Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ascent Of Warbonnet Peak, 1982*

In 1982, our young family lived in Minerva Park, a northeast suburb of Columbus, in a really nice big house on a 1/3 acre wooded lot, Vicki a teacher/librarian in Westerville, and I a freshly-minted Ph.D. in philosophy, working as assistant to the chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. (It's a long story). Rebecca was 8 years old and Rachel 2. As a teacher, Vicki had her summers off. As a state employee, I had the standard two weeks. So, more than once in a July or August, we would load up our VW camper Thursday night, and Vicki and the girls would pick me up at 5PM Friday at the corner of Broad and High, and we would take turns driving straight through to Jackson or Pinedale or wherever. We would do family hikes and horse rides, see the attractions, go on float trips, maybe meet up with friends or relatives. And I would do some solo climb or other, sometimes successful, sometimes not. In 1982, we drove over to Big Sandy Opening, Vicki and the girls stayed in the camper, and I walked in to climb Warbonnet and see the Cirque of Towers from above. It was planned to be a one-day walk-in/walk-out, and that is how it turned out, although it was a longer day than planned, and I did much of the walk-out in the dark.
Warbonnet in 1972; it's the the tall plumed one of your left
as you cross Jackass Pass walking in; the easy route, up the
back-side, abandons the trail in the vicinity of the Sundance
Pinnacle and then walks and boulder-hops its way to the top;
not a just keep walking and hopping toward the
highest thing you can see

The day started off fine but then clouded up and ended up
dark and stormy but with no precipitation nor lightning;
"it was a dark and stormy night, but with no precipitation
nor lightning"

Climbing up Warbonnet's back side

Pingora and the Cirque from above

Panning around

Lonesome  Lake; so for the final summit push, I took off my
pack and ice axe, and trudged on up the last few hundred feet,
crawling the last few because of the wind and exposure; I took
some pix, looked around, and then worked my way back to
where I thought the pack and ice axe would be; not there; not
anywhere I looked for the next two hours; finally, I gave up and
started back down as the daylight dwindled; fortunately there
was a granola bar and some water and a flashlight in my belt
pouch; I was back to the camper and family before midnight,
sadder but wiser; a score of summits and attempts later, I have
never again parted from my equipment; oh, it's a really nice
old-fashioned Stubai "Nanga Partbat" ice axe, Austrian, hickory
shaft, if you find it...

*from the Sherouse Family Digital Archives

The Cirque Of Towers, Wind River Range, 1972-92*

We first visited the Winds, and the Cirque of Towers, in 1972. The Cirque is one of the more spectacular of Alpine settings I know of, difficult of access, but of surpassing beauty and uniqueness. We visited again in the early 80s, when I climbed Warbonnet Peak, and then again in 1992, with our girls.
You turn off the highway at Boulder and then drive what were
then some pretty ugly roads, unpaved, for 25-30 miles or so,
and park at Big Sandy Opening; and then you walk; but
immediately the scenery is glorious; Haystack is the big
mountain with the giant face; from Big Sandy Lake

More of the initial scenery

Arrowhead Lake; points toward Shaft Lake; the trail to the
Cirque is reputedly the worst in the West, going up when it
should go down, and down when it should go up, etc.

Eventually, you reach Jackass Pass and your first good glimpse
of the Cirque

And Lonesome Lake; you camp by Lonesome Lake; in the
olden days, you could be pretty lonesome; not any more, I

A cirque is a circular array of mountains, usually around a lake;
so here we are panning around, first left, Warbonnet Peak, then
Warrior I...

And Warrior II and Warrior Ridge

More panning

And Pingora, the tower that looms 2,000
feet over the center of the cirque

And more panning

In 1972, climbing up the interior of the cirque to get a better
look at Pingora


And thus


Lonesome Lake again

Looking down the valley of the west fork of the Popo Agie,
toward Lander, some miles distant; Mt. Mitchell on the right,
named for Finis Mitchell, the Rock Springs climber/writer/
photographer/legislator who did so much to explore and
popularize this area--now all protected wilderness--among my
more prized possessions are some slides he sent me in the

August 20, 1972, the end of our first summer of backpacking;
6 inches of snow as we march out of the Winds

Magical place

*from the Sherouse Family Digital Archives

PS A few weeks after posting this, going through stuff in our storage unit in Missoula, I came across a post card Finis Mitchell also sent me, showing Gannett Peak and its features...

