The Wind River Range

“Remote” backcountry place popular with climbers, backpackers, and fisherfolk.

I write “remote” in quotes because there were easily over 100 cars in the Big Sandy Trailhead parking lot when I arrived. A bit shocking after an hour spent driving in on “Am I in the right place?” kind of dirt roads.

The Trip: Drive (8 Hrs) > hike (5 Hrs) >camp (4 days) > climb 1,000+’ faces (x2) > hike out (4 hrs) > Drive home

On Distances

My climbing partner is a sponsored athlete for a smartwatch company. Her watch measured all kinds of cool metrics, from atmospheric pressure to total fitness recovery level. But she didn’t even turn it on to measure the GPS track in or out.

So I can’t offer you much except to say, both in & out, it felt pretty far.

Final pass.

In Quick

The purpose of our visit was to climb some peaks, so we packed in two ropes, a load of protection, shoes & harnesses in addition to all of our camping gear and food for five days. Water, luckily, is abundant in the range, so we filled up and used filtration at natural streams. Still, as you can see from the photo above, the packs were heavy and the trail was long.

We arrived right at sunset, just as the winds shifted and decided to bring us a thick blanket of wildfire smoke. Sadly, it seems this will be the new normal for the American West in summer. We dealt with it last year. We deal with it today. Our children, I fear, will know nothing else.

But in the near past

We camped, we climbed (perfect weather), we rested, and we climbed again. Under mutual agreement, tired & satisfied with our winnings, we left a day early.

Be Mindful Of The Story You Are Telling Yourself

I sit here now, trying to find the story of this trip. A thru-line; a gimmick. An angle to take. I could describe the climbs, certainly — but trip reports in the purest sense bore me to death. We rocked up; we climbed. At times it was scary. We wandered left-to-right across massive rock faces, almost totally lost. At times silly. I carried a loose rock from belay to belay. Often frustrating. We drank strong whisky to animate us for the last pitch. On the summit, a dram more.

Scenes my partner and I have both lived plenty of times.

But the truth may be there is no lesson in this trip. No epic story. No lightning-bright moment of profundity. Just some climbs, a beautiful place, and a good friend. Some golden moments spent in the present, without worry.

This makes for bad content, of course.

But perhaps a good life.

The dirt and plants growing out of the crack is a sure sign this isn’t often climbed. “I think we’re lost!”

Pingora Peak in the background (right)
Cowboy & horse at Big Sandy Lake

In Closing

When your biggest concern for the day is “which meal am I gonna eat?” life is pretty good.

Be well,

Dan

An Almost-Disastrous Climbing Trip to Indian Creek

Indian Creek Creative Writing Essays

“There’s no cell service at the Creek.”

Jake’s garbled voice came through Meg’s car speakers. We were testing the ranges of civilization, on I-70 out of Colorado. Red, scrubby desert stretched for miles all around us.

“The only way to communicate at the Creek is by posting a note on the message boards,” the voice on the phone said. “We’ll meet you there tomorrow. Good luck.”

As we cruised through Moab, headed South, I sent the last messages I would send for three days. They bounced up from the Utah desert, hit a satellite, and then redirected across the Atlantic Ocean, to Italy.

We’ll be out of touch for a few days, I said. Let’s use this time to think about things.

Please be careful and come back in one piece? The response came. Otherwise all this pondering will be pointless.

Sure, I said, and the car continued on.

Within seconds: no signal.

Tomorrow would be the first day in four months, or maybe more, that this woman I and would not talk.

We drove on, and for there first time in months, I put my phone aside, my mind at ease.

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Chair 10 — Highline Express

Vail Double Black Highline Moguls

Vail’s Chair 10 is a perennial favorite with locals. Located to at the Eastern border of Vail’s frontside (far-left on the trail map), Chair 10 services black and double-black mogul runs. (It is also the quickest way to Two Elk Lodge and China Bowl; a little-known secret).

Chair 10 Trail sign Vail

For the dedicated mogul skier, there is no better terrain on Vail Mountain than Chair 10. There is rarely a line at the base, allowing for endless laps on endless bumps. If you opt to follow the liftline down the double-black Highline run, prepare for cheers (or jeers) from spectators on the lift evaluating your performance.

Gore Mountains in Vail, ColoradoChair 10 also provides some of the best views of the Gore Range which can be found anywhere on Vail mountain.

On a powder day, Chair 10 can provide a mellow and empty alternative to the always-too-crowded Back Bowls.