Randosteve skis off of Fremont Peak in the Wind River Range. Photo Chris Kroger.
After getting a good night sleep after skiing Mount Helen, Chris and I set out towards Indian Basin to ski the Southwest Face of Fremont Peak. Since the suncups are so deep right now, we are forced to continually stare down at the snow and watch our foot placements so we don’t trip and fall in the ruts. Fremont Peak is the third highest peak in Wyoming and because of its large size, it is often mistaken for Gannett Peak (the highest) when driving through Pinedale or viewed from afar. Either way, its Southwest Face holds a prominent line that attracts the eyes of many skiers.
Distant Views of Mount Helen, Sacajawea and Fremont Peak.
The Southwest Face and Southern Connection are visible.
When the snow is still deep, one can ski this line pretty direct, down into Titcomb or Indian Basin. However, this time of year the line melts out on the steep face, making a continuous descent rather challenging. Not really knowing what to expect as we enter into Indian Basin, we continue to trudge further up its south side, taking a break or two on the way.
Chris hikes up a climber’s trail to rocky terrain below the face.
After climbing a long and mellow angled snow slope approaching the ridge below the Southwest Face, we are back onto dry ground. A faint trail leads us up through both large and small boulders and at the time, I was a little jealous of Chris with his bellowed, lightweight ski boots. As we got higher, every so often we would veer to the climber’s right and look over the ridge to see where we might be able to connect the line with a section of snow more on Fremont’s south side. After not too long, we reached the bottom of the Southwest Face, so we checked one more time over the ridge to see if it would connect…and it did. It meant we would only have to walk about 50′ from the bottom of the couloir to the south face which would then let us keep us skiing for another 2K’. We were psyched.
Titcomb Basin west side peaks.
A quick transition lead to a fast, charging climb on firm snow. Great cramponing really, and I focused on my technique so as not to trash my calves. I also really try to focus on pacing myself when the booting is good, so I don’t have to stop and catch my breath all the time. Staying the on the edges of the snowline, we made it to the top soon and steered to the climber right as we neared the ridgeline. Guidebooks state that there is another couloir on Fremont, more south/southeast facing, so we wanted to check it out. We did, and it looked like a cool line, a little runnelled, but still quite proud.
Boot tracks towards the Grand Teton.
As we traversed towards the summit, the clouds began to roll in and it got very dark. When I caught up to Chris, he mentioned something about feeling static electricity. I stopped and listened, and heard a faint hmmm from behind my head, where my skis and ice axe were. We both immediately took off our packs and scooted as fast as we could towards the summit. Not really being sure which rocky prominence was the true summit, we were sure to hit them all before heading back to our skis and finding some shelter behind the ridge.
By this time it was groppleing and windy…and cold. But we could see that blue sky was behind the thunderhead. Bundling up, we hunkered down for about 20 minutes to let it pass, eating, hydrating, and just getting pumped to ski. The snow looked in fantastic condition, smooth as a pool table and white as our butts…and our timing was perfect. Soon, the sun popped for good and we traversed over to the more southeasterly facing couloir to give it another look. We thought about it, but it was hard to pass up the line that you stare at all the time for your first descent off the peak, so we turned around and sidestepped to our chosen path, and fun ridge before some cookies, which put us onto the top of the main snowfield.
Chris skis through some cookies.
I felt like I was on cloud nine as I carved turns through the perfect corn and I just couldn’t believe how good the skiing actually was. My cheeks hurt from the grin the smile that seemed frozen on my face. I could tell Chris was having as much fun as I was and we tried to keep out tracks buff, in case we would be able to see them from camp. It’s always rad to be able to stare at your tracks after a fun descent. Maybe it’s the vanity in me, but I think most skiers would agree.
Skiing above Elephant Head.
We skied in bliss until we reached the bottom of the couloir, where we slowed things down so as not to screw up and loose an edge or something and tumble into the boulders and over the cliffs below. Luckily, the snow was soft and the pitch not too steep. A quick walk to the east brought us to the southern connection, which was a nice steep line in its own right.
Randosteve skis in front of Harrower/Ellingwood Peak.
Having been in the sun for a longer time period, this aspect was quite a bit softer and a little sluffy, so we skied with caution but it was hard to pass up a little tight chute off to the right. The steep face then brought us onto a big slope which was ripe for the picking and we linked another set of tracks, loosing vertical. One more section down to the basin lead to a long break in the sun, soaking in the moment and the views of Jackson, Harrower/Ellingwood, Elephant Head and the surrounding peaks.
Chris touring out of Indian Basin.
Things felt surreal as we toured back toward camp, as there seemed to still be quite a bit of snow lingering in Indian Basin. But soon, we were slapped in the face with reality as the temperature rose and we reached the shores of Island Lake. The afternoon and evening passed as we rationed and ate our food so we wouldn’t have to pack out anything extra, continuously looking up a Fremont to see it we could see our tracks. At times, we though we could see a disturbance in the snow, but never definitive tracks. A bummer yes, but hardly coming close to bringing our spirits down from the great day.