of the best, and most enjoyable routes we did.
All the food I brought for the trip
A summary of our base camps follows:
- Nights 1-2 we stayed near the Indian Pass/Titcomb Basin trail junction, very close to where the horse packer dropped off our gear
- Nights 3-5 we stayed about 0.5 mile above the Upper Titcomb Lake, just a few minutes past where all the Gannett Peak climbers made a tent city.
- Nights 6-9 we stayed on the Dinwoody Glacier moraine just below the lowest point on the traverse to the standard route on Gannett from Bonney Pass
- Night 10 we stayed at the small col at 11,875 feet on the north edge of the Gannett Glacier, just west of unnamed Point 12,025
- Night 11 we stayed just south of two unnamed lakes on the south end of the melting Grasshopper Glacier, near the top of a broad hill at 12,360 feet. This spot was immediately below and east of the East Peak of Bastion.
- Night 12 we stayed at the east end of the long skinny lake up the valley and east of Scott Lake, at the head of Wells Creek with an elevation of 10,800 feet
- Night 13 we stayed at Shannon Pass, just above Peak Lake
A short summary of our day by day activities follows:
Day 1 - Hiked in to Island Lake, met the mule packers at the junction with the Titcomb Basin Trail just beyond the lake and set up first base camp. Climbed **Harrower (AKA Ellingwood) Peak via the Class 4 SW Ridge**. 5000 feet gain; 17.5 miles
Day 2 - Climbed Knife Point via the South Slopes (Class 3), and traversed to Bete Noire Peak (AKA Brown Cliffs) via the class 2 west ridge. Then traversed across the Knife Point Glacier to Indian Pass and climbed Jackson Peak via the class 3 east ridge. Descended back towards Indian Pass and ascended Fremont Peak via the class 3 south slopes. 8500 feet gain; 16 miles
Day 3 - Packed up camp and moved 3.5 miles to upper Titcomb Basin (carrying nearly all our food still). Climbed American Legion Peak via the class 3 south ridge, and **Henderson Peak via the class 4 north ridge** 3900 feet gain; 8 miles
Day 4 - Climbed the Sphinx via the class 4 NE ridge and East Twin via the class 4 west ridge (class 4 only encountered climbing to the saddle from the south). 3700 feet gain; 6.3 miles
Day 5 - Climbed **Sacajawea via the class 4 east ridge** and traversed to Mount Helen, ascending via its class 4 east ridge which we accessed from one of the south gullies. 4100 feet gain; 5.5 miles
Day 6 - Climbed Spearhead Pinnacle via the class 5.3 north ridge, and traversed to Warren and ascended it via the class 3 SW Chute. Packed up camp and hauled over Bonney Pass to the Dinwoody Glacier moraine and camped at 11,300 feet 5600 feet gain; 8 miles
Day 7 - Climbed Gannett Peak via the class 3 Gooseneck standard route. 2500 feet gain; 3 miles
Day 8 - Bad weather day; rested
Day 9 - Climbed Turret Peak via the class 4 north ridge assessed from Backpackers Pass, traversed to Sunbeam Peak via the direct class 4 ridge and continued on the class 3 ridge to Febbas Peak. 3500 feet gain; 5.8 miles
Day 10 - Climbed Pinnacle Ridge via the class 4 north side and Mount Woodrow Wilson via the class 5.2 north couloir. Packed up camp and moved camp north, through the pass between West Sentinel and Gannett and across the Gannett Glacier and camped at the small 11,875 foot col at the north edge of the glacier. 4000 feet gain; 5.6 miles
Day 11 - Climbed Mount Koven via the class 5.3 south ridge and moved camp northward to a spot just south of two unnamed lakes on the south end of the melting Grasshopper Glacier, near the top of a broad hill at 12,360 feet. Climbed Point 13,180 (South Flagstone) and Flagstone Peak, both at low class 3 in the afternoon. 3800 feet gain; 3.8 miles
Day 12 - Climbed Klondike Peak via the class 2 east ridge. Eric continued the long walk on the divide to Point 13,062 and Downs Mountain while I rested and relaxed for the rest of the morning. Once he returned, we packed up camp and ascended the class 2+ north slopes of Bastion Peak, packed over the divide and descended the talus on the west flank of Rampart Peak to Desolation Col. Climbed **Desolation Peak via the class 4 east ridge** and camped at the east end of the 10800 foot long skinny lake just east of Scott Lake, at the head of Wells Creek. 3700 feet gain; 9.7 miles
Day 13 - Packed up camp and packed to the Mammoth Glacier. Dropped packs and climbed West Twin via the class 3 east ridge, Split Mountain via the class 2 west ridge, then packed to Stone Pillar Pass. Dropped packs and climbed Mount Whitecap via the class 4 NW ridge. Packed down to Stonehammer Lake, and continued past Peak Lake to Shannon Pass. Ran into Doug Walsh, and a friend of his at Peak Lake both of which had also finished the Bulgers. For a brief moment, all 4 of us chatted and there were 4 Bulger finishers in the same place deep in the Winds! 6500 feet gain; 10.3 miles
Day 14 - Climbed Bow Mountain (my last one), packed up camp and hiked back to the cars at the Elkhart Park Trailhead. 3000 feet gain; 20 miles
Totals: 57,800 feet gain; 119.5 miles
Below is a detailed map of everything we did. Note the full approach hike in from Elkhart to Island Lake, and the full hike back out from Shannon Pass to the trailhead are not included. These route lines are hand drawn from Google Earth, not GPX tracks, however they are an accurate representation of where we went. Note that both American Legion and Henderson Peaks are extremely poorly represented on Google Earth.
