Skiing Wind River Peak…and Off to the Sierras

Randosteve skis Wind River Peak with the Cirque of the Towers in the background.
Photo: Brian Ladd. Click most photos for larger images.

wind-river-peak-massifI’m not sure how or when, but at some point in the past couple of years, Wind River Peak made it onto my skiing hit-list. At over 13K’, it is the highest peak in the southern Wind River Range and sits to the southeast of the popular Cirque of the Towers climbing zone. Although this winter has been pretty poor snow-wise in the Winds, this spring has been very generous to them and seeing people rock climbing in Sinks Canyon with snow on the ground, I figured now was the perfect time to give it a go.

Knowing it would take quite a bit of effort to travel the 15-17 miles into a camp close to the peak, myself, Brian Ladd and Jon Walker left Jackson at 4am and made the 3.5 hour drive to the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie trail in Sinks Canyon, dodging plenty of deer and elk on the road the whole way.

Traveling 1 mph makes me want to hurl.

brian-near-deep-creek-lakeProgress on the trail was very slow to start and we traveled about one mph for the first few miles, before finally getting into the grove and picking up the pace as the day progressed. Having never been in this area of the Winds before, I was a little worried about being able to find our way into the peak. Fortunately, we were able to sniff out the summer trail route and follow it nearly the entire way to our camp.

Randsteve crosses a ridge line on the way to Deep Creek Lakes.

brian-skins-towards-wind-river-peakjon-walker-skins-toward-wind-river-peakThe next day broke clear in the morning and we slowly made our way out of camp, a little tired from the slog in the previous day. After about a mile of skinning, we reached the Deep Creek Lakes area and the views finally began to open up, showing us what an amazing place this area of the range really is. After a little more skinning, Wind River Peak itself popped above the surrounding mountains and teased us with slight glimpses of its north face.

Brian Ladd skates in front of Chimney Rock on Deep Creek Lake.
(I circled Brian for some perspective of the size of the rock wall.)

brian-climbs-onto-wind-river-peak-glacierContinuing up and over a few more ridgelines, we climbed our way up into the cirque above the Deep Creek Lakes area. Sheer rock walls towered above us in nearly every direction and the radiant heat of the sun cooked us alive as ascended. Rising further, we moved north-face-of-wind-river-peak-ski-descentcloser to a rock feature known as Little El Capitan and onto the shrinking Wind River Peak Glacier. The snow seemed good, so we pushed higher up the north face of Wind River Peak, skinning as high as we could, before booting the final few hundred feet to the summit.

Little El Capitan and the shrinking Wind River Glacier.

temple-and-east-temple-peak-from-wind-river-peakgannet-peak-in-the-distanceOn top of the peak, the views of Temple, East Temple, the Cirque of the Towers and even Gannett Peak way up to the north were breathtaking, and we chilled for a while…soaking in half of the reason why we came. Soon enough though, it was time to get the other half and we clicked in to our skis, buckled our boots and got prepped to ski.

Cirque of the Towers from Wind River Peak.

steve-romeo-skiing-wind-river-peakOur plan was to descend via the North Face and glacier route. There looked to be a few ways down the north face of the peak and I opted to ski a line far to the skier’s the-boys-chilling-on-wind-river-peakleft, while Brian and Jon hit one a bit more to the right. The snow was good and the terrain exciting enough to keep things interesting and it felt great to reap the rewards of the long hike in the previous day, as well as the main objective of the trip. We all regrouped below the face and then skied great snow onto the glacier.

Steve Romeo skis the north face of Wind River Peak.

steve-romeo-skiing-the-north-face-of-wind-river-peakWe continued downward and the corn harvest came on strong as we skied past the impressive north wall of Chimney Rock, which is worth checking out if you are into big wall climbing in a very remote setting. I don’t have my guide book handy, but I’m sure there are some sick climbs to be had for those willing to make the trip. We thought about hiking up another couloir next to the wall, but the heat was oppressive and we were feeling tired, so we called it and made our way back the libations wanting for us at camp.

Brian Ladd skis a steep pitch on the Wind River Glacier.

jon-walker-sidesteps-off-the-lake-near-wind-river-peakWe had planned on spending another day skiing in the area, but some circumstances caused us to change our minds and head out a day early, which is lucky because the skies opened jon-walker-hikes-out-from-wind-river-peakup and we drove nearly the whole way back to Jackson in a torrential thunderstorm. It was big enough to shut down cell service for the entire state of Wyoming for about 12 hours, so you can imagine what it would have done to our Megamid shelter.

Ski tracks in the Wind River Peak area.

Anyway, it felt great to get out in the Winds again and ski another peak in a new area, and I hope thing hold up for another trip later this ski season. Today, I am on the road for a few days skiing in the Eastern Sierra. This will be my third trip to the eastside and I look forward to some great skiing touring over the course of the next few days. Ciao for now!!!

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10 Responses to “Skiing Wind River Peak…and Off to the Sierras”

  1. 1 Shad Hamilton Apr 23rd, 2010 at 5:58 am

    Awesome work Steve! I’ve been wanting to hit Wind River peak like that for years- been up there a million times- not on skis though. Looks like you hit the weather perfect. Should’ve hollered- I could’ve made the slog part go a little faster- though, there’s no way I could’ve gotten out of work that week. Damn jobs. Ha!

    Good job though- great TR!

  2. 2 Lee Apr 23rd, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Good job Steve. Wind River Peak is a beauty. It is the heart of the southern winds. Once you can pick it out it can be seen from many different aspects and veiw points.
    Its hard to get to and protected in so many ways. I think it is one of my favorite mountains anywhere. You guys are strong and skied it in style.

  3. 3 randosteve Apr 23rd, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Thanks guys. It sure was a great trip in classic Wind River terrain. Can’t wait for another ski trip there.

  4. 4 Matt Stech Apr 23rd, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    These are the kinds of trips that demand the entire skill set….great work and great pictures. I love the fishing up in those mountains but seem to attract high winds and low visibility when I go there on skis…but I’m sure I’ll get up there again someday for a skiing adventure. Of course the last time I fished up there it snowed twice in one week in August. Cheers.

  5. 5 Coyne Apr 24th, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Just left Bishop this morning. Made it a good way up the Schillite Couloir, but had to turn down as the rollerballs and small loose slides were happening. There was about 18″ around 12,500ft from the storm that kept us climbing in the gorge for the week. Should be some sweet corn for the harvest.

  6. 6 Cameron Millard Apr 25th, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Steve, nice post. Have fun in Cali. Come to Colorado sometime, we’ve got some good spring descents here, and should be a bit closer than the Sierras.

  7. 7 Euro Rob Apr 26th, 2010 at 12:12 am

    Nice trip!

    How are you liking the Drift in spring conditions?

  8. 8 randosteve Apr 27th, 2010 at 6:48 am

    Rob…I like them a lot. They handle everything from corn to crust to wet powder really well. And the light weight is great. I do wish I had a pair in 176cm as well though…to cut back on weight for bigger tours and tight couloirs. Have to wait until next year I guess.

  9. 9 Derek Apr 27th, 2010 at 8:04 am

    Matt Stech
    There are no fish in those mountains. ;-) shhhhhhhhhh

  10. 10 Derek Apr 27th, 2010 at 8:05 am

    PS: I have been snowed on in those mountains all 12 months of the year.

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