Backpacking the Winds: From Elkhart TH to Titcomb Basin, July 2018

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Yvonne

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Backpacking the Winds: From Elkhart TH to Titcomb Basin, July 2018

When my friend Lisa asked me if I wanted to join her to backpack to Titcomb Basin in the Wind River range, I couldn't say no. This was a trip I wanted to do for years. Despite barely being in shape and with all my lung and breathing issues, I agreed to join her. Lisa herself was not in great shape, so I felt a bit more comfortable joining her on the trip.
Another issue I had to solve was to get some backpacking gear that would work in high elevation mountain camps. I had a summer sleeping bag, pad, small solo tent, and a stove, but that was it pretty much. In one of the local outdoor stores, I found a really lovely lightweight 40L backpack. This pack would offer more than enough space for a 5-day trip, and I wasn't wrong with the calculations. I even had enough space for my little camp chair.


Fully packed and ready to go

The day of our trip came soon, and I headed up north, where I met with Lisa in Salt Lake City. We packed my stuff in her car, grabbed some dinner on the way and were up north toward Pine Dale. We arrived around 11 pm at the Elkhart trailhead and slept in the car. This would give us an early start tomorrow morning. I didn't sleep so well, but the high altitude of more than 9,000 ft might have been the culprit.

Day 1:
We woke up at sunrise, had a quick breakfast, and finished packing up our packs. The trailhead itself was pretty packed and busy, and we were not the only ones that slept in their cars. And on the way we went. The first mile or two was through a forest of lodgepole pines, and we followed Pole Creek as it meandered next to the trail. Even here in the forested area, we already encountered a lot of wildflowers, and unfortunately, the first mosquitoes. Frequent photo stops allowed us to adjust to the elevation and move forward at a leisurely pace. The first meadow opened up and provided the first excellent views of all the mountain goodness ahead of us.



Our next stop was at Photographers Point, and the awe-inspiring views required us to stop for a bit and to enjoy the views to a full extent. Several lakes were nestled into the valley below, surrounded by granite peaks of the range.



We continued and crossed another meadow, which was fully covered in wildflowers and small tarns. It was such a serene scenery. Near Eklund Lake, we turned off Pole Creek trail and on to Seneca Lake trail. At Barbara Lake, we stopped for a small break and embraced the scenery.


Meadow and tarn near Eklund Lake


short break at Barbara Lake

We continued and took our time. The scenery was magnificent, so it didn't matter at all. At one point, we arrived at one of the passes we needed to hike down. The view from the top of the pass offered additional scenic views, and we stopped again for a lot of pictures.


Fremont and Jackson Peak in the distance


No trip is complete without a backpack selfie

We walked down the pass and encountered another meadow full of wildflowers. It was just so beautiful!!! I was tempted to just lay down in the meadow and do nothing for a while. I actually did, while Lisa cooled her feet in one of the small tarns nearby.



Life was good, and nature provided so many surprises. From here, it wasn't too far to Hobbs Lake, and we decided to camp here tonight. Another short climb out of the meadow followed, and then we arrived at Hobbs Lake.



Luckily we found a great campsite right next to the lake with stellar views and pitched our tent. We had decided to share Lisa's 3-person tent, and there was more than enough room for both of us.




We explored the area, walked around the lake, and just relaxed. Even here were a lot of wildflowers and we took a lot of pictures. The mosquitoes were out in full force, but it was definitely okay with a head net.



Sunset was lovely but not super dramatic without any clouds. But I guess that's complaining at a high level.



Day 2:

The next morning started with a lot of clouds, so I guess someone heard my complaints. The night itself was not super cold, as I had initially feared with my 45-degree summer sleeping bag. But I had placed an emergency space blanket underneath my sleeping pad, and it kept the cold from the bottom away, and I was warm enough. This was definitely a great and lightweight alternative.
We had breakfast and broke camp. Today would be a beautiful day with a lot of scenery along the way. Our goal was to set up camp at Island Lake.


Columbines



Small Kettle Lake near Seneca Lake

We crossed the outlet of Seneca Lake and then followed the trail along its shores. Now and then, the sun broke through the clouds, and the patches of wildflowers all along the trail were just amazing.


Lisa crossing the outlet


Selfie in the flower bed

Eventually, the trail went down to the shorelines of Seneca Lake and provided excellent views of the lake and surrounding areas. There were some campsites near the lake, but they were pretty limited and probably filled up fast.






We decided to take a nice snack break on the shores of the lake, and I used the chance for some selfies. Several glacial erratics were spread out into the landscape, remnants of the former glacier that covered the area.


Selfie on top of an erratic




Seneca Lake

The trail continued up to the northern shore and to Little Seneca Lake, which was pretty scenic itself. I'm pretty sure, in the future, I'll be heading back and explore more of the area.