You can also view this map on the CalTopo website for different base maps such as USGS topos, aerial imagery and other options:
Wind River Slam Map
A summary of the gear we brought follows:
Gear for this trip was a difficult task to get right. We knew there would be at least three 5th class peaks requiring pitched or simul climbing, and we knew there would be a lot of snow, but wasn't sure exactly how steep of snow we would encounter. I also wasn't sure which sleeping bag to bring and how many layers I'd need. After much thought and discussion, I brought key items that I listed below, and provided a comment for each item indicating how useful it was.
Packs & Footwear
- Mountain Hardware Directissima 46L pack: I opted for my smaller overnight pack knowing it was going to be interesting getting everything attached during camp moves, but I just didn't want to have the extra weight of my larger one. I ended up wearing my harness hanging a bunch of stuff from it when we moved camp despite all the external straps on this climbing oriented pack, with three large bags of food I couldn't fit it all on.
- REI Flash 18 day pack with Camelback water bladder: I was very happy to have this day pack for all the peaks, as it has a small profile and doesn't cover as much area on my back which really kept me from sweating as much. The bladder kept me sipping water, which I normally never do but on this long of a trip I needed to.
- Lowa Renegade Leather hiking boots: Footwear was a tough choice, but I decided on these boots since they do great in snow, scree and low 5th class climbing without sacreficing much comfort or flexibility. These boots worked perfect.
- UL pair of trail runners: Eric and I both brought a second pair of light shoes for the approaches, around camp, and for some of the peaks that had less snow to deal with. These were a life saver
- Exped 1 man UL tent: Eric and I decided to each have our own tent for a trip this long which was really nice. I bought this lightweight single man tent right before the trip.
- REI Magma 15 degree down sleeping bag: This is probably a place I could have saved weight. Nighttime temps were a little warmer than I expected although Wyoming ended up having a hotter summer than usual. Either way, I was too warm on many nights. However the only other bag I have is the Aegismax UL 40 degree down bag and that may not have been enough.
- Thermarest Neoair sleeping pad: Another key decision was whether to bring an air pad or just a foam pad which would have been bulkier but lighter. I was very glad I brought this air pad as it expanded to a 2 inch thickness and folded down super small, which was more important than saving a few ounces by goung with the big bilky foam pads. Plus I was much more comfortable and able to sleep more which was crucial.
- BRS "Lightest camp stove to ever exist" with two medium size fuel canisters: If you have not heard of this stove (I linked it) you need to buy it now if you're an UL enthusiast. Also, I only used one of the medium canisters. Since we never needed to melt snow I did not need the second one. It isn't as efficient as a Jetboil but I like being able to simmer while cooking so the inefficiency really helps there, plus you can use it with any pot.
- 1.5L aluminum cooking pot: Works great
- Two 1L plastic Gatorade Bottles: Much lighter than Nalgenes! I used these mainly for grabbing and drinking water at camps, and never brought them up the peaks since I had my bladder/daypack for that.
- Camp aluminum strap on crampons: These were the perfect traction for this trip. I debated microspikes but was glad I didn't go that route. We hit 40-45 degree snow more often than I expected and I was glad to have actual crampons. With my large feet I used the steel BD crampon extension bars, which also work for Camp brand crampons.
- Two 30 meter 8mm ropes: we each carried one 30m rope, to allow us to make full rappels. We figured we would rarely ever have a chance to make 60 meter pitches of climbing due to winding and alpine terrain and this assumption proved correct, so we only ever climbed with one rope and just used the other when we needed to rappel.
- BD Couloir alpine harness (or as I like to call a G-String harness): No questions here...light and fast to put on is key.
- 1 rack of cams from 0.2 - 2 inches, 1 set of DMM Walnuts, 8 single length alpine runners: We decided one rack would suffice for any technical rock we encountered and this estimate was spot on.
- 15 meters of rappel cord and handful of extra meters for anchors: The only time we placed any rappel cord was for descending Mount Koven.
