Hammocking the Wind River Range Part 1

Matt Van Natta

Whitewater in the morning...
Feb 19, 2017
Day 1 Elkhart Park to Eklund Lake

Myself and my buddies David, John, and James started down the Pole Creek Trail about 10am to hopefully get a good start towards Island Lake before stopping for camp. We got to a meadow right before Eklund Lake to take a quick lunch around 2pm and decided that due to the thunderstorms in the area, we should make camp at Eklund. About that time, the skies opened up and we had to sprint into the woods to set up shelter. The storm was short lived; after we set up camp, we did a little cliff jumping into Eklund Lake and made dinner. That night we had a campfire and talked about what great things the next 8 days would bring.

Eklund Lake.jpg

Eklund Lake
Parking Lot.jpg

Elkhart Parking Lot

Day 2 Eklund Lake to Island Lake

We woke up in the morning to fog and everything being wet due to the previous night’s rain. As we packed up camp, the fog started to lift. However, the clouds never completely gave way to sunshine. As we started hiking down the trail I noticed that despite the clouds, it was starting to get hot and humid (humidity was not something I was expecting in Wyoming). About a half hour later we started to hear thunder and noticed that the clouds were getting darker. Soon it was pouring, thundering, and lightning. We ran to find shelter under boulders in a ravine as the rain turned to hail, sleet, and snow. It stopped about half hour later and we started hiking again. We continued to Seneca Lake only to get hit by yet another thunderstorm and had to shelter under boulders.

After the storm, we pressed on towards Island Lake with haste so we could make camp before the next storm that was sure to hit. Because we had hammocks we were forced to find somewhere with a good stand of trees (which are not in plentiful around Island Lake). While scouting for a campsite, the next storm did hit and we were forced to shelter in a stand of small trees. We hastily decided the trees would work for the hammocks. Despite the storm, we decided we needed to set shelter so we could get dry and stay dry. We finally set up the tarps and started to hang the hammocks only to realize there was only enough room for two of the hammocks! So, that night the four of us slept two to a hammock and got closer than we ever hoped to be to each other.

Hiding under a rock.jpg Storm.jpg
Shelter at Seneca Lake
2-Island Lake with clouds.jpg
First view of Island Lake and kind of Fremont Peak

Day 3 Day hike up Fremont Peak

We woke the next morning to bright sun with not a cloud to be seen! We made breakfast in anticipation of what we knew would be a very long day hike up Fremont Peak. We started hiking to around Island Lake to start the climb towards the summit. On the south side of Island Lake, we walked past a sand beach where there several people of mixed company skinny dipping. We didn’t care, but we laughed about what the family thought that we ran into walking the other way about 200 yards down the trail. We soon turned right off the main trail to head up into Indian Basin to approach Fremont from its Indian Basin face (which I read was the best route up). We climbed up the face to a saddle that sat in a ridgeline that bordered Titcomb Basin. When we reached to the saddle we stopped for an early lunch.
After lunch, my buddy David and I started climbing up the ridgeline to make our final push to the summit, but my two other buddies weren’t feeling it and waited at the saddle for us. We pushed up towards the summit climbing up some exposed and very steep terrain. Our Midwest lungs were burning, but we kept pushing to the summit. After an exhausting hour of climbing, we finally made it. We spent about 45 minutes at the summit taking pictures and just taking in creation around us. We started to descend the approximate route that we came up, but much to our dismay it didn’t get any less steep. Although it was physically easier, sheer steepness and wetness from ice melt led to some slips and some close calls.

While descending, we were looking at the map and into Titcomb Basin and decided instead of retracing our route and going left into Indian Basin, that it might be an option to go right at saddle into Titcomb Basin. We talked to two girls on their way up Fremont Peak who said they tried getting up to the saddle from Titcomb Basin, but deemed that it was impassible and went up via Indian Basin. Instead of taking their advice, we took their words as a challenge (BAD IDEA). We arrived at the saddle to meet back up with my two buddies to discuss which route we would take back to camp. Before we reached a decision, my buddy David decided he would start down towards Titcomb Basin with or without us. Given that it is not smart to go alone in the wilderness, (when possible) we followed him. During the entire descent, he was several hundred yards in front of us. The route got steeper, and steeper. There were many points at which one slip would certainly result in injury or worse. We finally got to a point where we were seemed to be cliffed out. Luckily, we spotted David who had gotten to where the terrain started to level out. He had good view of where we were and a route that we could follow to get to safety. Unfortunately, this included climbing down a little waterfall. While climbing down that waterfall my friend James slipped, but luckily, I was there along with a small ledge to catch his fall. After the waterfall, the terrain started to level out and we continued descending as a group towards Mistake Lake.

While descending, I noticed that my right ankle started really hurt. This was due to bashing my ankle on the way up combined with swelling that was still in my legs from surgery I had a few months earlier. By the time we got to Mistake Lake, walking started to become very difficult. We walked along the trail with me being supported by one of my buddies until a good Samaritan camping saw me limping down the trail. He just so happened to have a SAM splint on him, which gave my ankle enough support that I could walk back to camp (albeit slowly) unassisted. We got back to camp around 5 or 6 made dinner. That night we sat around the campfire and decided that unless my ankle somehow got better, we would need to hike out the next morning.

3-Elephant sunrise.jpg
Crystal Clear Sunrise over the Elephant Head
3-view from the campsite.jpg
View From our campsite at Island Lake
3-worst campsite ever!.jpg
"Worst campsite ever" Johnny had enough of the hammocks and slept on the ground.
Trail to Fremont Peak.jpg
Trail to Fremont Peak
2-David and James at the Saddle.jpg
Lunch Break at the saddle
3-Looking South.jpg
Looking South from Fremont Summit
3-Looking north.jpg
View North from Fremont
Gannett Peak.jpg
Gannett Peak
3-Me Again.jpg
Me looking out towards Titcomb Basin
3-Titcomb Basin.jpg
Titcomb Basin during descent
View Up the Cliffs.jpg
A look up what we just climbed down
3-Mistake Lake.jpg
View up Mistake Lake
3-Fremont Peak.jpg
Another view of Fremont Peak
3-Fire at Island Lake.jpg
Campfire at Island Lake
3-Fremont with the Milkyway.jpg
Milkyway with Fremont Silhouette
I hate it when my kids try to share my hammock, I can't imagine doing it with an adult :)
I'm only sharing my hammock with one person. And she doesn't like hiking lol.

Cool trip though.

Ya, I forgot to say that the second night I decided I wasn't going to sleep in a hammock with another person either. I slept out under the stars that night. Not gonna lie, it was pretty beautiful.
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