Day 5: Fremont Peak

Today we lay over at Indian Basin to take a “rest and relaxation” day.

So three of us decided to bag Fremont Peak.

Visible from Pinedale, 13,745′ Fremont Peak is not only the second highest peak in the Wind River Range, but also one of its most prominent landmarks.

John C. Fremont climbed the peak in 1842, believing it to be the highest peak in the Northern Rockies.

Fremont is a huge, hulking mass of buttresses and gullies, and is flanked by the magnanimous Fremont Glacier on its eastern flank.

And so, Eric, Andrew, and I left our camp at 6:35 AM, took a six-minute break for “breakfast” (a few hundred Calories of snacks and a few swallows of Nuun-laced water) in a talus field 40 minutes later, climbed Fremont’s Class 3 southwest route from Indian Basin, and stood atop the summit at a quarter after nine, three thousand vertical feet above our campsite.

The summit was a hostile place. Temperatures in the 30s F, stiff winds, stinging graupel and snow, and low clouds racing towards us kept our visit short. My fingers and toes were numb, in spite of their protection inside mountaineering boots and gloves. We descended a thousand feet quickly, took another “5” to drink and eat, and arrived back at camp at 10:45 AM.

This climb revealed the reality of being safe in the mountains: train hard, go light, and move fast. We ate little food, drank little water, didn’t stop long enough to get (too) cold, and we stayed at or below our aerobic threshold the entire time – so we never felt like we had to stop and rest to “recover from the effort”. We carried helmets, wind shirts, rain jackets, snacks, and water. We threw in one pair of rain pants and one insulating layer that would be worn by whoever was coldest at any given time.

Today, in the briefest of weather windows, we were able to sneak in a major summit with plenty of time back at camp for … our “rest day”! For this we are grateful.

When we arrived back at camp, camp appeared empty save one recently graduated senior who apparently wasn’t healed of senioritis upon receiving his diploma, as he was just emerging from his shelter. A bit groggy and confused (“Wait — you already climbed Fremont? What time is it?”), we found the scene rather hilarious which made for a nice entry into morning socializing over a proper breakfast of hot cereal and coffee.

After breakfast, Eric and I took our post-climb recovery naps, during which the others returned from their morning day hike to explore the views into Titcomb Basin. More food, conversation, laughter, and a quick scramble up a granite dome adjacent to our camp continued to mark all the right checkboxes for a successful layover day.

The weather is unsettled here – cold and windy with the occasional rain or hail shower. The sun made a few appearances in the afternoon and every effort was made to soak up its heat while it lasted. Nevertheless, I froze today. Maybe it was a byproduct of this morning’s climb. I wore all of my clothes today and at one point crawled into my sleeping bag just to stay warm.

Over the past few nights we have had lengthy discussions about route options for the last half of our trek in the context of a few minor injuries (a sore ankle, a few blisters), some exposure discomfort, and the overall emotional and physical toll that comes with carrying heavy packs.

Tonight we laid out a complex matrix of options: To attempt a Gannett summit, or not? How far north to try to go? Glacier travel or rubble and bush? Split the group or stay together?

In the end we all came to one conclusion: let’s all go for it as a team and see what happens.

As of tonight, our plan is to head north, some of us will attempt Gannett, weather and snow permitting, and then we’ll attempt a traverse across the glacier complex to the north. The next several days promise far more difficulty and uncertainty than what we’ve experienced so far.

But now are packs are lighter.

And now we’re firing on all cylinders as a team.

Here we go.

Godspeed,
RJ