- BD Raven Mountaineering Ice Axe: I probably could have saved weight here as well, but I must be old school and like having a straight, longer standard axe. Eric brought his Whippet, which I probably would not have liked using but it definitely worked for him.
- BD Vector Climbing Helmet: No questions here
- One BD Alpine cork carbon trekking pole: A total lifesaver when my right knee started hurting halfway through the trip.
- North Face synthetic alpine cut insulating layer: Used often both at camp and early mornings on peaks.
- North Face Gore Tex rain coat: Used occationally when caught out of the tent when light rain occurred.
- Salewa Soft Shell Jacket: Never used...it was not necessary for me and stayed in the text as part of my pillow every day.
- Adidas sweat pants: Used only at camps when cooking later in the evenings for bug protection. Arguably not needed since I never once wore pants while moving.
- 6 Pairs of Socks: Lifesaver.
- I also had a pair of thicker gloves and a long sleeve polyester shirt that were used all the time (my hands are the only part of me that easily gets cold).
- Goal Zero Solar Charger: This was incredibly useful to charge our phones, which I had saved photos of the guidebook pages, had maps, and used for alarms. Eric was also using his phone for GPX tracks on each peak.
- Beartooth Publishing Wind River North foldable map: During times when weather was bad and we were stuck in the tent, this was my reading material!
- Sony RX 100 Mark 2 with extra battery: Absolutely mandatory
Now for the long version!!
July 21 - Hike in and climb Harrower Peak
As Eric and I hiked in we enjoyed the gentle meadowlands and open forests with our super light packs. The 15 mile hike seemed to blow by with little effort, which was a pleasant change from long approaches I have done on previous trips. The trail passes by Photographers Point (common day hike destination), Seneca Lake, and over a small divide enroute to Island Lake passing many small lakes and ponds along the way. We were hoping to make it to the junction of the Indian Basin and Titcomb Basin trails in 5 hours, which is the timeframe the packers said it normally takes them to reach that location. Lo and behold, exactly 5 hours later at 2:15pm we arrived and sat by the junction sign for the mules to arrive. About 45 minutes later they joined us and offloaded our gear. We found a somewhat hidden from view grassy spot behind a large rocky outcrop to camp for the first couple nights that required us to carry everything just a few minutes from where the mules dropped off. We set up the tents and secured our gear and started hiking towards Harrower Peak. We followed the stream coming in from the east to an unnamed but large lake at 10850 feet. The view looking up at the steep NE face of Harrower were amazing, and I immediately thought about the great climbing opportunities on the face.
Rounding around the SW edge of this lake was not trivial unless you were ok getting your feet wet, so we had to climb up a 40 foot class 4 slab to go above a small cliff dropping right into the water. Then we made a gentle ascending traverse about 100 feet above the south side of the lake and entered the upper basin north of ELephant Head and hit the saddle. Climbing the SW ridge of Harrower was mostly straightforward staying on or just to the south side of the crest to avoid a couple steps or small peaks along the way. Near the summit, some class 4 traverses, ups and downs were required none of which were very exposed. The summit register was in a large aluminum milk barrel to my amazement, and this peak sees slightly more ascents than I expected, and Eli was recently here which would start a recurring theme of us signing in on each peak and seeing his name just a couple weeks before us on every one!
The view from the summit of Indian Basin in the late afternoon light was gorgeous, and the core peaks off to the north beckoned at us. We knew we were going to have a long trip ahead to climb every one. We descended the same route and made it back to camp with over an hour of daylight to spare to cook dinner. I put my long pants and long sleeve shirt that I coated in permethrin on while hanging out at camp and it worked quite well to keep the mosquitos from biting. Our first camp was down at 10,600 feet surrounded by grass and flowers so the bugs were certainly present, but nowhere near as bad as I thought they'd be. Eric turned in early, but the sunset was actually very vibrant so I stayed up later to take photographs.
Fremont and Jackson view shortly after leaving the TH
Bow Mountain on the left
Woodrow Wilson, Sphinx and Helen at center
Hiking around Island Lake
Our pack mule!
