Entering Titcomb Basin

Wind Rivers #2 - Titcomb Basin Overnight - Sep/7-9/2006

By David Metsky

After the previous trip we had one night in the civilization that is Pinedale, complete with a gear store, laundry, and brew pub. We took an early breakfast and got to the only trailhead with fully paved access by 8:00 AM. There were a bunch of cars there, but no other people around. We had pretty heavy packs and the hike in was around 9 miles so we tried to keep a steady pace. The first 3 miles of the trail were a gentle climb, and the altitude wasn't really bothering us by now. It started to rain partway in, so we bundled up and put on our pack covers. I was hoping to get the view from Photographer's Point but by the time we arrived it was pretty socked in. We got a few little views, but for the most part it was gray.


The trail had a bunch of climbs and drops on the way to Seneca Lake, our destination for the night. The smaller lakes along the way were pretty, but it was somewhat hard to appreciate them in the rain. Two of the climbs were around 400', but doesn't seem like much but felt difficult with a full pack at altitude. We met up with several other groups headed out or in the middle of a long journey. Like at Big Sandy, there were many folks out for 5-10 days and we again felt like wimps. The last climb to the edge of Seneca Lake was a grunt, but finally there we were. We found a nice campsite on the far side of the lake that was protected from the wind and had a view. We set up our tent, hung our food, and took a well deserved nap.



The lake was a nice spot, pretty quiet, with a good food hanging tree closeby. There was another group camped nearby, they'd been there for a few days and were going to stay at least one or two more. We chatted a bit then went over to our cooking site for a freeze-dried meal. The next day was going to be a big day, up to Titcomb Basin and back, over 10 miles, and we were begining to feel the affects of no rest days. We tried to stay up until at least 9:00 PM, writing in our journals and playing cards, but then fell sound asleep.


Friday dawned pretty nice, certainly better weather than was in the forecast. We managed to get out pretty early and started the day by hiking past Little Seneca Lake and climbing over a small divide that for reasons best left unwritten is forever embedded in my memory as Poop Pass. From here we began to have views of the bigger mountains beyond that make up the Continental Divide. After a few ups and downs with views peeking through we dropped down to Island Lake. This was one of the most impressive locations we'd seen, and I wish we had been able to camp here for the night but it was too far a day. There was a surprising sandy beach on the far side and we stopped there for a snack.


After Island Lake we worked our way past the trail up to Indian Pass, which we also eyed as a side trip but it was again too far for this day. We continued past the trail junction and began the journey into Titcomb Basin proper. I thought I'd be a little blase after Cirque of the Towers but Titcomb really blew me away. First, it's huge. We didn't appreciate how huge until we'd hiked all the way to the end. Second, we saw only one person the entire time we were in there. There were many more folks in Cirque of the Towers then here. And finally, the mountains and glaciers are just killer impressive. I definately want to get back and explore them, attempting to summit at least one of those peaks and peer down the other side.



Did I mention that it was big? We hiked until well past noon before stopping for lunch. By misreading the map I thought we were closer to the end, but alas not. After a fine lunch (proscutto and cheese, yum) we pushed on, and on, and on, to the end. It was a long trip, easily 6+ miles total, and our dogs were barking. Both Brenda and I were suffering from plantar fasciitis and my feet had begun to ache. We were both carrying relatively small daypacks and we were a bit worried about rain in the afternoon. We had just a tiny rain shower as we started back, fortunately it didn't turn into more. A big chunk of the trip was in silence, we were both dead tired and grumpy, and we had a long way to go.


By the time we got back to Island Lake we were happy to rest on the rocks by the water. We ate as much food as we could and then started back to our tents. There were two remaining climbs on the way out, and they felt much bigger after a full day of hiking. The trip back actually went rather quickly, if in silence and pain, and we were back at our camp before 6:00. We changed and quickly went over to retrieve our food. We were ravenous and ate everything we cooking plus some of our extra food since we were heading out the next day. It was chilly but we had a beautiful sunset that we didn't really appreciate. We turned in and again played some cards (I lost every hand), and then crashed.



Our last day was overcast but not raining, but again, nicer than the forecast. This was our last day in the Winds and it was clear that both of us wanted to come back. Our trip was a quick tour to some stellar locations without the chance to do some more in depth exploration. The summits and high passes were calling to us, and we couldn't respond on this trip. But I'll be back eventually. We packed up and started out for the trailhead. Our feet were still sore from yesterday's hike so we took a fairly slow and steady pace. There were more ups and downs then I remembered as we passed by all the lovely little mountain lakes. It was raining on the way in so things looked different. We were eager to spot a bear but had to be content with an eagle and some chipmunks and squirrels. My big hope was that we would have clear views at Photographer's Point, and I wasn't disappointed. The view is amazing, putting the whole trip in perspective. We took a long break and soaked in the view while we ate lunch. This spot alone would have been worth the trip, and it would make an excellent dayhike.




The last few miles our were pretty, peaceful, and bloody agonizing. Brenda and I were both hurting so we used an old camp guessing game to keep our minds off the pain. The last 2 miles are a bit of a blur, but we made it out to the cars. There is a water tap at the trailhead and it made our feet feel so much better to run cold water over them and switch to sandals. We drove back to Pinedale, got ourselves some cold drinks, bought a few souveniers at the Outdoors store and started on the drive to Jackson. Along the way there was some great views back at the Winds and it was clear that there was so much more to explore. It's only a bit over 70 miles to Jackson and we took a leisurely time, enjoying the luxury of our Hyundai. There was a bit bike race going on during the last 10 miles or so, and we got a look at some fit people exercising at altitude. We checked into our hotel in Jackson, showered and changed, and headed over to my friend Scotty's house for bison burgers and beer. Ah, life in Jackson.




Back to White Mountains home page