Wind Rivers, Circling Downs Mountain

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nunatak
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Wind Rivers, Circling Downs Mountain

Post by nunatak » Sun Sep 16, 2018 10:35 am

September is arguably the best month for backpacking the western US mountains.

Finally this year we managed to get a week off that handily coinciding with a stellar forecast for the Winds.

The route we did is partly inspired by @Wandering Daisy's recent report from the same general area.

From near Dubois we did a loop circling Downs Mountain (northernmost thirteener on the CD?), crossing the divide twice and lake hopping in Bear Basin. The 50ish mile route also included some intimate contact with the rapidly melting Dinwoody complex of ice fields north of Gannet, including the Connie, Sourdough and Continental glaciers.

The off trail portions were rather strenuous, ranging from the vegetation dense traverse of the two Ross lakes to labyrinthine plodding around the many barren and precipitous lake shores of the very remote Bear Basin.

The mellow, but longish Glacier Trail exit finished the trip with scenic and pleasant miles.

We encountered 3 other parties during the entire trip, all of them on the trail portions. As far as wildlife the most exciting were a weasel and five immature Harlequin ducks playing in a rapid. There were recent signs of bighorn, moose and elk here and there. Nothing of bears, tho.

Our camps were at Mile Long; unnamed lake below Kevin; tiny tarn in Gannett creek canyon; and Philips lake.

All images with iPhone 7Plus

ImageUntitled by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Between two bushwhacks along the shores of the Ross lakes

ImageImage 9-15-18 at 18.33 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Coming up the last part of the gully above Mile Long lake to Ram Flat and the divide. Continental glacier and Downs Mountain behind

ImageImage 9-15-18 at 18.36 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Unnamed lake in Bear Basin

ImageIMG_2953 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Above Bear Lake, the lowest of the many remote lakes in Bear Basin

ImageImage 9-15-18 at 22.39 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Connie Glacier

ImageImage 9-15-18 at 22.40 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Connie again, from the divide

ImageImage 9-15-18 at 22.42 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Iceberg lake, Sourdough glacier and Klondike peak. It was constantly windy for all five days, and really cold on the divide.

ImageImage 9-15-18 at 22.44 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Getting on the northern reach of the Dinwoody Glacier complex. Titcomb Basin headwall from the backside on the left

ImageImage 9-15-18 at 22.46 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Descending off the divide after many miles above 12K

ImageImage 9-15-18 at 22.48 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Partly frozen lake with the glacier spilling in. Recent large slush avy on the left below Pedestal pk

ImageImage 9-15-18 at 22.53 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Where to get a sip of of water?

ImageImage 9-15-18 at 23.01 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Bastion Peak and the steep, receding remains of a glacier. Crossing below this on loose, unstable moraine debris in a narrow valley was the crux of all five days.

ImageImage 9-15-18 at 22.52 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Baker lake separated by a moraine from the silty Iceberg lake

ImageImage 9-15-18 at 23.03 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Sunrise in the talus

ImageImage 9-15-18 at 22.56 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Looking back up where we came from. The steep gash directly below Gannett contained our 3rd camp

ImageImage 9-15-18 at 23.03 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr
Descending back into the rain shadow area above Dubois

ImageImage 9-15-18 at 22.50 by jan nikolajsen, on Flickr








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edhyatt
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Re: Wind Rivers, Circling Downs Mountain

Post by edhyatt » Sun Sep 16, 2018 12:53 pm

Utterly transfixing :)

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Re: Wind Rivers, Circling Downs Mountain

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Sep 16, 2018 6:40 pm

You traveled quite fast through a lot of tough terrain!