Lake 10850, and NE face of Harrower
Climbing the slab to bypass cliff at lakeshore
View of Unnamed Lake 10850
Fremont and Jackson
Eric scrambling low on SW Ridge
SW ridge terrain
Core peaks around Titcomb Basin
Indian Basin below
Unnamed spire to the east
Class 4 ridge closer to summit
Fun ridge crest
View south from summit
View east from summit
View NW from summit
The large summit register
Eric on the ridge
Eric on one of the cruxes of the ridge
Looking back up the ridge
Eric descending the slab by the lake
Nice sunset on Elephant Head
Twilight over the core peaks
Small unnamed lake between camp and Island Lake
Great sunset glow on Elephant Head
July 22 - Knife Point, Bete Noire, Jackson and Fremont
This ended up being the most elevation gain we did on any of the days, and the longest mileage day outside of approach days. We both wore our trail runners for this link-up due to the extra mileage even though we knew there would be snow involved. We started by hiking up the Indian Basin Trail, passing by the upper lakes early enough for them to be perfectly still and offer a mirror reflection of Harrower Peak. We didn't go all the way to Indian Pass, but continued southeast, over a small hill and up the remnant glacier west of Knife Point (crampons needed early in the morning) to the obvious 12340 foot saddle just west of Knife Point Mountain. We crossed this saddle and traversed to the upper south slopes of Knife Point Mountain and slogged up the loose class 2 slope. The final walk to the summit pinnacle on the SE ridge was easier, and the final 15 foot pinnacle involved a mildly exposed class 3 move or two. Someone had carried a ram skull up there, as there was not a register. It's important to note that the USGS maps have Knife Point mislabelled as the slightly lower 12er 0.2 miles to the SE. This peak is not the true summit.
After a quick rest on Knife Point, we began walking northeast along the gentle boulder strewn ridge to the 12140 foot saddle between Knife Point and Bete Noire (we called this peak Brown Cliffs HP, but Lists of John uses the French name). It was an easy class 2-3 romp to this summit, which was the furthest one away from our camp, so we were happy to have reached this point. The summit plateau of this peak consists of two broad mounds, of which the southern one is higher and correctly labelled on the USGS map. There were a few small pedestal shaped rock outcrops on the southern peak, a couple of which were very close in height so we stood atop of a few of them, had another rest to eat then returned to the saddle, where we began descending NW onto the Knife Point Glacier (which wasn't much more than a snowfield). We made quick work traversing west across this dying glacier at the 11700 foot level and re-ascended a bit to Jackson Pass. I commented we were probably the only people to ever reach Jackson Pass from the north without first reaching it from the trail on the south side (maybe Eli did too...haha). We debated trying to ascend the steep lower buttress of Jackson via its northeast side, but agreed it would probably not save us much time and decided to cross through the pass and scramble up the best looking gully we saw on the south side of the buttress. A class 3 gully/blocky climb brought us to the wide open flat basin just below the upper broad east ridge. From here it was a simple boulder hop to the top.
We made another weather check on the top of Jackson, since I had service and the updated forecast now called for no storms until after 8pm. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for tagging Fremont during the evening as well so we wouldn't have to walk back up the Indian Pass trail the following morning. I peered over the west face of Jackson and wished I could just find a way to traverse directly to Fremont, but the terrain was very much so 5th class. So back down the gentle ridge we went, and more or less retraced our steps back to the trail, and walked below the gendarme laden ridge between Jackson and Fremont and started up the standard south slopes. An additional 2600 feet later we were on the summit of Fremont, at about 6pm with clouds slowly building. Another large milk barrel register greeted os on the summit, which was actually difficult to find the highest rock since it was a long east-west oriented knife edge ridge. To my surprise, someone else had been up Fremont merely hours before we were...being the second highest peak in the Wind Rivers and considerably more accessible than Gannett it's no wonder why. I wanted to get back to the tents before dark so we didn't stay long and returned to camp, where we had about an hour and a half of daylight left to cook dinner. That night, there was a wicked thunderstorm that dropped large amounts of rain and hail, with plenty of lightning. Oddly enough, this would be the only large scale thunderstorm we would encounter on the whole trip and I was thankful it was during the middle of the night.
