There had been lots of planning, work schedule changes, weather watching and rounding up of partners involved with putting this ski trip to the Wind River Range together. One would think that skiers would line up to ski the amazing terrain that is found in the Winds, but add in a 50-plus pound backpack, a 15 mile approach and questionable trail conditions, and people start to quiver in fear of the pain that must be endured to get the goods. Luckily, skier Brian Ladd jumped at the chance to ski and explore the terrain in the Titcomb Basin area with me and the trip became a reality. This was my second time skiing in the Titcomb Basin region and let me tell you, every time I go, I find more incredible lines and routes I want to ski.
Brian and I left Jackson last Thursday and drove to the Elkhart Park trailhead in Pinedale in the wee hours of the morning. Due to low clouds and the weather, we couldn’t see any of the peaks in the Winds on our drive and new snow covered the ground in the parking lot. Was this really the middle of June we thought? We also wondered how much new snow was further in and at higher elevations, but we counted on the forecast for drier weather for the next few days, grabbed our packs donning skis and AT boots, and hit the trail.
Due to the new snowfall and lingering snowpack from a wet spring in the Winds, about 3-miles from the trailhead we decided to get some of the weight off our backs, put on our skis and boots, and started skinning. It felt great to be on the skis again and the 2-3 inches of new snow really helped us out on the few dry sections of the trail that we encountered, and we hoped it would still be there on the way out. We made our way through the forest and were able to generally follow the trail the whole way, with only a few areas where we veered off course. At one point however, about 4 miles from the trailhead, I broke through the snow/ice and submerged my boots in one of the many pools of water found in the Winds. They were completely soaked and bothered my feet for the rest of the trek. Luckily, I was able to dry them out the following day in the bright, warm sun. Needless to say, with a combination of route finding, creek/lake crossings, heavy backpacks and the punchy, iso-thermic snow, the 15 miles of hiking/skiing (and something I often refer to as a skinning “skills course”) was quite difficult and exhausting.
Finally, we reached a pass prior to dropping down to Island Lake and we pushed onward to Titcomb Basin. With some stout winds, the clouds began to lift and gave us views of why we came. After a coupe more hours of skiing, we settled on a camp right at the mouth of the basin and dug a little platform into a snow drift near a nice little snow-lake that we could use for getting water, which was quite convenient.
The next morning, we got up with the sun, and packed our backpacks with only day-trip items and it felt so good to have it not weight 60lbs anymore. Our first objective of the trip was the South Couloir on Fremont Peak. At 13,745′ Fremont is the third highest peak in Wyoming and the two thousand foot South Couloir offers an incredible run, but is hidden from view from most angles people often see the peak from. With a small bit of backtracking, we made our way into Indian Basin and towards the route. To be continued…