July 25: Lower Titcomb Basin to Lower Indian Basin
My Tarptent Cloudburst would get a workout
later that night in Indian Basin.
Typical of the trip, another
night of crappy sleep finally came to an end at 6 AM. it rained most of
the night, beginning around 10 PM, and temperatures dropped to the coolest
they'd been the entire trip. This bit of good news was quickly tempered
by the sight of Fremont and Jackson peaks socked in by the clouds. In
the end that didn't matter as we decided to move camp up to Indian Basin
anyway, figuring that the clouds may burn off as the day wore on.
We didn't set any speed records
breaking camp and forded the outlet stream at 8:40. The good news was
that my camera battery seemed to have recharged itself after spending
the night stuck in my shorts. If the clouds broke and I was disciplined
enough not to take any pictures I just might get a few from the summit.
The climb up into Indian
Basin was more difficult than I had remembered, though Yumi and I did
it as a dayhike the previous summer. The only redeeming factor was that
the climbing we were doing "counted" towards our Fremont summit
Shortly after 10:00 we found
a suitable camp site in the shadows of Elephant Head (Cairn Peak) above
Lake 10813. If nothing else, Elephant Head was below the clouds and thus
was a possible alternative if we couldn't get Fremont. Fremont, however,
was the goal so we waited for the weather to break. And waited.
Around noon the two 30-somethings
we'd passed by at Upper Ticomb Lake stumbled across our camp site on the
way to the saddle. They were hoping to get up to Fremont as well. I took
the opportunity to at least get one shot of the three of us on the camera
before they took off.
The weather didn't look like it was going
to cooperate with us.
As soon as they left we decided
that if two women could give it a shot then certainly us manly men could
do the same. We quickly packed a few things, filtered some water and set
off for the saddle at 12:40 PM.
After our hike up Knapsack
yesterday you'd think we would have been used to a boulder-hopping bushwhack,
but we weren't. Just getting up to the saddle at just over 12,000' proved
to be a chore even when we discovered a climbers trail about halfway up.
My suspicions proved correct
once we made it to the top at 2 PM: the views were indeed a nice prize.
Almost the entire Titcomb Basin was laid out in front of us, Indian Basin
behind. Summer Ice Lake was directly across from us, Mistake Lake directly
below. Far off in the distance we could see the high desert, Fremont Lake
and the sun reflecting off tin roofs---most likely buildings associated
with the natural gas drilling taking place near Pinedale.
The ladies, once a mere 150
yards ahead of us on the climb up to the saddle had kicked our collective
asses the rest of the way up and were relaxing, eating a Clif bar and
enjoying the view. Since this was the third time we'd met it was time
for introductions. Colleen and Sandy, from Casper, WY were having a blast
together in the Winds, but then who wouldn't be in this incredible place?
Dorf, Reed and Ward.
Ward mentioned he'd like
to try for the summit since the clouds had miraculously cleared the peaks.
Reed and I had to take a pass. Had we gotten up to the saddle ealier in
the day and had some time to recover from that climb I would have gone
for it. As it was, I was just beat from the climb so far plus the weather
didn't look good. Naturally, the ladies were up to the task and they were
While the three of them were
climbing like mountain goats up the steep slope of Fremont, I took the
opportunity to call home just to let Yumi and the kids know I was OK.
I found out that the boys soccer team had won their tournament the previous
weekend, beating two teams that played in the Premiere Division in the
Wisconsin State League. Holy Shit! That was a bigger accomplishment than
anything we had done so far and a gigantic step for soccer in Manitowoc.
While Reed and I waited for
the mountaineers to summit, I walked along the saddle in hopes of getting
some better photos. I think I succeeded in a big way then walked back
to Reed where we talked about soccer in Wisconsin and watched the foul
weather moving in from the west.
Before too long we saw our
first bolt of lightning in the distance and the rumble of thunder. We
glanced up to the mountain and saw Colleen and Sandy rapidly making their
way down to our position. They were both down in less than 15 minutes
but Ward was nowhere to be seen.
Naturally we asked them where
our buddy was. Their response wasn't what we wanted to hear. succumbing
to summit fever, Ward wanted to go a little bit higher despite the fact
that the ladies started down with the approach of the storm. In their
words "we could feel the moisture" and had to get down the mountain
and off the saddle.
Hmmm. Ward up there by himself,
storm coming up fast...time to come up with another SAR plan.
Summer Ice, Titcomb and Mistake Lakes from
the saddle below Fremont Peak.
We said goodbye to the ladies
and wondered how long we could stay up on the exposed saddle before seeking
a better place ourselves. Fifteen minutes passed, twenty, and no sign
of Ward. This wasn't good. If he was hurt, that wasn't good. If he was
still climbing, that wasn't good either.
After a particularly frightening
bolt of lightning struck a little to close our mind was made up: I'd call
911, let them know there was a guy up there, condition unknown, and we
were heading back down into Indian Basin so we wouldn't become some of
those dead people I told the guys about a couple of days before. As fate
would have it, we spotted Ward making hisdescent
as I was on the phone with a Sublette County deputy and all was well.
The good news was that Ward
had made it to the top, all 13,745' of Fremont Peak, and remembered to
sign the register.
The hike back down to our
camp was a grueling affair once again but we made it back to camp just
as the rain started to fall. We quickly donned our rain jackets and rode
out the storm behind some large boulders, staying relatively dry.
Once the storm passed we ate our dinner and decided we'd hike the 13-14
miles back to the trailhead tomorrow. I was pissed off but didn't let
on. Part of me wanted to get back to Pinedale for a good meal but another
part didn't want to leave the wilderness a day early after dreaming of
this trip for almost a year. I thought of staying our for another day
by myself might be in order but really didn't know what I'd do.
After another tough day of
climbing we retired to our tents at 8:15, ready for that elusive good
night's sleep. I wouldn't get it. By 9:00 the rain had returned with his
good buddy strong winds. For the second time during the trip the Winds
were living up to their name and I was holding onto my tent pole to keep
it from snapping. This went on for an hour, then two. I had moved over
to the leeward side of my tent to avoid the fine mist blowing in from
the horizontal rain and to stay away from the tent wall that was severely
bowed from the wind. It was an exciting night, one in which I learned
how tough Henry Shires Tarptents really are. I finally fell asleep around
11 and slept fairly well despite the thunder and lightning.