Indian Lake reflection of Harrower
Fremont and Jackson reflection
Harrower is a pretty peak
Looking up at the Knife Point ridge
Ascending snow towards Knife Point
Approaching the summit of Knife Point
View east from Knife Point
View north from Knife Point
Bete Noire...our next peak
Alpine Lake south of Bete Noire
Woodrow Wilson on the far left
Indian Pass and the Knife Point Glacier
Indian Pass on far left edge
Traversing the Knife Point glacier
Looking back at Bete Noire
Knife Point Mountain from Indian Pass
Fremont from Jackson
Indian Basin from Jackson
13ers much further north
Eric on summit of Jackson
Lower Titcomb Lake and Henderson at center
Eric on Fremont with increasing clouds
Long ridge at summit of Fremont
Sacajawea, Helen, Warren, Turret and Gannett behind
July 23 - American Legion and Henderson Peaks
The next morning we woke up to extensive low cloudcover with most peaks in a whiteout. Everything was wet and since we were already a potential day ahead of schedule we slept in. We needed to move our camp to upper Titcomb basin which was 3.5 miles to the north, but luckily very flat walking on a decent trail. It took me quite some time to figure out how to get all my gear and three still full Ursacks of food on my 46L pack. I ended up putting one of the food pags strapped to the front, and just carried the other two, one in each arm up the Titcomb basin trail. It was just my luck that we passed a handful of other backpackers who glanced at my pack in horror and had one guy comment to his bud that he no longer could complain about his pack ever again after seeing mine
About a half mile past the end of the upper lake, we found a nice secluded spot a little bit past the Gannett Peak tent city and set up camp. We were able to avoid the Gannett crowds for the most part the whole trip. My back did hurt after carrying what I believed to be about 65 pounds, but as soon as I had it off I recovered pretty quick. As the morning continued on, the clouds began to slowly rise and Eric and I agreed to give American Legion and Henderson a shot, and hope we can catch a break from the forecasted afternoon storms. So we crossed the river to the west side, which proved difficult to find suitable boulders to hop across but we managed to keep the feet dry, and ascend up to a small 11360 foot saddle just above Summer Ice Lake, and continued into the basin above this aptly named lake. The snow slopes leading up to the saddle between Henderson and American Legion reached about 40 degrees at the uppermost part so we were thankful for the snow to be on the softer side. Upon reaching the saddle, we got a clear view to the west and saw storms rolling closer. We agreed to do the easier, class 3 south ridge of Henderson first in hopes we could catch some sun later in the afternoon to dry out the much more difficult looking 4th class north ridge of Henderson. The talus going up American Legion was easy, and at about 12850 feet near the top of the talus cone just before it narrowed into a steep ridge we got rained and hailed on. We were able to find a decent enough rock to hide under for the next 20 minutes, however the rain made all the rocks very wet and didn't bode well for our Henderson attempt...however I had a hunch that we would get some sun.
The final scramble to the summit of American Legion had us cross up and over two small ribs before the final short gully to the highest point presented itself. The summit view was super cool, especially with rolling clouds and showers in other parts of the range. A large world war 2 ammo box housed the summit register and we signed in, again only seeing Eli's name from this year. Looking off to the west it started to look a bit brighter so I had high hopes the rock would dry out. Sure enough, just as we reached the saddle the sun came out and we had our chance to make the more difficult scramble up Henderson. It started by traversing below the crest on the west side, then climbing a 4th class gully/dihedral back to the crest to avoid some of the initial gendarmes, then we followed right on the crest for a bit. Once we reached a spot where the ridge narrowed to a very steep knife, we traversed a series of ledges on the east side until we could climb up above the very difficult portion of the crest, and actually crossed back over to the west side to enter a more broad gully that led to a small notch shortly before the summit. A short snow traverse back on the east side led us to the final few feet of walking to the top. This route actually ended up being my favorite route of the entire trip, and featured near continuous class 3 and 4 scrambling with mild exposure the whole way on solid rock. Definitely a classic as stated in the guidebook, plus, the entire afternoon was sunny and calm despite the weather forecast. We discussed at how Sarah and her party took the south ridge and took them a very long day to climb and descend Henderson via the south ridge...which sounded like an awesome trip but we were happy to have been able to tag both of these peaks in just a few hours and couldn't have asked for anything better. By 6pm or so we had returned to camp and enjoyed a bug free evening in Titcomb basin for dinner, although we did have to remove our shoes to re-cross the river which was downright frigid. Completely numb feet after that but the smooth slabs around camp allowed me to remain barefoot all evening.
Entering Titcomb Basin
Erics pack for our first camp move
Helen on the right
Looking up at Fremont
Looking back at Titcomb Lakes
Passing the Gannett Peak tent city
Starting up towards Summer Ice Lake
Henderson (L) and American Legion (R)
Summer Ice Lake
North ridge of Henderson..looks inviting
Storm nearing as Henderson gets dark
Storm about to hit from the right
Sun on Fremont...
Eric hiding from the rain
View north from American Legion
American Legion summit register box
Register entry on American Legion
Starting the traverse to Henderson
Talus on American Legion
Some snow on Henderson
View NE from Henderson
View south from Henderson
Gannett, Woodrow, Sphinx
Summer Ice Lake below
Eric with Henderson
Another storm hits further south
Eric wading the river
Twilight from camp
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High on the Outdoors
Joined: 15 Jul 2010
Posts: 2030 | TRs | Pics
Location: Grand Junction
July 24 - The Sphinx and East Twin
The following morning we woke to completely clear skies, and started a 5:30am normal start time that we would follow much of the trip. We walked up the valley and entered the snow covered basin to the south of Woodrow Wilson and Sphinx, continuing onwards to the saddle between the two peaks using our crampons all morning due to very firm snow. It was a very mellow snow walk to this 12920 foot saddle with the steepest being about 35 degrees for a short stretch. We took a good look at the south couloir of Woodrow Wilson as we were at this point right near its base, and almost kicked ourself for not bringing the rope, but we had heard of plenty enough reports of that route being total garbage, so we agreed to ascend Woodrow Wilson from the Dinwoody side via the north couloir together with Pinnacle Ridge later in the trip.