And thus

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Gone Paleoichthyologizin' In Western Wyoming, 1994*

Perhaps the best day fishing we ever had was on the high and dry plains of southwestern Wyoming, near the small but famous town of Kemmerer, in a sort of a "u-pick-em" fossil bed for 50 million year old fish. No rod, no reel, no bait, no license. Just a geologist's hammer and pick, and a long spatula (suitable for Parisienne crepes), and a guide from Warfield's Fossil Safaris.
Kemmerer is famous because it was the
birthplace of J. C. Penney and site of his
first store; all of this of some personal
interest since a few years previously
Vicki had represented now-defunct
Republic Bank's personal banking arm
in moving a number of Penney's
executives from NYC to Dallas; well,

En route to the fossil fields, a cow practicing the corpse pose

Eureka! Vicki has found an unusual specimen

A fresh water shrimp-like creature; so unusual that it would be
sent to the U of Wyoming for study (so they said)

Mainly we caught these guys, a couple dozen, limiting out; it's
not catch and release; you can buy these fossil imprints at rock
and fossil shops all over the planet (and ceramic copies);
better if you catch them yourself, and Kemmerer is the place to
do it; we kept ours in a special glass-covered barn-wood buffet
table in our home in  Missoula; of course now they're in a box
somewhere in our storage unit in East Missoula; sic transit,

*from the Sherouse Family Digital Archives

Monday, September 28, 2015

Titcomb Basin, 1994*

And in 1994, we did another vacation to the Winds, this time to Titcomb Basin, on the west side of the center of the range, one of the gateways to such big mountains as Gannett Peak. The hike in was demanding--the terrain, the elevation gain, the high country insects--but it was one of our best visits in the Winds, and with no mishaps, fiascoes, messes, nor wrecks. Looking at the photos 20 years later, I still think of it as one of the most beautiful Alpine places I have seen.
Worth the effort...

Gannet Peak surmounting it all [or maybe it's Fremont Peak?]

Numerous other peaks of note

Alpine flora

Animal friends

My main interest was in having a proper good look at Gannett's
main routes

Up closer

Serious glaciers...20 years ago

Vicki by one of the Titcomb Lakes

Granite city, beautiful place

*from the Sherouse Family Digital Archives

Green River Lakes, 1995: A Cautionary Tale*

And so it came to pass that in the early summer of 1995, we decided to do another Wyoming vacation, starting from our home in Dallas up through New Mexico and Colorado, and then to the Green River Lakes in the Winds, and perhaps the Tetons too. I remember marveling, as we passed through Colorado, how much snow remained in the high country. Anyhow, it was my hope to climb Square Top--it has an easy back side--and then proceed as far up the Green as we wanted. Vicki, as always, was game. We neither of us connected the dots about the snow.
Oh yes, Faler's, the great Pinedale general store, as it was in

Interior; the daid thangs had been thinned out somewhat by

Anyhow...Green River Lakes, and Square Top

The Green, a beautiful river

Looking up the valley, Stroud's Peak, I think, a bit left of

Part of the back side of Square Top;
I think

Vicki crawling across the "bridge"; I think I had her belayed on
the 7mm cord we always carry (not that it would have done any
good); our first and greatest mistake was simply heading up
the valley with so much snow above and a warm weekend
approaching...the second was crossing this two-log "bridge";
the third, though happily of no consequence, was ignoring the
dead horse on this side of the bridge--another story, with the
rangers--we were, and remain, suburban slickers

Further up the valley, Gannet Peak, perhaps, on the left;
glorious surroundings, great hopes

And we set up camp, just a bit beyond the bridge

It's a warm night and a warm morning and we arise to see our
little bridge getting battered by the rising torrent


And bridge

Thus; it dawns on us slowly that this is a problem; after
breakfast and lunch, Vicki counts 1400 calories of food
between us--it was supposed to be just an over-nighter; we
scrap plans for climbing Square Top, and I reconnoiter up
the trail and off trail, reasoning that, surely (don't call me
Shirley), there must be other bridges over the river; but I find
none and if anything the river rages even more wildly; I return
to camp and we spend a worried night there

Found, a few weeks after this post,, in our
storage unit in Missoula: the calculation; I was was 1,400 calories per person! 
Interestingly, I described the whole episode
as "a bridge too far"; which it was

At length, next morning, we decided to walk back down the
river and to find a place to ford, I mean, swim it; at this point
we are now into high foolishness, and never mind the incident
with the bull moose, who stood in our way, and who gently
walked us back out of his territory; there was a curve in the
river where it narrowed; I stripped and crossed it, partially
on a log, and then Vicki floated our packs to me using the
trusty 7mm cord; and then, attached to the cord, she began
swimming toward me

Here she is, soaking wet, an hour later;
she was swept under a cutbank, and two
U of Wyoming hikers arrived just in time
to help me pull her out; had they not
been there, perhaps both of us would
have drowned

The Green in flood

Me, nearly back to the campground; both
of us thinking deep thoughts about what
had gone wrong, what had gone right,
and how we might avoid such fiascoes in
the future; we developed some rules of
thumb, most all violated at one time or
another since then; we've been very

And so we bade farewell again to the Winds, still a favorite
place, but a place with some more complicated memories
and affections

*from the Sherouse Family Digital Archives