Little Seneca Lake

Soon after, we came to a trail junction with Lester Pass but continued up to the north. The trail started to climb a small pass and offered some excellent views back. Both Lisa and I slowly made our way up, huffing and puffing, while we enjoyed the scenery.


Lisa working her way up the pass


The view toward Lester Pass

It was quite the workout to get to the top, but as soon as we reached the top, a beautiful meadow rewarded us. Wildflowers again were out in abundance and provided some sweet eye candy.



After about an additional mile, we had the first fantastic view of Island Lake. Wow, what a pretty and amazing place. There was still a good amount of snow lingering around, and some of the areas were pretty boggy and infested with mosquitoes.



Despite the feisty little suckers out in full force, we enjoyed the scenery a lot. We found a camp spot high above the lake with a wonderful view and quickly pitched the tent.


Island Lake


Life is Good!!


What a great campsite


Room with a view

Typical camp chores followed like filtering water and hanging our food bags, but then we finally could relax. I used some patches of snow to glissading down a bit. It was actually a lot of fun.



Dinner followed a bit later after a small nap, but with all the mosquitoes, it was not an easy task. We had to eat with our head nets on and lifting the net, shoving the food in your mouth and not get bitten was definitely a task that needed some practice.
After dinner, we enjoyed the sunset from our camp. Luckily a few clouds moved in just in time and made it a bit more appealing.





Elephant Head Peak




With the last light available, we hung our food bags, and I enjoyed the alpine scenery with a rising moon.




Day 3:

I woke in the middle of the night because I heard some rumbles of thunder. Pretty soon, a lightning storm took place, and the thunder was the loudest I have ever heard. It was even louder than the explosions of Kilauea volcano. Torrential rain came down, and the entire area trembled and shook with each clap of thunder. It was pretty amazing, but it took me a while to fall asleep again. When we got up around seven, the mist was already lifting, and the sun broke through the clouds.
We had breakfast and then started to day hike into Titcomb Basin. This was a bucket list item for both of us for several years, and we were more than just excited to finally see it.
We climbed up a ridge and ended up on a beautiful plateau with a wildflower meadow.


view to the northeast

We passed a small inlet lake with some fantastic reflections, and we needed to stop here for a while.



The scenery stayed top-notch the entire time, and between wildflower meadows, granite peaks, and small lakes and streams, we encountered really everything.





Small tarns and kettle lakes showed recent evidence of glaciation. It was beyond stoked and enjoyed the alpine scenery to its full extent.











We really had a glorious day out here, it was calm and peaceful, and most of the small lakes and tarns had terrific reflections.






Elephant Head

Eventually, we reached the Titcomb Lakes, a string of glacial lakes that end at the base of the glaciated area that goes across Knapsack Col.



And finally, we reached the last lake. Its shores were covered in wildflowers, and we both were totally in awe. It was so beautiful.





I'm admiring the view

We enjoyed the views for a long time, but then dark clouds started to move in, and it looked that we would get one of the afternoon thunderstorms.



Very soon, Fremont Peak was covered in clouds, and in the distance, we could hear some rumble of thunder. It was time to retreat and start to hike back.


Fremont Peak covered in clouds



About halfway back, it started to rain and continued as a steady light rain all the way back to camp. We both needed to warm up a bit, and that's when we decided to take a nap. Later that afternoon, the clouds broke, and the sun was out again. We filtered water, prepared dinner, and repeated the fight against the mosquitoes. After dinner, we enjoyed one of the best sunsets in a long time.



Even though most of the clouds were initially gone, some moved back in and created an amazing scene. It was exactly what I had hoped for.








The show lasted for quite a while, but eventually, it started to get dark. We hung our food bags and went to bed early. It was definitely a fantastic day, and we both crossed off one of our bucket list items.

Day 4:

We got up around seven again, had breakfast ad started to break camp. Most of our stuff needed to dry out a bit because of all moisture that lingered around all night, but finally, we were ready to go. We decided to camp again at Hobbs Lake and then hike out from there to the trailhead.




Beautiful views again on our hike out, but I guess the scenery out here never disappoints.







Back at Hobbs lake, we could snag the same campsite and quickly pitched our tent. After that, it was time for a swim in the lake. I was surprised that it was pretty warm and we enjoyed the water for quite a while.







The rest of the day was pretty relaxing, and we walked around and enjoyed the scenery. Unfortunately, my memory card was almost full, so I had to limit my urge to take pictures.




Day 5:

It was pretty overcast the morning when we woke up. We started to break camp, had breakfast, and packed the last few items before we began to hike out. The packs were definitely lighter than on the way in, and we made good progress.