At the saddle just below Sphinx we took a snack break as it was still quite early and chilly. The scramble up Sphinx was only 300 feet up from here and it looked pretty eazy, and indeed it really did not surpass class 3 in difficulty if you took the easiest line up the NW face. Mostly blocky steps, but if you veer too far to the left and get closer to the north ridge, there is more 4th class and a much higher exposure level! I took this harder route both up and down and certainly got the heart going a little. Definitely an enjoyable, albiet short little scramble. We then descended and traversed south, then west across the basin we came from and around the lower SE ridge of East Twin. We then ascended snow up the Twins Glacier (again, not really a glacier anymore) to the saddle between East and West Twin. Getting to this saddle was definitely the crux of the route, as the snow was 45 degrees, which we were glad to be here later in the morning when it was softer. At the top of the snow we then had to climb a 30 foot class 4 loose chimney to attain the saddle. Once there, it was an easy class 2 romp up the west ridge to the top. From this summit, I glanced over to West Twin, which looked lower visually and didn't think much of it, but we would later go back for West Twin...more on that in part 5 of this trip report series.
The best part about East Twin was the summit register, which was placed in 1930, and is still there in its original form! This was a new record for me for the oldest summit register I have ever seen, and it was on one of the more popular peaks oddly enough. Surprisingly East Twin sees about 5-10 people each year. We rested and enjoyed the views of the Gannett Group and Desolation Peak off to the north, and studied peaks we would be climbing later in the trip. We started down, and saw a couple backpackers trying to get over Knapsack Col, struggling to get down the cornice that blocked the east side of the pass. We ran down the gentle snow back into Titcomb Basin and reached camp shortly after noon and relaxed the rest of the afternoon. A small rainstorm came in about 2pm and it rained off and on the rest of the afternoon before we cooked dinner.
Early morning hiking to Sphinx
East Twin at center
Eric with Helen behind
South couloir of Woodrow Wilson
Henderson and American Legion from the saddle
Titcomb Lakes from the saddle
East side of Wilson from Sphinx
Helen and Sacajawea from Sphinx
Spearhead Pinnacle from Sphinx
Ascending to saddle between Twin Peaks
Eric climbing up
Gannett from the Twins saddle
View north from East Twin
View south from East Twin
Split Mountain and Mammoth Glacier
The class 4 chimney to the saddle
July 25 - Sacajawea and Helen
Another 5:30am start time, this time we started walking towards the east side of Titcomb basin and ascended the class 2 access ramp leading to the ridge between Sacajawea and Helen, meeting it right at the base of where the north ridge of Sacajawea steepens. It took us 90 minutes to ascend the talus to this 12800 foot saddle. We had previously discussed climbing the north ridge route that went at low 5th class, and we brought one of the ropes to do so, but after seeing it still covered in a decent amount of snow, with slabby looking rock underneath it, we opted to traverse around to the lower east ridge, utilizing a north facing gully to access the gentle SE facing snowfield to the east of the peak. This gully was actually very loose and not enjoyable. Once on the gentle snow we walked west to the top of the talus cone, which was a false summit, to where the real difficulty of this peak presented itself. A short class 4 descent to a notch between the two summits was followed by a very exposed traverse around the base of a couple vertical/overhanging gendarmes on the north side of the east-west oriented summit traverse. We had to carefully string together some ledges, and reasonable 5-10 foot ups and downs to pass this obstacle. To our surprise, the difficulty wasn't over after this as we then were presented with a delicate downclimb of a few feet onto a slab, followed by a committing mandatory jump onto a large chockstone wedged into the deep notch. If you missed it was a 2000 foot drop! The downclimb on the slab to the jump was the scariest part as there were only two small ledges for a foot and a hand that could be used. Once on the chockstone it was a narrow traverse left around a steep, large boulder with tons of air below you, then it eased to the highest point.
As we rested on the summit, we saw a solo hiker moving towards Sacajawea on the large glacier north of Fremont. We wondered who it could be because Eli had already done these peaks. Anyway, we repeated the traverse back to the false summit, which was easier going back since up-climbing that slab was much more secure. Just as we crossed back over the false summit we ran into this solo hiker. He was not carrying much of any gear and was moving fast. We only chatted enough to say hello but we would end up seeing him again.
We continued back down the hideous gully and then made a long snow traverse north aiming for Helen whie dropping as little elevation as possible. As we made the ascent up the final snow slope to the south facing gullies that provided access to the uppr east ridge of Helen, we saw the same guy running on the rock ridge crest, climbing what looked like hard 5th class terrain solo, and very quickly. I couldn't believe it...he had to have solo downclimbed the north ridge of Sacajawea and ridgeran on the crest to have caught up to us. We met the east ridge and dropped our packs before finishing the final 100 foot class 4 scramble to the summit which we reached at about 11am. As we broke out some snacks, free soloist arrives at the summit and is spooked at first, thinking for sure he would have beat us to the top of Helen. We chatted with him for quite awhile on the summit, since it isn't often we run into anyone on these summits. Turns out he started at Island Lake early in the morning and climbed over Jackson, nearly made the 5th class traverse to Fremont, then to Sacajawea and Helen all solo. He was from Bozeman and knew of a few friends of mine who also live there...pretty badass! He would be the only person we saw on or near any summit during the entire trip except for Gannett.
