Summer in the CPW- Tour 6 West Side again

Scott Chandler

Wildness is a necessity- John Muir
Jan 4, 2014
Again I found myself scheduled to patrol the infamous west zone of the Cloud Peak Wilderness. The first time I went here the trip was four days of winter trying to hold on into July. The second, the visitor use was picking up, Cloud Peak had just become hikeable, and I ran into 50+ people in one day, in a Wilderness where solitude is a valuable resource. What was I to expect this time as August middled?

Day 1

Spending six days up the West Tensleep drainage is a lot so I decided to spend my first two days patrolling the Middle Tensleep drainage. The first involved going up to the Lost Twin Lakes. On the way I ran into a party breaking almost every regulation that a person without horses can break at Mirror Lake. Funny how I feel no mercy for someone like that. I only wish I am allowed to stack tickets.

It has been sweet to watch the area change as winter and the snow has left. Middle Tensleep Falls has become almost tame and inviting compared to the deathly torrent it used to be.
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Every time I have ventured towards the Lost Twins I have wanted to spend a night up there. The first time... it rained all. DAY. The second, it just wouldn't schedule out right. This time though, I got a slick spot about a mile from the lakes (for my own solitude value.) Set up, I went and patrolled the lakes, where I surprisingly found only one group. It was a very pleasant wilderness experience.

It was a gorgeous day to be at the Twins
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There is a small pond near the lower Lost Twin that is quite pretty actually. I call it the Forgotten Step Child
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Getting around to the head of Lower Lost Twin
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I surprisingly took few pictures from the foot of the Upper Lost Twin, but the pictures I got higher up were neat.
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Day 2

Waking up at two in the morning I heard the dreaded pitter patter of water falling upon my tent. I returned to sleep praying for it to be gone in the morning. I guess I should practice praying because it proceeded to rain, ALL DAY. I wondered if I had somehow cursed myself. After all, it had rained on me most of my last tour, the worst of it when I went somewhere epic, and here it was raining again when I had plans to adventure in off trail hinterlands. It was at least only drizzly, at first, so I proceeded with my plans to hike to the pass and peak above Lake Angeline and 7 Brothers. It was cool going up the valley and having a lightly sloped adventure to the top of a mountain.

Quaint falls along the way
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The valley I hiked up was surprisingly wet
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The rain was pretty light as I neared my destination
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And once I got to the top of the peak it was raining cats and dogs. I would have walked around to see views of Lake Angeline and the Frozen Lakes but the wet boulders were dangerous as could be so I only snapped a picture of 7 Brothers.
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I had planned to spend half a day hiking and exploring high up but the rain and wet granite chased me down the hill. Twas kinda miserable and left me with a lot of time to somehow fill. Once I got down I broke down and relented to the fact that I was going to be soaked through and so continued to adventure. I walked up a drainage and just kept going. I'll need to return to this drainage sometime because it was pretty in the rain and I bet would be nice otherwise.
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After finding my way back to the trail I packed up my wet camp in the only dry ten minutes of the day and booked it out of there. Until I was stopped at Mirror Lake by another fire regulation violator. A note to rec users everywhere: just because things get worse than expected does not mean the rules change. Getting wet in the wilderness is part of the wilderness experience, and if you can't dry off with a fire, well that's a part of it too. If you can't handle it, leave like I did. Its harsh but the resource is more important.

Day 3

It was time to travel up West Tensleep. Prepped to meet a village of people I got to a trailhead half full. Apparently the rain chased a lot of people out. It was a beautiful day and was the lack of people around Lakes Helen/Marion/Mistymoon was great.

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Day 4

Because most people in the area are up there to climb Cloud Peak or Bomber Mountain, it is kinda pointless to patrol very intensely through the earlier part of the day so I decided to check out a trail none of the wilderness crew had been on yet and then travel off trail across Bald Ridge to Mistymoon. On the way I ran into a huge herd of elk on the edge of the forest. Pretty fun to run into them.

