Here’s a little trip report from TetonAT visitor, Joshua Phillips. Joshua is a land surveyor from Missoula, MT, president of the Rocky Mountaineers Outdoor Club and race director for the GrizzlyMan Adventure Race. Here, Josh recounts a splendid trip to climb Sacajawea, Ellingwood and Fremont Peak in Titcomb Basin in the Wind River Range. Almost makes me wish it was the beginning of summer! Thanks Joshua!
This was my first trip to the Wind River Range and it won’t be my last. I had debated for several weeks on whether to bring skis or climbing gear as I was unsure of the snow pack. Randosteve let me know that the moat on the Gooseneck might present more trouble than it was worth. It was tough to leave the skis at home, but once in Titcomb, I knew I’d made the right choice. The walls were dry and the snow was melting very quickly. The mosquitoes were taking full advantage of the melt water and offered us extra motivation to get away from camp and onto the summits. However, the weather kept us wondering if we were making the right decisions! I had driven down from Missoula with friend, Brian Quilter. Forest and Angie Dean arrived in the basin a day after us, children in tow. Nine year old Frank and seven year old Karya seemed unphased by the pack in.
After a few days of questionable weather, Brian and I grew anxious about the possibility of not being able to do enough climbing to justify the effort in packing in all that gear. We spent the first part of the week hiking up the basin and scrambling around on nearby Fremont Peak. Tuesday evening, after scrambling to the summit, we got a taste of what the weather can be like in the Winds. We huddled in our tent as a violent lightning storm moved through the basin…glad we weren’t out on a wall.
We woke up Wednesday keen on climbing the North Arete (5.6) of Ellingwood (also known as Harrower). We hiked to the base and waited anxiously for about an hour as the weather was, again, unstable. We spoke with Forest and Frank who were on Fremont via radio. They had a better look at the incoming weather and said we should go for it. After much deliberation, steeling glances of the committing 1,500 foot route towering above us, we decided to go for it. We climbed like mad men. At 25 minutes per pitch, 12 pitches went by quickly and we stood on the summit at 4pm. We took our time getting back to camp and hiked around to Island Lake to take in the view.
Sunset over Mount Helen
I was ready for a rest day. Thursday I accompanied the Dean Family to a fishing hole as Brian hurried off to tick American Legion Peak. (By the way, Brian seemed to have an endless supply of energy on this trip. I didn’t know where he was getting it. Maybe his secret was the Mountain House “Sweet and Sour Pork with Rice” he was eating every morning for breakfast!) The fishing was great and we ALL stuffed ourselves on pan fried trout that evening.
Friday was our last chance to climb another route as we were planning on hiking out on Saturday. We awoke with clear skies and our sights set on the West Face (5.9) of Sacagawea. The long approach surprised us as the route had been visible from our tent all week! We started climbing at 11am. The route finding kept us wondering, but frequently passing fixed gear boosted our confidence. I lost count, but I believe we climbed 10 pitches. Some of the moves were quite a challenge and the last few pitches provided some real surprises! We were signing the summit register by 6pm…the first ones to sign in over a year. We were eager to get off the summit as the descent route looked very complicated. After a long down climb of the north ridge, we were back at the trail in time to see a fabulous display of alpenglow on the wall we had just climbed. Back at camp, dinner was taken by headlamp.
We hiked out Saturday in perfect weather. In fact, we had not seen such stable weather since the previous Saturday! At Photographer’s Point, Brian and I lingered as we took in our last look at the great peaks of Titcomb Basin.
Back at the trailhead, we shared stories with other hikers and climbers before hitting the road. Before driving through the night, we met up with the Dean Family at the Snake River Brewing Company that evening for what has become the customary “out of the mountains” dinner. Brick oven pizza!