I’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.
Progress 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.
The 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.
Continuing 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 closer 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.
On 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.
Our 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 left, 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.
We 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.
We 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 up 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.
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!!!