Getting out and getting after it

I first glimpsed the scope the mountains of Wyoming when I was 15. My family was on an epic road trip to show my grandfather, who lived in England, what this country had to offer. I pressed my greasy, teen-age, face to the window, practically in despair as the Tetons and the Winds rolled by without so much as a quick romp-around to satisfy my outdoor lust. Alabama does not supply mountains on the scale or frequency that Wyoming does, and I knew I wouldn’t see them again for a very long time.

Entrance to Titcomb Basin, photo by Daniel Hoshizaki.

Entrance to Titcomb Basin, photo by Daniel Hoshizaki.

But last weekend my karmic wheel must have come full circle, because I had the opportunity to get out into them in a big way, and I did not going to miss my chance.

I had met a group of climbers from Salt Lake City at Wind River Brewing (WRB) the week before who were going to try to set a new rout on Fremont Peak.

My friend Daniel Hoshizaki, who took the photographs featured here, and I planned to hike in to document the trip, but even when we left Elkhart on Friday night it was all still theory. In fact the idea had only existed as a plan for about seven hours before we disembarked.

We gambled that they would let us get their story, but no contact had been established since I bumped into them at WRB. And even then, Shingo Ohkawa, who was something of the elder statesman of the group, described the trip as a chance to get away with his friends. Coming from a man who joked that he was “on the spectrum,” I felt there was a chance our presence would be utterly rejected.

Nevertheless, the trip would be enjoyable and after some minor repairs to my truck and a lap around Ridley’s for foodstuffs, we drove to the trailhead; our packs turgid with gear. Daniel and I made our way out of Elkhart and down trails as we headed towards Titcomb Basin, a story, and probably a pretty solid weekend.

Me looking for a rare eastern view in the winds on our way to Titcomb Basin

Me looking for a rare eastern view in the winds on our way to Titcomb Basin

We made it to Hobbs Lake just before dark, where we camped for the night. The next day we arrived at Island Lake around 11:00 a.m.

I had heard the Utah contingent was camped by a huge blue tarp, but it wasn’t on the side I thought it would be.

So after a moment of standing, puzzled, squinting across the lake and slowly getting the feeling like I had brought Daniel on wild goose chase, he pointed.

“Is that it over there,” he said.

I followed his fingers’ line through the trees to a trapezoidal patch of blue strung above the far side of the lake.

He stopped a young couple hiking past that confirmed our suspicions.

“Yeah, we wanted to go up there,” the girl said excitedly. “I heard they have a margarita mixer.”

“Oh yeah, they are up under the big blue tarp,” her companion added, “ It’s right off the trail, you can’t miss ‘em. Is that who you are looking for,” he asked.

We informed him that it was and thanked them both. When out of earshot, we quietly acknowledged that this was, in fact, going to be excellent.

We hiked up under the tarp and into a brief awkward moment where we were in their camp but they couldn’t tell who we were, then one by one they greeted us.

“Welcome to the crows nest,” Shingo said as we made our introductions and reintroductions to the group, who were lounging and taking in the day with their lunch. It wasn’t long before we were fully engrossed in the project and its vices.

We managed to do a lot in the half-day we spent at the crow’s nest, including rock jumping into Island Lake, a crash course in Rastafarian phrases, and some competition-quality grouse calls.

Jake Frerk and I doing a bit of swimming.

Jake Frerk and I doing a bit of swimming.

That evening we hiked into Titcomb Basin and bivouacked under a boulder beneath Fremont Peak.

Sleeping in the shadow of the mountains, I could not help but feel envious of the climbers. There is nothing like looking out from a sleeping bag to see a crest of peaks silhouetted with starlight, looking down like a cross between proud parents and death’s delivery men. I slept restively, and struggled with the idea of leaving the basin. Our weekend was coming to a close.

Fremont Peak

Fremont Peak loomed over the bivouac

We woke at 5 a.m., and Daniel hiked up the boulder field to photograph the climbers as they shrank to specs on the wall.

Then it was time to book it. We both had to get back for work on Monday.

From the bivouac above Mistake Lake to Elkhart Park, which we estimated somewhere between thirteen and fifteen miles, took us about eight hours. Near the end it seemed that the rutted out trails would never give way to pavement, and I briefly contemplated if that would be OK.

At 6:30 p.m. we trudged into Elkhart Park, exactly 48 hours after we left. We couldn’t believe that we had pulled this whole thing together so fast and it had turned out so well. I figured we blew our whole quota of luck for the month in two days, but didn’t have the energy to articulate it.

Though it lasted only a weekend, the story will probably come to stand for my whole month of July.

Editors note: This story was originally written for the Pinedale Roundup. The resulting article from this trip will appear in the Pinedale Roundup on August 7, 2015. See more of Daniel Hoshizaki’s work at danielhoshizaki.com