Part I of III
I’ve written about the Wind River mountains a few times, but despite their significance for me they’ve been a difficult place to get to in my adventures. 9 days ago I got off work late and pointed the car south with a loose plan and a lot of determination. Putting together partners for the whole 9 days wasn’t going to work, so I mixed and matched to make the most of my time. Sylvia would join me from Lander for the first 2 days, I’d have 2 days solo, and Bryan from Jackson would join me for the last 5 days. Sylvia met me in Pinedale and we made quick work of repacking and getting on the trail.
I got to know Sylvia while I was living in Portland. She moved to Lander in 2009 and though we haven’t linked up often, our time together has always been beautiful and significant. Her climbing focus lies in the foothills of the Winds at Sinks Canyon and Wild Iris, but she was eager to join me for an alpine excursion in the first part of my trip. Labor day weekend normally boasts great weather, no bugs, and good temps for climbing, and consequently the range is packed. We stayed away from the epically popular Cirque of the Towers, and found a great alpine introduction in the East Fork Valley.
Ambush Peak is huge and hosts a variety of amazing climbing lines. Sylvia always helps me remember to have more fun so when we saw the description for the Ambush Plasir route, we knew where we were headed. We hiked in on Saturday afternoon with huge packs, and I was grateful for the help schlepping two ropes, a double rack and 9 days of food in the range. We made fast work of 12 miles on trail and enjoyed amazing light on the walk in.
We left our camp at Skull Lake around 7am and hiked to the base of our route, dreading the sight of another party already on it. Instead we had our route (and the rest of the East Fork) to ourselves. The route is 10 pitches, with bolted belays but all traditional protection- making it a great introductory alpine route and an easy descent. I lead most of the pitches and got a good reminder that 5.9 slab climbing can still pucker your sphincter while you are having fun. The climbing, weather, and solitude were perfect, but the best part by far was the partnership. It was the longest climb Sylvia’s ever done, but that mostly just meant we had enough time to share the richness of the past few years that we’ve missed each other.
Since she left Portland, Sylvia has started a business and made a lovely life in a small place with big beauty. She’s grown in strength of spirit and courage of heart, and am grateful for her friendship. As they are with many friends I don’t see often enough, our conversations were both deep yet warm and fun in a way that only my mountain partnerships seem to inspire.
We got back to camp after dark on Sunday, shared coffee and breakfast the next morning, and parted ways at the Shadow Lake junction. Sylvia had to make the most of just a few days away from home and I took all the gear and headed towards the Cirque for the next part of my trip. The resonance of the universe is strong with me when I’m in the Winds and despite the weight in my pack I covered miles quickly. It is a special place indeed.