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Backpacker Magazine – March 2009

Stateside Adventures: Closer Than You Think

A veteran traveler discovers a world of adventure in his backyard.

by: Mark Jenkins

Illustration by Dushan Milic
Illustration by Dushan Milic

The Anti-Expedition Guide
  • Bring a map, not a guidebook.
  • Don't hire a guide; go with a friend.
  • Plan your trip no sooner than three days before departure.
  • Pack light. Bring only: cupboard food, gear you pack in 10 minutes, gas money.
  • Drive at dawn, hike until dusk.
  • Field time must be longer than windshield time.
  • Do something that hasn't been done.
  • Expect to suffer.
  • Bring whiskey.

First up, the Wind River Range, redoubt of old-school alpinism, a favorite escape since college, and a mere five-hour drive from the house. Not the Cirque of the Towers, where everybody goes, but an innocuous peak to the north, Mt. Osborne, where I knew of an unclimbed route on the south face–four years earlier, I'd failed on it due to a July snowstorm.

After burgers and shakes at the Sugar Shack in Pinedale–a time-honored tradition–Lander climber Kirk Billings, 33, and I checked in with photographer Fred Pflughoft at The Great Outdoor Shop and learned that a blowdown had made getting to the base of the south face via the standard trail practically impossible. Pflughoft suggested circling in from the north, which turned out to be a sweaty, noon-till-dusk, mosquito-swatting, 4,000-vertical-foot humpbuster. However, en route we spied a heretofore unknown wall on the east face ... and the south face was instantly forsaken.

After camping at 13,000 feet, Kirk and I glissaded in the predawn pink down to the base of the mysterious 1,200-foot east face. With no guidebook and no topo, no bolts and no chalk marks, the magnificent wall presented us with joyful, unfiltered exploration.

We moved fast, keeping one eye over our shoulders at a spreading quilt of clouds. In alpinism, there are always doubts, mouthy little imps in the back of your mind–one of us could fall and break a leg, we might get rained off, we might be forced to bivy. Not this time. We summited after a dozen handsome pitches, straggled back to camp, and collapsed in exhaustion and exhilaration. Just a few hours from home, we had discovered and then climbed an unknown alpine wall, doing more technical pitches than you'd get on the trade route of an 8,000-meter peak.




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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Sandy
Jun 06, 2012

I'm confused, I enjoyed the article (what I understood of it) but itsn't this a backpacking magazine?

Alex H.
Apr 20, 2009

This is supposed to be a story about accessible adventure, and yet it goes on to describe three utterly impossible trips for all but the most skilled and experienced rock climbers. I might get it if this were a climbing magazine, but it's not. I am getting sick of reading about these trips that require super human strength, bottomless pockets, or both. Sadly, despite advertising to the contrary, this article misses the mark.

Boxman
Apr 17, 2009

I always enjoy Mark Jenkin's stories--he doesn't mind telling you both the good and the bad . . . You wish you were good (and interesting) enough to accompany him!

Bluecap
Apr 16, 2009

Great to read Jenkins in Backpacker again. Pampered? I don't think so . . .

the real world
Apr 16, 2009

nice buzz words you pampered, pompous jackass. We're so proud of you for not leaving the country to get an adrenaline rush...did wyoming still feel like wyoming? ass

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