The wind blew all afternoon and night after touring up Mile Long Lake, and when we rolled out of the Megamid on our third day, we could see clouds lingering to the south…over Down Mountain…our objective for the day. I was pretty excited to explore a new area today and from the looks of the lines on the topo map, we would be rewarded with views of some amazing terrain.
The ski boots went on a little bit easier this morning because we had some time to dry them out in the sun the previous afternoon, and we were once again out of camp around 9am. Though the weather forecast said today was supposed to be the nicest, warmest and sunniest day of the trip, it didn’t seem to be very accurate (seems we’ve had a lot of that lately) and we didn’t need to be in any hurry to beat the heat.
We set out in the direction of Spider Peak, kind of the central peak of the area. Or route to Downs Mountain was pretty straight forward, but snaked through some tight canyons to the head of East Torrey Creek. As we gained elevation and entered into the area between Spider Peak, Rundblick and Ross Mountain, I almost lost myself. The terrain was out of this world and I saw more and more things I wanted to ski. We stayed on track though and soon found ourselves looking up at Downs.
Though the summit of Downs was out of the clouds, the winds looked to be ripping up high…not to the mention the ground level winds that had been blasting our faces most of the way so far. We scoped a few options to gain the summit. One being a ridge where we would be in the thick of the winds the whole way, the other being a decent looking couloir on its north east side. Though topped by a cornice, it looked to be passable on the right hand side. We decide to head towards the couloir. I was feeling a little on the tired side and let Mike lead the way.
As we skinned higher and higher, the winds continued to blow and the lighting got flatter and flatter. More and more clouds were now filling up the sky and we were loosing motivation quickly. Pulling up near a rocky outcropping, we chilled for a bit to see if the weather would break. After about 20 minutes, we decided to pull the plug. Neither of us was that excited about hiking into the high winds, and skiing steep couloirs in flat light just isn’t my cup of tea. We ripped the skins and headed back to camp.
When we got back to camp, we weren’t sure if we should hang out for the rest of the day, pack up and head out in the morning, or pack up now and try to tackle some of the exit immediately. We decided that we might as well start heading out and at least get some of the miles behind us. As we were dismantling camp and folding up the Megamid, the wind really picked up and the floor of the Megamid seemed to catch it with ease. Wondering if we would be able to use it to help us get across the lakes, I packed it near the top of my backpack for quick access.
When we got to Upper Ross Lake, the wind was still blowing hard and to the north…the direction we needed to travel, so I pulled out the Megamid floor and we each grabbed a couple corners. Holding it up high, it caught the wind and began to pull us across the lake with very little effort from us. Occasionally we would have to skate or pole when the wind died down, but when it returned, we loved it. We didn’t have as much luck with it on Ross Lake, as the wind seemed to be swirling a bit and blowing in the wring directions. About halfway across the lake though, it turned for us and pushed us without even using the floor. I guess that’s why they call them the Wind River Mountains.
We ended up hammering it out all the way to the trailhead, arriving at the trailhead just before 9 o’clock. Though the weather bonked out a little bit on this trip and we bugged out a day early, it was still a very fun trip for me…and I think Mike too. I know I will return again.