The Wind River Range had been on my mind for over 25 years and I have never visited. Despite stories from close friends that it is the best alpine rock in the North America I have never made the commitment and effort to make it in there. That all changed this year when good friend Majka Burhart put together a mini expedition that would allow for horse packing and a nice long stay in the range. Seven nights and eight days to be exact. Wow- no way could Kristie and I pass the trip up and we were instantly in. Kristie and Majka would be primary partners as Majka was going to be bringing in a photographer to document all the details. So that left me odd man out but my good man Roy Leggett was up to the challenge and he had been in before which would be nice for the local beta. Roy and I have shared some challenging times together in the mountains while guiding and climbing so knowing what I was getting was a huge bonus. Roy is super solid on the wide climbing which is great as it tends to make me squeal so I would take the scary face pitches and Roy was game to chicken wing anything in our way.
Our goals were pretty straightforward, get in and see what looks good and get after it. Below is a day-by-day blow of our hits and misses!
Day one- Hike in from the East side which is a bit more rare as it is 15 miles but it allows for the horses to get all the way into the Cirque of the Towers. You know what that means, extra wine, big tents and good eats! We cruised in at a decent pace but it still took us 6 ½ hours.
Day two- The weather was still a bit unsettled so Roy and I went for an objective close to camp but interesting in the fact it would be hard to bail from. The North Face of Mt Mitchell. Grade 3+ 5.9 9 pitches. We had a bit of a hard time staying on route but in the end made it up some fine pitches and on top with only a few raindrops. Ok so far so good-
Day three- NE Buttress of Pingora. This is a 50 classic and we were very curious to check out the rock, as Mitchell had been good but not great. Holy smokes the route was perfect with pitch after pitch of 5.8 climbing and never an awkward moment and all the belays were comfortable. We shared the route with three other parties including Kristie and Majka and everything seemed to fall into place. I would say as far as moderates go this is one of the best alpine rock routes I had ever climbed. Absolutely perfect!
Day four- Rest day. Ok- we were not actually that tired but we wanted to be ready for a bigger day and the fishing looked so good (yep we brought poles). So after copious coffee Roy and I were off to see what we could do. Roy was on a fly rig and I was spin casting. Despite being able to see fish everywhere we could not get them to bight and at some point we lost interest and that is when Kristie asked it she could toss the fly. Fish on- first try and she lands a nice little 9 incher. Girls always have the touch. Later that day and trip we would all land nice trout and we even caught one and had it for lunch. Thank God that Kristie knew how to clean and prep it. Yummy.
Day Five- Ok somehow Roy talked me into Feather Buttress on Warbonnet. This is a striking feature that was first climbed in 1979 by Jeff Lowe and Charlie Fowler. It has a fair bit of wide climbing and supposedly some very run out 5.9 at the top. The overall grade I was Grade 4 5.10+ 9 pitches. I won’t go into a pitch by pitch count of the route but what I can say it that it was type 2 fun fore sure. Super fun when you’re done but just ok when you are on it. The route was amazing but it needs traffic to clean up the rock. Back at camp we told stories drank wine and tequila and had some great burritos and cheesecake for dessert.
Day six- Rest day- now we were tired and we once again fell back into the pattern of coffee and fishing.
Day seven- Day seven was one of those days that just never got going and finally the group decided to pack up and hike out a day early. It started to rain, which confirmed our call, and we trampled out through the muddy trail 15 miles to our cars. On the way we passed our Wranglers who were headed in to get our gear. So cool to see the cowboy lifestyle still going strong in Americas west.
Day eight- packing, eating and getting plugged back in. I will say it was the first time in a bit where my IPhone was not on for a week and it really felt good to be out of touch and reconnect with deep thought. I think this is something we all need to do more often.
Special thanks to Thermarest for providing me with a complete sleeping system that worked like a dream. They have created a cool sleeping bag system where the bag has sleeves for the sleeping pad to slide through which keeps you nice and neat on your pad all night. Thanks! See photos.