July 4-7, 2019
As a break from the new van build we decided to take the July 4th holiday and make it into a 4 day weekend. Since I’m taking a bit of a rest from climbing because of some elbow tendinitis, we decided we could do some backpacking in the Winds as an alternative to climbing. The Wind Rivers have been gorgeous in previous visits to Cirque of the Towers (1, 2) and Deep Lake, but that is but one area in a beautiful range.
This was a big snow year in much of the west and the Wind Rivers were no exception. Given this we knew that there would be snow on the ground since the trailhead starts at 9500′. Luckily we didn’t have much snow to negotiate until a mile or two before our campsite. However this is already after 10 miles of hiking. Oh, that is the other thing to note about the Winds, everything is really far from the car. Which is good, but it means that you have to walk. Luckily going to Titcomb Basin only requires about 2000′ of gain overall and that is really cumulative not individual rise. Our campsite was at 10500′.
With the snow melting there were plenty of stream crossings, lakes and ponds over the trail, and muddy trail. Fortunately we had opted for our summer mountaineering boots rather than approach shoes for the hike. I’ve gotten many miles of walking in my summer mountaineering boots and I have to say I’ve gotten very used to them for this purpose and they actually soften the load on the feet because of the rigid sole. They are still work, but there is a benefit for the weight and the stiffness. They are waterproof too.
Our objective was fairly vague since the area was new to us and the conditions were unknown before getting there. Even day of, Friday, we ended up changing our objective a couple times. We opted hiking/scrambling for Elephant Head. We’d hoped to do Mt Ellingwood also known as Harrower Peak, but it turned out the snow conditions were too variable to make good time on the distance required. The snow conditions as we got higher were quite annoying. For a while you might be sinking in a little bit, the next step would be falling in up to your waist. Very frustrating, exhausting, and time consuming. Because of this we settled on the closer and smaller Elephant Head, which even still we weren’t able to get to the top before turning around.
Saturday we hiked out and back to the car 12 miles away and to the swarms of mosquitoes. Luckily at our campsite there were only one or two because of the snow. Back at the van though there were plenty and we had to apply bug repellent liberally.
A fun trip, even though no climbing, in an amazingly scenic area. It was a pleasure to have an early season view of the place with so much snow and so few people around. Perhaps another time we can go back to do some real climbing.