Footloose in the Central Wind River Mountains (1983)


1983 was a transitional year as I gave up working for Federal land management agencies and enrolled in law school on the first of September. Figuring that law school might impact my ability to spend time in the mountains, I crammed as much as I could into Summer. My summer included climbs at City of Rocks, peakbagging in Southeast Idaho, the Snake River Range, the Lemhi Range and the Bighorn Crags. The final trip was to the Wind River Mountains where Dana Hanson and I put in 50 miles and climbed 3 peaks.

We started this hike at the trailhead known as Big Sandy Opening in the central portion of the range. We were a bit rushed because we had to move from Idaho Falls to Moscow as soon as we got back.

Day 1. Big Sandy Opening to Dads Lake (6.0 miles). We followed the Fremont Trail from the trailhead to Dads Lake where we found excellent camping.

A tired Aussie, 15 year-old Samantha takes a nap at Dads Lake.

Dads Lake

Day 2. Dads Lake to Pyramid Lake (10.0 miles). This day’s route continued on the Fremont Trail for a couple of miles and then branched off onto the Pyramid Lake Trail. Pyramid Lake had excellent campsites. After setting up camp, we climbed Midsummer Dome (11,172 feet), which is roughly a half-mile from the lake via its North Side which was an easy Class 3 climb.

Pyramid Lake

Pyramid Peak

Midsummer Dome

The West Face of Mount Hooker. Our route climbs the right skyline.

Day 3. Pyramid Lake to Baptiste Lake via Hailey Pass (6.5 miles). In the morning, we climbed Pyramid Peak (12,030 feet) via the Southwest Ridge which was a Class 2 stroll. We then broke camp and walked back down Pyramid Lake Trail for a mile to catch the trail over Hailey Pass (10,200 feet). On the pass, we found the only non-technical route up Mount Hooker (12,504 feet) and took turns climbing it and dog-sitting. The route from the pass uses a ledge system that allows for a Class 3 ascent to peak’s large summit plateau. After climbing the peak, we followed the trail down to the Bear’s Ears Trail which we followed to Baptiste Lake (10,828 feet). The basin holding the lake sits below Mount Hooker’s impressive North Face which I believe is the biggest wall in Wyoming.

East Fork Canyon

The view from Mount Hooker.

Upper East Fork Canyon

Camp at Baptiste Lake.

The North Face of Mount Hooker as viewed from Baptiste Lake.

Day 4. Baptiste Lake to Graves Lake (4.5 miles). On this short day, we followed the Bear’s Ears Trail east to massive Graves Lake (9,964 feet).

Graves Lake

Day 5. Graves Lake to Bear Lake (13 miles). This was our longest day as there were no intermediate camping spots. We started out taking Bear’s Ears Trail east until we linked up with Lizard Head Trail. The trail climbs up to nearly 12,000 feet and follows a ridge south before dropping down to Bear Lake. There was no tread for part of the way but the route was well marked by cairns. We were starting to feel the time crunch imposed by our impending move and so we walked by 2 peaks which would have been short climbs.

Cathedral Peak as viewed from Valentine Lake. The Lizard Head Trail climbs up and over the peak’s northern flanks.

The Lizard Head Trail crosses a high plateau.

Looking into the Cirque of the Towers.


Day 6. Bear Lake to Big Sandy Opening (10.0 miles). Our last day took us through the iconic Cirque of the Towers. A good portion of the route traversing from Cirque of the Towers over Jackass Pass was trail-less and the use trail we followed was time consuming.

Looking back to the Cirque of the Towers from Big Sandy Pass.

Temple Peak as viewed from Big Sandy Pass.

Our loop and side trips covered 50 miles.

Next: Tales of Two Mountains