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[TR] Southern Winds - Old farts reunion tour 7/14/2012

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Trip: Southern Winds - Old farts reunion tour


Date: 7/14/2012


Trip Report:

Ever wonder what would happen if you got together a bunch of old partners from decades ago? Could you track them down? Can they still climb? Would they get along?


So the plan started with Peter (Grand Jct. CO), then Andy (Sioux City Iowa) and finally Sayfe (Phoenix). I climbed with each these guys in the early 90s, but never together. Sayfe and Peter connected later in Oregon and did some fine climbs together, (including an intimate bivy on Mt. Stuart, which is not my story to tell). The goal was to get together in the Winds, a place we’d all dreamed of.


We spent most of our week in the Deep Lake area then made a short pilgrimage to the Cirque of the Towers, about six miles further. We avoided the two ‘Classic Climbs of NA’ in the Cirque, so this TR has little resemblance to others from the Winds. We found excellent climbing on the four routes we did (more details below), but first some scenery:



The crew: Peter, Sayfe, Curt Andy



Classic Winds approach - mellow and scenic



Approaching camp above Clear Lake



Steeple and East Temple



Temple Peak



Looking toward the Cirque over Deep Lake



Obligatory Cirque porn



Two heads: Andy and Wolf's



Early morning light on Warrior peaks



Festering mosquito breeding ground


Flash Flood (5.9, 5p) & North Face Haystack (5.6, 4p)“Welcome to Wind River 5.9!” Being new to the Winds and their notorious afternoon storms, we started with something modest – or so we thought. First two pitches are scrambly climbing under the arch.



Haystack Peak - North Face just around the left skyline. Flash Flood meets it from below, climbing through the arch and up the shadowy dihedral


At Pitch 3, the business begins– the stepped dihedral is impeccably clean, but pro is sparse and never quite where you want it. The arch is turned via steep 5.9 crimping above a single ancient ¼ bolt (only bolt of the entire trip – this place is trad heaven!). Just when the belay comes into sight, I realize I must crank another pumpy layback around a fixed pin. Once the belay is rigged, I notice the rain is getting serious. Andy grapples with P3 and continues on the sharp end. Right off the belay is a steep corner with dicy thin gear (old skool 5.8), then the crack eases for a ways. Pitch 4 has a couple more bouldery cruxes, then a roomy ledge. The beautiful thin corners of pitch 5 would make a spectacular finish if it wasn’t so wet and windy.



Dr K and impeccable rock for pitch 3



Pitch 5 in the rain


We find a protected spot for a bite and listen for Sayfe and Peter’s voices below, in vain. The rain slacks off, so we remind ourselves that we are Cascadians and continue to the top of Haystack via the North Face route. The climbing is easy but entertaining – continuous mid-5th corners and slabby face. The Grassy Goat Trail descent goes smoothly, and Sayfe and Peter are waiting in camp. Having their own struggles to complete Flash Flood, we are skeptical of my remaining route ideas.



Grassy Goat Trail descent


North Ridge of Steeple Peak (5.8, 5p): “Memorable, indeed!” Steeple is so prominent from camp that we all agree that a run at the standard 5.8 route is next. It's got a real (hour+) approach, but the first two pitches are classic cracks reminiscent of the Gendarme pitches on Stuart. The first is a thin corner (5.8) that gets friendlier. The second heads out a ramp, over a giant flake and into a cool and committing right-angling crack.



Steeple Peak - the route is obvious from miles away...



Scrambling to the start



"um yeah, I'd lead this one"



Sayfe crankin'


A bit more scrambling and the real drama appears – the upper peak is split by a giant chimney that invites various anatomical and mythical comparisons. My strategy works - generously take the first lead (5.7 with some runout and exposed moves) and offer Sayfe the second “easier” 5.6 chimney pitch. Although deep in the bowels, the chimney is steep and demanding. From past chimneys in the Valley, Sayfe found it more like 5.9 (not sure if our getting older and climbing less was adequately accounted for).



Sweet little splitter



The Mines of Moria


After the chimney, a corkscrew scrambling pitch leads to the top. Summit views are amazing and include the seldom-visited Black Joe valley and walls to the east. Descent is via multiple rappels and scrambling down the South Ridge (a Chouinard route), and a maze of ramps and talus. Andy and Peter plunge into frigid Deep Lake; Sayfe and I head back to get a jump on cocktail hour.



Sun again



Black Joe valley and lots of remote granite


Grassy Crack (5.6, 7p): “Junkiest climb I’ve ever loved”. Andy’s and my ambition to get on a larger climb (Minor Dihedral) fades with the early cloud buildup. Peter and Sayfe are already on Railroad Tracks (5.8), so we opt for this impressive line (aside from the name), which follows a 4’-wide chimney straight up the 600-foot face.



Grassy Crack is the obvious vertical crack system right of center - a proud line for 5.6! Railroad Tracks angles in from the left.



Veggies make a nice belay seat


Per Murphy, the rain cranks up around pitch 4, but the climbing is juggy and reasonably well protected, so we forge on. Guidebook author Kelsey says you can climb cracks to the left, but Andy’s attempt found it loose and unappealing. Not that there aren’t loose blocks in the chimney, but it’s pretty easy to stem around. Not as classic as its neighbors, but a fun route and close to camp.



Exiting the mega-chimney


South Buttress Pingora (5.6/8, 4p): “Finest 5.6 on the planet?” With one climbing day in the Cirque, we were looking for proven quality and we found it! The ledge and slab approach is a bit exposed, but puts you right up onto the golden buttress. Peter and Andy took the standard 5.6 cracks (“outstanding!”), while Sayfe and I chose the 5.7 central crack that leads to the K-Crack headwall. The K Cracks (both 5.8) are about as fine as alpine rock can be - long diverging finger cracks up a white slab right on the crest of the buttress. From there, it was a Class 3 & 4 scramble to the summit.



Pingora is the Liberty Bell-shaped peak - the South Butt comes up the left skyline.



The belay views are decent: Warbonnet (L) and Warrior peaks



Starting the left K Crack



Climbers on K Crack (center) and standard 5.6 finish (left)


Across the gap, we watch a free soloist grapple with route-finding issues on the exposed East Ridge of Wolf’s Head, glad to not be in his shoes. For the first time all trip, there was no 2 pm shower, so we all took a dip in icy Warrior Pond on the way back.



"Oh yeah, we just on-sighted this sucka..."


So, how was it climbing with old buddies? Pretty darn cool! The tempo was more relaxed than when we were hell-bent 20-somethings - so much more appreciation for the food creation, the amazing scenery, and our various personality quirks. Trail conversations that used to focus on future climbs, now include career pitfalls, family politics, middle eastern history, Higgs-Bosson particles, you name it. The ‘connection of the rope’ is still there.



"Damn...it's back to work on Monday"


Gear Notes:

The thick pad was nice. Bug net never used.


Thanks to my fine partners for bringing and using their cameras.


Approach Notes:

Airporter, Delta, Imogene (Peter's Suby) to Big Sandy

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Wow nice, I hope to get some old pards together on something like this, not sure I have shaken off that 20 something drive though. thanks for posting the fine report.

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I had always heard how awesome the winds were, and boy those pictures make me want to take a trip there right away! Looks like a great time! :brew:



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