Sunday, July 26, 2015

Searching the Winds: Possibility #2

Three Hikes to Midsummer Valley

The Falcon's Lair has the finest granite that I've seen in the Wind River Range.  So after being disappointed by the rock quality at Moss Lake, I decided that it would be a good idea to see how far the high quality rock extended past the Falcon's Lair.  Davin, Jamie, and Ben were also interested in checking out a canyon known as Midsummer, just north of the Lair, so it jumped to the top of my list.  We made plans, and got out early.  The air was cool, with a nice breeze.  We hiked past the Falcon's Lair, and headed north across the tundra.
A large snow field dropped us right into the valley.
The approach is a mile and a half longer than the Falcon's Lair, but it was really nice not having to cross a lot talus, and the majority of the approach is on a trail.  It's a little too long for a bouldering day trip, but much easier to get to than the other expedition destinations that I've visited in the Winds.

The stone quality we found varied from good to excellent with the large boulders being a little spread out and usually found in the talus fields.  The ambiance of the area really impressed me, with multiple  canyons holding bouldering possibilities, clean walls, and even a few waterfalls.
We hiked up canyon to the west, exploring the boulders along the way, and found a twenty-five foot tall calving snow drift!
Midsummer Valley impressed me.  So much so, I immediately started making plans to get my family up there.  The only way I could make it work was to hike my large pad, packed with two tents and four sleeping bags, up there in advance.  It was a lot of work.  I stashed the gear in a small dry cave, hiked out, and repeated the hike with my family up a couple days later.  Based on the two hikes I'd made, I expected cool temps and few mosquitoes.  During the hike in with my family we had good temps, but the mosquitoes were relentless.

The girls handled it well though.
We set up camp, had dinner, and I hung the bear bag with our food just before a stunning sunset.
I slept well, awoke at sunrise, and scoped more boulders before we started climbing.  This time I explored down canyon from the camping ledge rather than to the west.  I found small, but climbable boulders, with amazing stone and good landings.  I also looked again at the large boulders within talus fields just west of the camping ledge.  Since this was a family trip, with only two pads, we stuck to the small boulders with good landings just below camp.  A constant challenge while alpine bouldering in the Winds is getting enough pads back to these areas to be able to safely climb the best lines.  Often it just isn't possible, and the best lines remain unfinished.

Despite staying on the smaller boulders, it would have been an amazing day.  The rock was incredible.  But heat and mosquitoes detracted from the experience.  Our day up there happened to be one of the hottest days of the summer, without even a hint of a breeze.  But we couldn't get anywhere else, so we climbed in the heat.

Ashley warming up on some of the perfect stone.
"Midsummer Sunshine" V2/3 was my favorite line of the day.  It starts on a good edge and virtually campuses up the arete, due to a lack of foot holds.  The arete has just enough friction to make it go.
We worked on a difficult project for a while.  I'm still not sure if this one goes or not. The bump under my right hand can barely be called a hold.
One nice line that Ashley put up is "The Columbine Traverse." She did both a shorter V2 and a longer V3 version.
To get home by sunset we stopped bouldering by 2:00 in the afternoon.  We took down the tents, and everyone helped me by packing out more gear than they carried in.  But my large pad was still excessively heavy, stuffed with so much gear.

Autumn sitting on my stuffed pad.  If only you could actually see how heavy it was.

Hiking out under all the weight, with burning shoulders and aching hip joints, I had a chance to consider the trip in it's entirety. We'd gotten full work outs, put up quite a few new problems, and spent some time in an incredibly beautiful environment, but it had been so much work to do it. Including my trip to stash gear, I'd spent a lot more time hiking than I had bouldering.  Once all the factors were considered, I decided that it's better to spend summer days at the Rock Shop with my family.  It's considerably easier to get up early to beat the heat, or camp up there, than it is to get all the necessary gear up to and out of the alpine areas.  By the last mile out of Midsummer Valley, my legs and shoulders hurt so bad that I was questioning my own sanity.  Optimism usually serves me well, but this trip was too much.

Reflecting on it now, I learned quite a bit my three trips up there.  I stopped pushing alpine bouldering on my family, and we've had really great sessions at the Rock Shop instead.  I know that Midsummer Valley really is an amazing place.  I'm sure that I'll get back there, but a couple things keep it from being ideal.  It doesn't have a concentration of big blocks with good landings, and it doesn't have the extensive views of giant peaks or walls that can significantly add to the alpine bouldering experience.  It's one of the most beautiful valleys that I've ever seen, but the view is limited by the sides of the valley.  I imagine an alpine area with big blocks of bullet hard stone, all sitting on soft tundra, surrounded in all directions by amazing scenery.  I've felt for a long time that an area like this must exist somewhere in the Winds.  Hopefully it would only take one more hike to find it...


AdamKeif said...

Anybody been to upper Baer lake and the Echoe lakes?

Also, is the rock quality any good on that dome by the Louis Lake Campground?

I'm moving to lander in a few days.

Lloyd Family said...

Welcome to Lander! Baer and Echoe lakes don't ring a bell, but I have hiked around the Louis Lake Campground. I'm sure that there are some problems to be found there, but I prefer the rock quality at other areas around Lander such as the Rock Shop.

Davin said...

There are too many places in the Winds that are big blocks in meadows to list, but they are all very far in, day to multiple days in! Full expeditions, but very worthwhile.

Midsummer may be a better place to use fast and light tactics for a long day or brief overnight with a small group to assure enough pads. No tents, sleeping bags, stove, etc...

My hope is to find the areas where fast and light can work for those long days.

Looking forward to continuing the hunt with you!