We stopped again at Photographers Point and enjoyed the view. From now on, the rest of the trail would be through the lodgepole pine forest without any views.




Around 11 am, we reached the trailhead and were back at our car. What a fantastic trip it has been. We celebrated with a beer and some snacks and started to drive back to Salt Lake City. From there, I continued to Hurricane and was back home around 11 pm that night. I never wanted a shower so bad then that night. It was an amazing adventure, and I'm glad I could go. We both were not the fastest hikers on that trip, but sometimes there is no need to hurry at all. I'll definitely be back one day and might approach some of the more accessible peaks that looked so inviting.
 

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Miya

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Everything is so stunning!
So many flowers, I would have been in heaven and would have been stopping every few minutes to take macros! Lol
I love the one with the downed tree framing the flowers!
Looks like an awesome trip! The Wind River Range is still on my bucket list.
 

Yvonne

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Everything is so stunning!
So many flowers, I would have been in heaven and would have been stopping every few minutes to take macros! Lol
I love the one with the downed tree framing the flowers!
Looks like an awesome trip! The Wind River Range is still on my bucket list.
you would love it!!!
I definitely need to go back. And despite the mosquitoes, I loved it end of July with all the wildflowers.
I took so many pictures that my memory card was almost full on the 4th day of the trip. And I do not have a fancy camera, just a small simple Sony camera. But I learned that I need to bring at least a 32GB memory card next time I go.
 

texasbb

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Great trip, gorgeous pictures. I hiked that general area a couple years ago, but went the other way at Eklund Lake. I was there to view the solar eclipse so I avoided the whole Titcomb area and made my way across the divide to find some solitude. Gotta go back, though, and see that area. Thanks for the report.
 

Yvonne

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Great trip, gorgeous pictures. I hiked that general area a couple years ago, but went the other way at Eklund Lake. I was there to view the solar eclipse so I avoided the whole Titcomb area and made my way across the divide to find some solitude. Gotta go back, though, and see that area. Thanks for the report.
I looked at exactly that route today on Google Earth and have to say it looks pretty inviting. I'm also drawn to explore more of Indian Basin and Lester Peak, so there is definitely more potential for future trips.
 

Hiker Seth

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I looked at exactly that route today on Google Earth and have to say it looks pretty inviting. I'm also drawn to explore more of Indian Basin and Lester Peak, so there is definitely more potential for future trips.
Great pictures. I was there in July 2018 also and went over Indian pass to Alpine Lakes and eventually Golden Lakes. Those are most definitely worth visiting. Check out Cook and Wall Lakes in your research too.
 

OldBill

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One of the best set of photos I've seen on a much-photographed trail! What Sony camera did you use? Filters? Tripod? Any post-processing? I used to carry 3lbs of equipment: 35mm Canon and full-sized tripod when I first did that trail. Now I'm down to 8 oz (Canon WX220 with polarizer and Pedco Ultrapod). My photos are no where near as clear with as good dynamic range and depth of field.

Love seeing the flowers too. It's something I miss as all my trips are after Labor Day. The flip side is no mosquitoes, less crowded and easier stream crossings. That was a nice campsite at Hobbs. I have always targeted the Island Lake area for the first night, but it's a long day, particularly that last section from Little Seneca to the Highline. Nice job using just a 40L backpack! I carry a 10F bag and cold weather gear for the September hikes and can barely fit everything into a 55L Deuter ACT Zero, though I don't strap anything outside.

Hope you return soon. There is so much more than Titcomb and the Cirque, though both are must-sees. Loops over Texas, Hailey or Washakie Passes for the Cirque (or detour to the stunning East Fork) and as mentioned, continue on the Pole Creek Trail at Eklund to access some less traveled areas like Spider and Timico Lakes. Fall Creek Pass is easy and gets you into the valley of the Golden Lakes.
 

Yvonne

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Great pictures. I was there in July 2018 also and went over Indian pass to Alpine Lakes and eventually Golden Lakes. Those are most definitely worth visiting. Check out Cook and Wall Lakes in your research too.
I was curious about Cook Lakes and that's what originally started my search. And then I ended up looking at the route over Indian Pass and beyond. So I guess the near future will have me camp in that area.
 

Yvonne

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One of the best set of photos I've seen on a much-photographed trail! What Sony camera did you use? Filters? Tripod? Any post-processing? I used to carry 3lbs of equipment: 35mm Canon and full-sized tripod when I first did that trail. Now I'm down to 8 oz (Canon WX220 with polarizer and Pedco Ultrapod). My photos are no where near as clear with as good dynamic range and depth of field.

