Day 4: Indian Basin

We awoke at Wall Lake this morning with the summits engulfed by low clouds. Nevertheless, it was mostly a blue sky day but with winds and colder temperatures.

Our route took us to the northwest where we climbed into the col between Elephant and Harrower Peaks and a magnificent view of Fremont Peak’s massive southern aspect.

A talus descent dropped us into Indian basin, and we are camped on the northern shore of one of its many unnamed lakes. Our HD view tonight is the awesome west face of Harrower (i.e., Ellingwood) Peak rising 2,400 feet above our camp to an elevation of greater than 13,000 feet. The pointed, triangular summit is protected from an easy ascent from all aspects, but its most striking features are its North Arête – 1500 feet of continuous Class 5 rock (one of the most spectacular climbs in the entire range) and the massive Ellingwood Couloir (aka “The Great Couloir).

A bit of history about Harrower Peak.

Ellingwood climbed it first, and thus named it such – Ellingwood Peak. If you are a student of climbing in the Northern Rockies, you know Albert E. His first ascents in the Winds are numerous and he also pioneered routes up the Middle and South Tetons.

More than a decade ago, Alan Dixon and I were stormed off the Middle Teton near the summit and made our escape down the Ellingwood Couloir on that peak. With our 30m x 7mm rope and only a handful of protection pieces, we made 14 rappels through the night (we were out of protection for the last rap but miraculously found an old hex in a crack someone else had left behind) and finished our descent at dawn in a hallucinogenic, sleep-deprived trance, ending our epic at Jedediah’s House of Pancakes in Jackson after being awake for more than 50 hours.

Needless to say, whenever I hear Sir Albert’s name, I shudder. And Ellingwood Peak in the Winds – and his couloir on this peak – are worth the shudder. Climbing journals and Pinedale taverns are riddled with stories about epics during climbs of “The Great Couloir” on Ellingwood Peak.

Anyway, the 1968 Fremont Peak Quad renames the peak “Harrower”, an old Pinedale ranger and city mayor who died in ’67, so poor Al got snubbed. The whole naming fiasco kind of ticks off climbers, and the diehards refuse to give beta to anyone asking about info on “Harrower” Peak.

We arrived in camp early so we had a chance to fish, explore a nearby waterfall, do a bit of sock laundry and foot washing, and plan activities for tomorrow’s layover day here.

A team meeting ended the day with a careful review of what lies ahead – some of the Wind Rivers’ most spectacular – and difficult – terrain.

A brief download of the NOAA point forecast via XGate (satellite data transmission) tonight suggests a bit of snow at higher elevations near Gannett Peak on Saturday…!

No photo tonight, we have poor satellite reception as we are surrounded by big peaks!