We all started down the east ridge, which he then continued down some steep loose looking rocky ribs on the north face of Helen while we dropped back south to descend the way we came. He was easily the fastest person I ever saw on 4th and low 5th class terrain...almost in a slow motion fall as he leaped, jumped and dropped down the north face of Helen. We traversed closer to the rocky ridge on our way back to the saddle and we were happy to cross back over because clouds were building very quickly. We descended the ramp and made it back to camp about 1:30pm and 30 minutes later it started raining. It continued on and off all afternoon while we rested in the tents, breaking just long enough in the evening for dinner before raining again shortly after sunset.
Sunrise on Twin Peaks and Wilson
North side of Sacajawea from the saddle
Helen with Turret behind
Eric with Helen behind
North side of Fremont
Helen with Gannett way behind
Boulder traverse after the jump
Eric Mid jump...2000 feet of air below
On the summit of Sacajawea
Traversing around gendarmes
Sacajawea summit from the false summit
Traversing to Helen
Ascended the gully at right center
Gannett, Doublet and Spearhead
View down east ridge of Helen
Warren at center from Helen
Sacajawea and Fremont at left
Henderson and American Legion
Gannett from Helen
Back at the saddle
West face of Sacajawea towers above
July 26 - Spearhead and Warren; move camp over Bonney Pass
This would be the day we did the first 5th class 13er. We were moving at 5:30am again and hiked back up the valley, rounding the base of Helens very steep impressive west face following generally the same route as for Bonney Pass, but turning sharply east up the gully leading to the low 12580 foot saddle between Helen and Forked Tongue (the slightly lower tower just south of Spearhead Pinnacle). This gully is immediately north of the steeper NE snow couloir on Helen, however the snow in the gully we used still approached 40 degrees and since it was early, it was still firm. I was happy to have the crampons. It took us about 90 minutes again to reach the saddle and we made a circling traverse around the east side of Forked Tongue and Spearhead, and ascended to the saddle between Spearhead and Doublet Peak (an unranked, rugged 13er that no one climbs). This higher saddle required some very loose rock to reach, and once there we scrambled south on the initial class 3 part of the north ridge of Spearhead until the ridge steepened considerably. Here we racked up and decided to simul-climb the ridge, where I would place a microtraxion on one of the cams once every 30 meters for extra safety. We managed to get two ropelengths (using one of our 30m ropes) of simul climbing before I just about ran out of cams. There was one short vertical 5.3 step followed by a horizontal knife edge ridge requiring hands grabbing the sharp crest with feet smeared on steep slabby rock while side-stepping across. That was fun, and made the knife edge on Colorado's Capital Peak look like a cakewalk.
Just beyond the knife edge, I built an anchor and belayed Eric up to me, which he then continued to the final summit pinnacle. This was only big enough for one of us to climb at a time and required a very exposed 10 foot ascent of class 4 to reach...Eric topped out first and I followed. I found a tiny glass jar under the summit cairn with one piece of paper that was placed by Sarah, Dominic and Teresa. Since their visit years ago, no one signed it except for Eli just a couple weeks prior. The fact that there was no pencil or pen may have contributed, and Eli actually improvised using some tape to the paper for his name. Luckily we had pencils so I signed it and we started the descent. We simul descended the knife edge and the single 30 meter rope was the perfect length for a 15 meter rappel from an existing sling around a large block to a ledge below the 5.3 step. From there we simul-descended one more rope length back to where we racked up and left the packs. It was just after 9am when we reached the saddle again, and during our ascent of Spearhead, I scouted a gully route that looked reasonable on the SW face of Warren directly across from us. If this route would work (which was not in the guidebook) it would be WAY shorter than our original plan of dropping all the way to 12000 feet and re-ascending to Elsie Col to climb the full east ridge of Warren, then returning that way.