Love seeing the flowers too. It's something I miss as all my trips are after Labor Day. The flip side is no mosquitoes, less crowded and easier stream crossings. That was a nice campsite at Hobbs. I have always targeted the Island Lake area for the first night, but it's a long day, particularly that last section from Little Seneca to the Highline. Nice job using just a 40L backpack! I carry a 10F bag and cold weather gear for the September hikes and can barely fit everything into a 55L Deuter ACT Zero, though I don't strap anything outside.

Hope you return soon. There is so much more than Titcomb and the Cirque, though both are must-sees. Loops over Texas, Hailey or Washakie Passes for the Cirque (or detour to the stunning East Fork) and as mentioned, continue on the Pole Creek Trail at Eklund to access some less traveled areas like Spider and Timico Lakes. Fall Creek Pass is easy and gets you into the valley of the Golden Lakes.
I just have a simple Sony A6000 and used it with the 16-55mm kit lens on that trip. The kit lens has such a small diameter, there are no filters available. So everything is shot just in RAW with no filter. I used this specific set up for almost a year in extremely challenging conditions out at the lava in Hawai'i where I worked as a tour guide. I guess that really helped to learn to get the best out of a simple set up with a kit lens.

And I was happy with the backpack and that everything fits into it as well. It might be a bit tougher when I use my 15-degree sleeping bag but on that particular trip I only brought my 45-degree bag and it worked.
I'm pretty sure I'll end up a few more times in the area and explore more of it, especially when I move to Bozeman in about a year and a half and the drive home is not as long anymore.
 

texasbb

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I was curious about Cook Lakes and that's what originally started my search.
Cook Lakes are very nice. Not quite as photogenic in the placemat sense as those with Titcomb backgrounds, but like so many spots up there, awe inspiring.

Lower Cook lake (deepest notch up there is Angel Pass, which I used to cross the divide):
85005


Upper Cook lake, with 12,342-ft Mt Lester (left) beyond:
85006
 

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OldBill

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Thanks! The Sony A6000 has a large sensor which certainly shows in the picture quality. 1/2 lb heavier than I like to carry, but maybe I need to rethink that!

This is looking towards Fall Creek Pass, above Timico Lake and East Fork Basin. These areas have their own special beauty. Probably much nicer with July wildflowers though!

85010


85011
 

Ugly

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Wow.
I could pick a dozen favorite photos from this.
I missed out on the Winds this year. A view of summer is just what I needed today.
Thank you.
 

b.stark

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We must not have missed each other by much, myself, @Curt and a few other friends did that hike in July 2018 also.

I've never been through Cook Lakes, but have been up to the Bald Mountain Basin and over Angel Pass. Angel Pass is super cool, but challenging. We camped at Spider Lake before going over the pass and although it's a bit exposed, it's a very cool spot. Indian Basin is a great place, and the trail up to Indian Pass is a good hike (been up there twice). The valley on the East side of Indian Pass is neat, but the travel over there does get to be fairly challenging off-trail stuff no matter which way you decide to get out of that valley (this may be a good thing, just depends on your preferences).
 

texasbb

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have been up to the Bald Mountain Basin and over Angel Pass. Angel Pass is super cool, but challenging
Ha! Angel Pass was almost relaxing and easy compared to working through Bald Mountain Basin. So many willow thickets, lakes, ridges, marshes, hills... Straightforward but arduous. I did enjoy the pass.

Why have I only been up there once?
 

powderglut

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Great trip, report and pictures!! Really excellent pictures!!!
Barely brings back memories of a 10 day trip we did in the late 70's. (Lack of brain cells )I'll have to ask my buddies if they still have slides of our trip. Summited Fremont Peak and caught and ate Golden trout in Mistake lake among many.
 

Yvonne

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Great trip, report and pictures!! Really excellent pictures!!!
Barely brings back memories of a 10 day trip we did in the late 70's. (Lack of brain cells )I'll have to ask my buddies if they still have slides of our trip. Summited Fremont Peak and caught and ate Golden trout in Mistake lake among many.
how tough is Fremont Peak? I heard that it is non-technical. It would be a nice one to summit.
 

powderglut

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how tough is Fremont Peak? I heard that it is non-technical. It would be a nice one to summit.
I was mid twenties back then. Not hugely difficult. Pretty much a scramble to the top. No ropes or anything really tricky. The thing I remember was the thunderstorm that moved in while we were on top. We had to hide under huge boulders until it passed. A lot of electricity in the air and scary lightning strikes everywhere. Taught us all a lesson about being on a high peak during a thunderstorm.
 

Born to Hike

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Wildflowers in the Winds in July are just incredible as your photos proved again. Wonderful eye candy - Thank-you!
How did you not "capture" any of those blood-sucking monsters in your photos?
 

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