Thursday, July 23, 2015

Searching the Winds: Possibility #1

Before summer even began, I decided that I wanted to spend the last week of my summer vacation alpine bouldering somewhere in the Wind River Mountains. The Cirque of the Boulders was a possibility, but there were other places that might be easier to get to, or have higher rock quality, or have better landings.  So before I settled on a destination, I decided I'd check out some other places to see if anywhere might beat the Cirque for a week long expedition destination.  My first trip happened in mid-June.
An Exploratory Trip to Moss Lake

It was Jamie Emerson who first brought up Moss Lake as a potential bouldering area.  After I took a look at Google Earth I was kicking myself.  How could Jamie, in Colorado, find such an amazing looking boulder field in my backyard before I did?  Part of it was that I had avoided looking for areas that were on, or accessed through, the Wind River Indian Reservation.  But this area looked so good, and it was only a six mile hike, so it jumped to the top of my exploration list!

I hiked in from Moccasin Lake, which had a disappointing amount of trash around it for a lake so high in the mountains.  A trail took me to Mary's Lake and old signs pointed to a time when this area received more governmental attention than it does today.
After Mary's Lake, the trail shown on the map doesn't exist half the time.  I was on it occasionally, but downed trees forced me off frequently, and the trail disappears for long stretches.  I got excited when I saw a bridge, but it turned out that it isn't much of a bridge anymore.
The "trail/wandering somewhat lost in the woods" took me past many boulders, but I didn't spend time exploring them.  I'd learned that the boulders in the Winds just get better as you get higher, and I had a boulder field at Moss Lake that I needed to see.  The Moss Lake Cirque came into view, and I got really excited.  My pace quickened.

Soon perfectly sized boulders came into view.
I could see the upper boulder field, which was my final destination.  Unfortunately it was at the top of a steep slab which was covered in soft deep snow.  I couldn't safely get into the boulder field to get my hands on these rocks, but I did get up to a few boulders that fell out of this zone.  Big crystals, few features, and the features I found would flex and break when I pulled on them.  This area was lacking high rock quality, a good trail, and didn't have the full alpine ambiance that I was searching for.  The most amazing place I'd seen on Google Earth, didn't turn out to be that amazing.
On the hike out I noticed that the rock was actually getting better as I descended.  Some of the best looking boulders were near the small lakes just northeast of Gaylord Lake.  The patina is slippery, but the stone is solid and featured.  This area could offer some good bouldering, but it's harder to access than Roaring Fork and isn't substantially better.  With so many other areas that I'm more excited about, I doubt that I'll ever get around to developing it.
The rocks above are a five mile hike in.  The much better rock of the Falcon's Lair (seen below) is only a 3.5 mile hike, most of it is on a good trail, and it still has many undone lines that I'm interested in climbing.  
So Moss Lake wasn't what I was looking for.  The search would continue.  Possibility #2 was Midsummer Valley.
And I'll tell you all about my two trips up there.  Sometime soon...

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