Adventure Climbing- Wind River Range (part 2)

The second part of an adventure climb in the Wind River Range

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Rock climbing

So, back to our climb. We’d envisioned what the scramble up to the rope-up spot and to a lesser extent the first pitch would be like and were mentally prepared for both of those. But things above that point were increasingly fuzzy, although we were confident that it would all become clearer once we got that far. Better not to confuse the issue, we’d determined.

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Adventure Climbing- Wind River Range

Climbing an unnamed buttress in the Winds…..

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Lead Climbing

In Two Parts………..

Part 1

There’s a place deep in the heart of the Wind River Range that we called Golden Lake. There are no marked trails that go there and if you look on a map there’s nothing with that name. There actually is a lake up there, but it has another name. It sits in a basin of sorts, along with two others. The basin is actually a glacial cirque which sits at the top of an obscure drainage which leads down to the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River. The main lake of the three is full of Golden Trout. Thus, the name.

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Rock Climbing

rock climbing
A thin face climb

 

There had to be a solution, she kept thinking, but it wasn’t jumping out at her. Nothing about the situation made any sense. The only part of it that she was certain about was that a logical person just wouldn’t act like that. Her mind was working hard to come up with an answer, even if there wasn’t one. Maybe, she continued…….. and then her train of thought was instantly broken as she stepped across and put her weight up onto her left foot, which she’d perched solidly up on the top little platform edge of a half inch thick flake of granite. She reached over to the slab, pinched a small nubbin’ of a crystal between her right thumb and index finger and then pulled herself completely up and off of the cheat boulder and onto the almost vertical 60 foot tall rock that stood apart from the others. She was then, fully committed to the climb. In that instant, she’d gone from being a psychologist to a rock climber.

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Frolicking in the Alps

 

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A Rope Team

 

I could tell the story from the trip about the Swiss barmaid that was hovering around outside my tent late one night asking for my tentmate, Matt. Or the one about Matt and I racing our Swiss guides back down from the top of the Argentine Miroir (a famous rock climb) to a nearby café where our group was waiting. Both occurred in the midst of an adventure trip that the two of us were leading and which included a wide variety of people of varying ages including teenagers, a doctor who was even older than me and my non alpinism-experienced wife. As one of the leaders, I was making every effort to look out for the well-being of the group, but nonetheless, those sorts of “things” kept happening.

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Aconcagua- The Polish Climbers

Aconcagua
Aconcagua with the Polish Glacier

At an elevation of 22,841 feet, Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres. As South America’s tallest peak, it’s also one of the Seven Summits (highest point on each continent). Via most of the routes normally undertaken, it’s not considered to be a particularly technical undertaking, but it is big.  It’s sheer size, location, accessibility and the persistent presence of a cold, wet, snowy wind known as the Viento Blanco have led to a variety of medical problems for climbers throughout the years. This particular expedition occurred in February, 1985.

This is the story of that climb, in 3 parts—The Climb, The Crampons, and The Polish Climbers.

Part 3- The Polish Climbers

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Aconcagua- The Crampons

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Gearing up for an alpine climb

At an elevation of 22,841 feet, Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres. As South America’s tallest peak, it’s also one of the Seven Summits (highest point on each continent). Via most of the routes normally undertaken, it’s not considered to be a particularly technical undertaking, but it is big.  It’s sheer size, location, accessibility and the persistent presence of a cold, wet, snowy wind known as the Viento Blanco have led to a variety of medical problems for climbers throughout the years. This particular expedition occurred in February, 1985.

This is the story of that climb, in 3 parts—The Climb, The Crampons, and The Polish Climbers.

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Aconcagua- The Climb

Climbing on the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere, 1985.

Summit Ridege- Huayna Potosi
Rope team ascending a big peak

At an elevation of 22,841 feet, Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres. As South America’s tallest peak, it’s also one of the Seven Summits (highest point on each continent). Via most of the routes normally undertaken, it’s not considered to be a particularly technical undertaking, but it is big.  It’s sheer size, location, accessibility and the persistent presence of a cold, wet, snowy wind known as the Viento Blanco have led to a variety of medical problems for climbers throughout the years. This particular expedition occurred in February, 1985.

This is the story of that climb, in 3 parts—The Climb, The Crampons, and The Polish Climbers.

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Candy Bars on Mt. Hunter

Indigestion on Alaska’s Mt Hunter.

Climbers out on the Kahiltna Glacier near Mt. Hunter
The Kahiltna Glacier near Mt. Hunter

I now concede the fact that it was undoubtedly the five candy bars I ate in celebration of successfully getting across the avalanche debris field that caused the distress. I should’ve known better, but for a variety of reasons, it’d seemed like a good thing to do at the time. At least, I reasoned once back at home, the whole thing had taught me a good lesson.

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Crevasse

Tents on the snow, perhaps above a crevasse
A snow camp.

He was not a big person and since I outweighed him by 60 or so pounds, I was confident that I could hold him, if he were to break through and fall into a crevasse. There was no doubt that those sometimes-bottomless cracks found all over glaciers were running underneath us everywhere, although most were hidden beneath thin layers of the snow and ice of the Ruth Glacier. Probing out the route as we moved was tedious, but imperative—especially during the summer months when things were melting more than freezing. We knew the crevasse field was there, but were hoping to find a relatively safe way through it that could be used as a way to get our whole group up onto the ridge.

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Hamburgers and Lizard Head

A group of backpackers attempts to climb Lizard Head and learns the true meaning of climbing.

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Pingora, Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, Wyoming

Lizard Head is a big peak just to the north and east of the well-known, long and breathtakingly majestic line of mountains, ridges and spires in the Wind River Range, known as the Cirque of the Towers. On one particular trip, we backpacked into the area with two separate groups of 7, via different routes that both came in from the east and took us to Bear Lake. The lake sits just on the east side of Lizard Head and would be the location for our backcountry base camp on that trip.

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