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See why it's called Bald Ridge?
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The views from the ridge were awesome and the travel only slightly tedious from boulders.
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Lakes Helen, Marion, and Mistymoon
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The Lost Twin Cirque
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Lake Helen
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Cloud Peak and Bomber Mountain above Mistymoon
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All of Cloud Peak with Blacktooth and Mt Woolsey behind it.

After getting down from the ridge I met up with Brian, another of the wilderness rangers who was going to patrol with me for a couple days and the way went by as typical and good. No violators hwew!

Day 5

With Brian and I patrolling together, and this being both of our first season here, we decided hike Cloud Peak.

We met a big bull moose on the way by Mistymoon.
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We hit Paintrock Falls by 0820 and prepped ourselves mentally. Cloud Peak is not hard to hike, hence why so many people tackle it compared to the two higher peaks in Wyoming. It's just three miles, three thousand plus feet, and lots of boulder hopping away from the falls. Hearing stories all summer Brian and I were thinking this could be rough. Maybe its just because we live up there but the hike was actually quite easy and nice. Yes, it was a huff and puff by the end, but what else is there to expect at 13,167 feet?

Paintrock Falls
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And the whole way up from the base

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The thing that validates a "patrol" up Cloud is cairn trail destruction. Cairn trails are illegal in the CPW so all the cairns heading up the mountain had to be knocked down. Which I loved. I dislike cairns in almost all situations. And why are cairns needed to go up an easy mountain? Its a walk the whole way. Brian and I probably knocked down 200 cairns.

The hardest direction choice going up Cloud is whether you take the valley or the ridge. The ridge was by far nicer.
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I'd been asked multiple times this summer if the knife edge ridge was bad. Having never been there, I couldn't answer this, but hearing it referred to as a knife edge ridge made me sketched out. It turns out, the ridge is quite wide and unless you fell right on the edge, which could be done, a 2000 ft fall wouldn't await you.

The south side of the ridge.
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And the summit platform from the northern side of the ridge.
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One cool sight from the ridge is Wilderness Basin. All the lakes in there (which is quite a few) are 10000ft or higher and it is practically all rock (from what I've heard.) I figure I'll see it close up sometime, but it was neat to see from a few thousand feet above. Some lakes back there still had ice/snow on them!
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The last half a mile to the summit was the roughest stretch. Being high up you're fighting altitude and the boulders take on that "big as a car, elephant, house" quality so the boulderhopping is a bit more tedious. That said, after the ridge it didn't even take an hour to get to the top. The whole wilderness stretched around us. It was epic.

The Cloud Peak Glacier and Glacier Lake far below.
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To the north, Blacktooth and Mt Woolsey looked so close
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Geneva Pass and the Sheepherder Basin also appear close, even though its a three hour drive and day's hike for us
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Brian taking advantage of the full bars 3G cell service at the Summit
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Looking south
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Southwest at Lakes Helen and Mistymoon and Bald Ridge
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The way up
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Wilderness Basin (the wind made this picture super freaky, very hard with a large drop below)
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And back to Paintrock Falls
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We were up there
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Day 6
It was my day to leave. Burnt out from five days and Cloud Peak I had one more task to do before booking it down to food and shower. A water sample needed to be collected at Florence Lake.

The morning was gorgeous
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Moose and Mistymoon in the morn
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It is hard to believe that in a couple weeks we'll be taking our end of season water samples from this lake. It was just a month ago that it was still partly frozen over!
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And Gunboat Lake on the way down and out
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It was a glorious tour. Definitely a step up in quality from my last one. Only a couple more though...
Nice report! I feel the same way about cairns.
love the shots of Glacier Lake compared to prior trips (seen from a distance) when frozen over. Paintrock Falls capture is a 10.

a co-worker tipped me off to "The Solace of Open Spaces" written by Gretel Ehrlich; a beautiful book about her life on a ranch near the Bighorn Mountains.

"Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are. We are often like rivers: careless and forceful, timid and dangerous, lucid and muddied, eddying, gleaming, still." - Gretel Ehrlich
I must've missed this one when you posted it. KILLER shots here! I love the angles looking down on that glacier and the light in some of those is awesome.

This is amazing:

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