Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wind River Range Backpacking

Backpacking in the Wind Rivers... a dream come true! Josh Stafford and I checked off one of our top 5 hiking trips, and it was quite the adventure with Tim Thornton and Chris Simon joining us for two days of exploring the Winds. I even had a couloir named after me–which should tell you something about how much "hiking" we technically did (pun intended). Right Chris? :)

We started our hike to base camp (Big Sandy Lake) on Sunday afternoon, and were excited beyond belief. We've heard too many heavenly stories about the Winds, and this trip had been a long time coming. Just look at our faces.

Josh Stafford (left) and me (right).

Chris Simon (left), Tim Thornton (middle), Josh Stafford (right).

The hike to Big Sandy was relatively easy and "flat as Kansas", as Scott Austin likes to say. "Flat as Kansas" in our book equals around 800-1,000 feet of elevation gain. This is starting at around 8,000 feet above sea level of course. How I love being in the mountains!

The view at Big Sandy Lake was pretty decent.

iPhone Panorama - Wildflowers along the bank of Big Sandy Lake.
Nothing too exciting relative to my home in the Tetons, but definitely not disappointing!

We found our campsite around the east side of Big Sandy Lake atop a hill with a superb camping view.

Our humble campsite... :)
After setting up camp, we headed off to Clear Lake which is a couple miles east of Big Sandy.

Wildflower on the trail to Clear Lake.

Clear Lake was definitely a grand sight! Josh began fly fishing immediately as I took an off-trail mission to capture the stream cascading down granite slabs.

Stream running down from Clear Lake into Big Sandy Lake.

Nice waterfalls and neat views!

When I returned Josh was busy catching fish (brook trout), and then the sunset started hitting the clouds and mountains!

Josh bringing in a brookie.

Panorama of Clear Lake

Alpenglow is the best... :)

Last of the evening light.

We hiked back as it darkened to night. Dinner was an awesome mix of cous cous and chicken in tortilla wraps with hot sauce! Thanks to Josh for the idea.

We arose early in the morning and were greeted with sunrise alpenglow on the surrounding mountains. As I took photos, the boys made oatmeal and mint hot cocoa (the best!) for breakfast.

Morning campsite view.

After breakfast we packed up and trekked back around the north side of Big Sandy where the trail breaks off towards Cirque of the Towers (our top destination). We left our excessive gear hidden in the woods and began what would be an epic day of "hiking" according to my definition. And I'll let these photos and videos tell the rest of the story:

iPhone panoramic view from the north side of Big Sandy.

Stafford flyfishing a pool along the way.

View of trail heading into Cirque of the Towers.

Looking back at Arrowhead Lake with part of the Towers on the right.

iPhone panorama of the Cirque of the Towers from Big Sandy Pass.

"Ussie" as some call it. :)

Climbing up Mitchell Peak

iPhone panorama of the view from Mitchell Peak

This guy was a beast... 50 years of climbing it!

Best of hiking buddies!!! :)

"Ussie" towards Cirque of the Towers

Gorgeous canyon views.

Back at Big Sandy, rainbow on the east side.

That was a long day of hiking. But so worth it!

On the drive back we stopped at Subway in Pinedale right before it closed. It was some of the best food we ever tasted. :)

I hope you've enjoyed these photos and videos from our awesome experience. We certainly had a blast together as friends and brothers in Christ!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Sunset at Rocky Mountain Lodge

We had a gorgeous sunset here at Rocky Mountain Lodge tonight. Caused me to dust off the ol' DSLR and take some shots! It's been too long...

So glad I did.

Panorama shot of the awesome cloudy sunset.

Wider panorama with more sunset color.

More accurate color showed up in this tight angled shot.

Hope you enjoyed these, and they cause you to praise the Creator!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Climb(s) of July 17, 2012

These photos have been a long time coming...

Two summers ago my good buddies Josh Stafford and Steven Neundorf and I embarked upon one of our typical Jackson Hole adventures - but this one set the bar a bit higher for ourselves. We decided to hike/climb the Middle Teton and South Teton peaks in one day.

I've heard this was almost always done historically whenever one decided to climb Middle or South Teton - you just have to do both since they are so close!

We started our hike dark and early at around 5:45am, if memory serves me right. We hiked for about 45 minutes when the sun started rising, at which point we were rounding the bend into Garnet Canyon.

Looking east, down Garnet Canyon.

Looking west, up Garnet Canyon - featuring part of Middle Teton.

We reached "The Meadows" camping zone in Garnet Canyon when the sun was still just hitting the peaks of the Tetons. We were making great time! At this point there is already a good amount of bouldering necessary - following cairns through a boulder field.

"The Meadows" camp zone in Garnet Canyon.

From there we began the slow and tedious ascent up the boulder/scree field to reach the saddle between Middle and South Tetons (left of Middle Teton in photo above). It was a bit sketchy attempting to find solid footing on a steep slope of small rocks, but we were able to follow the normal route most of the way. We brought ice axes to cross snow and helmets to protect in case of any rockfalls. When we finally reached the saddle, we saw signs of only one other climber who followed us from The Meadows. We took a break at the saddle with this view:

From the saddle, looking west. Iceflow Lake below, Cascade Canyon beyond that - and eventually Idaho.

The climber caught up with us and he seemed an interesting guy - a professing believer in Christ. We would cross paths a few more times throughout the day (he was also hiking Middle and South Tetons).

To summit Middle Teton, we had to climb up a snowfield and then enter the narrow couloir nicknamed "ping pong alley" (the reason we brought helmets). As we were about to the top, we saw a group descending a different route. So we weren't the first group up that morning, but we were second! Plus we started all the way at the bottom of the mountain whereas they had camped in The Meadows the night before.

An accidental shot, but cool-looking double-shot of Steven Neundorf near the top of Middle Teton.

A bit of class 3 & 4 scrambling/bouldering, and we reached the summit! It was an incredible, breathtaking experience stepping up to the final elevation and looking down into the incredible vista of Jackson Hole.

From the summit of Middle Teton, looking east down Garnet Canyon.

Looking north towards the Grand Teton, covered in clouds.

Panorama of the view east.

Steven Neundorf on the summit of Middle Teton.

Josh Stafford eating lunch with quite the view!

The conquerors!
Descending Middle Teton back to the saddle wasn't too difficult, though we had a group following us down who caused a few rocks to slide towards us. For the snowfield right above the saddle, we of course had to slide down the snow on our rear ends - just for fun! You use your ice axe as a break - technical term for this method: glissading.

Steven Neundorf sliding down the snowfield from Middle Teton.

We then ascended South Teton, which was fairly straightforward and easy compared to Middle Teton. The views weren't quite as good - but still quite spectacular!

Looking north towards Middle Teton and Grand Teton. Cascade Canyon is hiding behind the clouds some, but you can see the green of the trees beneath the cloud.

Panorama from South Teton summit, looking north.

The conquerors of a second peak in the same day!

Picture taken by our friend we met earlier on the climb.

Josh Stafford looking east into Jackson Hole valley.

We hike down seemed endless, but we finally finished at around 4:30-4:45 and got home by 5:30 or so. To this day, it is still one of my favorite days of hiking.

Hope you all enjoyed reading and looking at the photos - we certainly enjoyed the experience!