So we decided to try it, and only dropped a few hundred feet from the saddle to 12600 feet and continued in a northerly direction towards a series of gullies on the south face of Warren. We spotted one that looked to continue almost directly to the summit and had minimal snow. We cut to the right and crossed the base of three SE facing snow gullies leading up towards Doublet Peak, and started ascending the 4th major one that curved leftward higher up and terminated on the upper west ridge of Warren above all the towers and gendarmes between Doublet and Warren. We figured if we could get to the notch there, the upper west ridge shouldn't be more than 4th class and if it was we had a rope. The lower part of this gully began with some class 3 scrambling on fairly solid rock for about 100 feet next to a small meltwater stream, then turned to loose scree and talus. We stayed on the left side of the gully proper for more solid rock, eventually climbing alongside the edge of the narrow band of steep snow remaining in the gully. At 13460 feet, where the gully begins to curve left we spotted a less conspicous gully/ledge system that cut to the right appearing to terminate right next to the summit. We opted to try this since it seemed easier (think drier) than ascending the 45 degree snow up the remainder of the gully to the notch in the upper west ridge. We did have to put the crampons on to traverse across the 30 foot wide snow to the other side which was annoying, but overall it turned out to be the right call as it was easy class 3 scrambling which ended right on the east ridge only 20 feet below the summit. We felt confident this is most likely the easiest route on Warren as we encountered no class 4 on this route. Overall it was not as loose as other routes either, so if anyone is looking for a new standard route on Warren this is probably it.
On the summit we enjoyed a long relaxed warm snack break, with no clouds in sight. A check of the weather forecast once again informed us there would be no storms in the afternoon, so we figured we would return to camp, pack up and hike over Bonney Pass that evening enabling us to cut another day off of our planned schedule. The descent all the way back to camp was smooth, and just as we reached the base of the gully back in upper Titcomb Basin we left everything we were carrying under some rocks at about 11500 feet so we didn't have to re-carry it back to that point enroute to Bonney Pass. We returned to our camp, ate a dinner (since we figured with how ahead of schedule we were we would have extras) and packed up. The packs were still very heavy and I was kind of dreading carrying over 50 pounds up and over Bonney Pass but we made good time getting back to our gear cache, took another break and then continued up the steepening snow slope to the pass. It was hot, slow and miserable getting up there in the afternoon sun, but at least the snow was soft, making the ascent much easier with the packs on. We actually thought about it more, and doubted we could have even made it up early when the snow would be hard with that much weight. Upon reaching the pass, now after 6pm, we ran into a large group of people headed back from Gannett, however they didn't make the summit. Eric and I just wanted to get to our next camp to remove these heavy packs so we didn't stay long at the 12820 foot pass (2000 feet above our camp in Titcomb!) and started down, however I really had to admire this vantage of Helen, which looked absolutely insane from this angle! A short talus boulder hop down led us to the snow of the upper southern arm of the Dinwoody Glacier, one of only 3 "real" glaciers that remain in the Winds. We descended north now in the shade down to the small lakes on the exposed rocky moraine and found a sandy place to camp next to a tiny teardrop shaped blue pond at 11330 feet. No one else was camped around us, although we did see a huge tent city off on the far north end of the moraine right below West Sentinel. We cooked another dinner and planned to just hike Gannett Peak the following morning as a rest day and enjoyed the beautiful sunset over the impressive north face of Warren and Turret Peak.
The steep NE couloir of Helen
Eric climbing the gully
Sunrise over American Legion and Twins
View west from the 12580 foot saddle
Looking up at Forked Tongue
Traversing to Spearhead
Starting up Spearhead
The knife edge
Eric on the summit pinnacle
Dinwoody, Doublet and Warren
North ridge of Spearhead
Eric making the one rappel
We climbed the gully right in center, cutting right near the top
Towers between Doublet and Warren
Warren register entry
View from Warren
Gannett from Warren
Turret Peak at left
Turret with Febbas way behind
Helen and Spearhead
Close up of the gully
Looking up Warren
Traversing below Spearhead again
Packed up for Bonney Pass
Traversing below Helen again
Helen from Bonney Pass
Amazing angle of Helen and Spearhead
Spearhead and Helen
Afternoon light on Gannett
North face of Warren at left
Sunset on Turret and Warren
Horse Ridge at right
Peaceful evening on the Dinwoody
To Be Continued...
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High on the Outdoors
Joined: 15 Jul 2010
Posts: 2030 | TRs | Pics
Location: Grand Junction
This is the Full trip report. My apologies I accidently double posted and the other one is not complete.
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Joined: 05 Sep 2011
Posts: 7434 | TRs | Pics
Deleted my post from the double posting thread. Titcomb Basin has been on my radar for quite a while, but I still haven't made it there. These pics are mind blowing. Looks like an amazing area. Cirque of the Towers is pretty darn cool, I have been there, but this just looks like it's terrain on such a large scale.
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Joined: 03 Apr 2016
Posts: 1225 | TRs | Pics
Great stuff! I enjoyed the gear section, cool to see what you bought on this trip. Excellent photos!
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Joined: 23 Mar 2015
Posts: 584 | TRs | Pics
Thanks for the report! I did Fremont in 05 or so, had a memorable hour on top with fabulous visibility. Great report, and appreciate the work put into this. Will spend hours digesting the photos later
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