Sawtooth and Wind hikes + Yellowstone favourites


May 18, 2012
Apologies Jack for reposting this beautiful photo from a Backcountry member but it was what inspired me to return to the Sawtooths and head west into the mountains away from the sole paved road between Ketchum and Stanley. The Winds aren't on the radar of most UK tourists but Cirque of the Towers had been on my list since reading the Lonely Planet's hikes in the US book - just the name couldn't be more enticing!


Once I also saw a photo of Island Lake, on here I think, and my partner said she wanted to see Yellowstone a deal was struck!
For the 2 hikes I met up with four hikers I'd only made contact with through the internet, Deb, Kel, Zul, and Nancy, all of whom were great company and hopefully we will get to hike again together.
First stop was the view from Photographers Point.


The sudden high elevation, hot sun, and a backpack with items to cater for all scenarios and hazards, including a heavy bear canister, made me feel ia little like Cheryl Strayed from the book Wild. Despite feeling fit, perhaps for the first time ever I was tiring and slowing by mile 10 and was quite pleased when my new friends opted to camp at Seneca Lake rather than press on to Island Lake. As usual late light made for good photos.


But the real gasps came with our first glimpse of Island Lake.



We headed onwards past each of the lakes of Titcomb Basin


before unfortunately taking the wrong ridge up to Mistake Lake and aptly mistaking a smaller nearby lake for our target.


On the way back we met this dog "porter", who was a very attentive model


After a day's rest in the Tetons, where a forest fire, made for very orange light


it was time for the Cirque hike where we had our own canine extra companion/Nancy's sleeping bag's hot water bottle.
After pleasant sunshine for the hike to Jackass Pass


the weather rapidly changed to grey clouds, rain, thunder, hail and snow before an hour later clearer skies allowed us to make an enjoyable sunset circuit of Lonesome Lake.






Unable to sleep I crawled out my tent, 10 minutes above Lonesome Lake's outlet, and headed for the shore to catch the first rays hitting the towers. Within minutes in the dark I was relieved to discover a munching noise and sihouette 40ft ahead of me on my trail route was a moose cow. I took a wide detour and was later told by nearby campers the bull had been sitting in the grass near the cow.

Sunrise didnt disappoint






before packing up and the hike back.


Someone was struggling with the pace


Then it was recovery time with 2 days in Yellowstone where two year old Dylan did not appreciate geysers showering him in water





Until getting soaked he quite like geysers



Just made the canyon in time before dark


For the Sawtooths hike I'd arranged to meet new hikers through a meetup site but the dropouts and new names changed so frequently I didn't know who might show. In the event it was just Lucy. But I was also pleasantly surprised to see the familiar face of Byron, who had declared himself doubtful because of work, but had come all the way from Denver.
We decided to do the loop antiIclockwise - probably the right decision as the scenery gets better and better and the least interesting early elevation gains fflew by as we caught up and talked.


My legs were still a bit weary for speedy Byron after 4 hard days in the Winds - well I also had the heavier pack with the weighty camera gear for these photos! - but fortunately Byron had put himself through an epic difficult mountain bike ride the day before.
The views started to impress as we approached Toxawy Lake.
We pitched tents there and Byron and I walked round the head of the lake and up cliffs on the other side. Lucy ater told us about two loud campers on the other side of the lake - turned out it was us.
Unfortunately my tent insomnia meant I was first up again



The climb to the pass wasn't too tough with a nice like half way


and our first view over the south side drew a real "wow" moment - that spectacular view down to Twin Lakes.



We continued to much photographed Alice Lake


and El Capitain


before heading down


to Pettit taking in distant views of the White Clouds Wilderness



Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
Jun 7, 2012
Great adventure!

That's a lot to pack into one trip. Way to take advantage.


Jan 23, 2014
Great stuff Ross!.
Love The Wind's and Yellowstone.
Going to Sawtooths next year.
Stunning pic's
Thanks for sharing


Oct 30, 2016
Beautiful. Quite the itinerary!

How crowded was that route through the Winds?


I walk
Jun 25, 2012
Whoa! That's three great trips in one TR. Well done and great photos.


May 18, 2012
How crowded was that route through the Winds?[/QUOTE said:
I suppose it depends on your definitiion of crowded. I was expecting hardly anyone which is why I was on this site looking for hiking companions months before, but then the parking lots were full. But once you start hiking people are spread out so you only pass a group every now and again. From Island Lake to Titcomb surprisingly we saw one person. At Cirque of the Towers, despite passing a lot of people on the way up and so expecting quite a few people at Lonesome Lake at sunrise and sunset (you have to camp quarter mile from the lake), I saw no-one.
To an American my two "popular" Wind routes were maybe busy compared to less famous Wind routes or longer ones, but to me compared to national parks like Zion, Bryce, Arches, or even the Escalante area it was pretty quiet


Oct 30, 2016
That doesn't sound bad. Trying to put together a trip myself for next year, so chewing through books/maps and fishing for firsthand info as well.

What time of year did you go? I thought I read July but scanning your report again I'm not seeing it.


May 18, 2012
That doesn't sound bad. Trying to put together a trip myself for next year, so chewing through books/maps and fishing for firsthand info as well.

What time of year did you go? I thought I read July but scanning your report again I'm not seeing it.
August. It was pretty hot when the sun was out with a big pack, cold as soon as the sun went down, but as I said we had 10 minutes of snow! Which part are you going to? Obviously take a map and GPS, but after looking at maps beforehand, the path is so well trodden that I think I could have done them both without the topo maps I pad for. The only place people could have gone "wrong" on my hikes was at Cirque, the bit from the last lake to Jackass Pass. We went left over a boulder field which is the "Climber's Route" (as it says to the higher granite walls for climbers), the much easier route is the less obvious one up to the right which also brings you out nearer Lonesome Lake and good camp spots


Oct 30, 2016
Haven't worked out a route yet. Assuming no flaking out between now and then, I've got a buddy going with and he's got a friend of his who wants to go. My buddy is not a backpacker but he's in good shape. His friend is an unknown quantity but 'has a lot of gear'... Need to get a better feel for what they can handle before settling on some route options.

If they flake and I go solo, everything's fair game.


Love the Mountains!
Mar 1, 2016
Nicely done! That's quite a trip. Love those beautiful pictures! Made it to Titcomb Basin this year. Hoping to get to the very popular cirque of the towers next year and the beautiful sawtooths eventually. Thanks for the great trip report.
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