The part you did from the saddle near Connie Glacier to the Glacier Trail is generally the reverse of Skurka's High Route. From the saddle, Skurka however, simply stays on the high plateau heading northeast to connect with the Glacier Trail; thus missing some of the most scenic areas on either side of the plateau. I really like the Ross Lakes, in spite of the bushwhacking. Bear Basin is too, one of my favorite places. And Baker Lake is fantastic. I think your Baker Lake photo is out of order- you hit Baker Lake before you do all the travel on the Gannett and Dinwoody glaciers. Did you come down the Gannett Glacier or did you traverse over to the Dinwoody to descend? (Sorry, I had trouble seeing that on the map- I still have not gotten new glasses since I broke mine falling on my face in Bear Basin in August).

I am so glad you had good weather. There were a few days of snow before you stated. Looks like you were treated to an Indian Summer.

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nunatak
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Re: Wind Rivers, Circling Downs Mountain

Post by nunatak » Sun Sep 16, 2018 8:40 pm

Yes, that pic of Iceberg and Baker is out of sequence. Good call. That was my favorite area too. We finally joined timberline by descending what's marked as Gannett Creek on the 7.5 map.

We wanted to walk down the full Grasshopper glacier from near the frozen lake at the base of Pedestal, then go to Downs lk and over Goat Flat to Bomber instead of the long, dusty Glacier Trail. However, I was a little concerned about steep loose fresh moraine terrain. Have you been down that way recently?

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Re: Wind Rivers, Circling Downs Mountain

Post by robertseeburger » Wed Sep 19, 2018 12:11 pm

The pictures are great!! Especially Bear Basin. I got to put this on my list. Looks like you are using micro spikes on the glaciers.. Is that all that you needed?

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Re: Wind Rivers, Circling Downs Mountain

Post by nunatak » Wed Sep 19, 2018 10:10 pm

I carried an axe and Sonja used a Whippet style self arrest tool. These allowed a little more boldness in route choices, but weren't strictly necessary.

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Re: Wind Rivers, Circling Downs Mountain

Post by Wandering Daisy » Wed Sep 26, 2018 8:37 pm

The last time I walked down the Grasshopper Glacier was in the 1970's and it has since, retreated considerably. I ran into a NOLS mountaineering course this summer and they were headed up the Grasshopper Glacier, so the route is still do-able, just more moraine and less glacier.

The last time I descended Gannet Creek was also in the 1970's. I recall we got off snow pretty soon and had to deal with the moraine. I did both these on NOLS courses, and I did a lot of early courses that started first of June, so a lot of the travel we did on glaciers was on the current year's snow, not on the ice. We did not use crampons, but were always roped up and carried ice axes and had pre-tied prussik slings in case we fell in a crevasse. We also traveled in groups of about 15 people when on a glacier, so there was lots of help if one did fall in.

I have been down and up the Dinwoody Glacier twice (over Glacier Pass), and one year there were few if any crevasses; the other year it was full of crevasses. Same with the Mammoth Glacier. Went over it in the 1970's when it was basically a big snowfield. Did it again in 2007, and it was full of huge crevasses. In fact, we only got over one crevasse because a big rock had landed in it. Then I met a fellow in 2012, who said he did not see any crevasses. Glaciers are very dynamic and change conditions every year. Years ago one simply stepped from the glacier onto the rock when climbing Gannett Peak; now a huge burgshrund has developed and it is 4th class climbing to access the rock rib that goes to the summit.

As much as I can nowadays, I try to skirt around moraines or stay on the edges so I can get off more easily if needed. Recent moraines can be unstable- in 2002, I actually stepped on what looked like ground and fell through, caught by my backpack! Glaciers and moraines are often easier to travel early season when still covered with solid snow.

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Re: Wind Rivers, Circling Downs Mountain

Post by nunatak » Sat Sep 29, 2018 7:37 pm

Thanks, WD!

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Re: Wind Rivers, Circling Downs Mountain

Post by edhyatt » Tue Oct 02, 2018 12:52 am

Wow - that looks great

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nunatak
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Re: Wind Rivers, Circling Downs Mountain

Post by nunatak » Sat Oct 06, 2018 9:03 pm

edhyatt wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 12:52 am
Wow - that looks great
Thanks. Equal to the Cairngorms, I'd say.

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