My wife Julie and I were planning to complete a 5 day backpack in the Wind River Range of northwestern Wyoming in about a month. We decided to backpack up to the Lake of the Clouds basin in the Sangre de Cristo’s for a nice overnight warm-up. The plan we came up with was to backpack up to Lake of the Clouds on Saturday afternoon, summit Spread Eagle Peak on Sunday morning and hike out Sunday afternoon.
We headed out from the trailhead late Saturday morning and arrived at lower Lake of the Clouds by mid-afternoon. The trail up to the lowest lake was about four miles and easy to follow but had some unrelenting uphill sections – tough with a backpack. Spread Eagle Peak and Point 13,524 dominated the views above the lowest Lake of the Clouds.
The views of Spread Eagle Peak and Point 13,524 from near our campsite where great! We put up camp and enjoyed the evening sun on surrounding peaks. As we were eating our dinner at sunset a mule deer doe walked within about 75 feet of our campsite and grazed for about a half hour. After finishing dinner and hanging our food we hit the sack to get plenty of rest.
After a quick breakfast we got our daypacks ready and headed out to attempt to summit Spread Eagle Peak. We headed southeast down towards Swift Creek and found a decent place to cross – this likely would have been much more difficult a few months ago during peak run-off season. After crossing we started up the slopes towards the saddle by picking our way around small cliffs and boulder fields on nice grassy slopes.
After climbing these slopes for some time we came to a short section with minimal grade and a large snowfield. Above the snowfield we climbed up a moderate/steep grade on talus slopes for some time. At the top of the talus slopes we entered a wide grassy/rock ramp that lead up to the saddle over mostly gradual grades.
Once at the saddle the views to the south opened up! We could see south along the spine of the Sangre de Cristo Range all the way to the Crestone Group. The weather was starting to build to the south but was holding up fine to the west of our location. Julie decided to enjoy the views from the saddle while I completed the last three or four hundred vertical feet to the summit.
I headed up the easy south ridge which continues to narrow until it is only about ten feet wide. Just prior to entering more difficult terrain, a faint climbers trail leaves the ridge on the right. This faint trail/cairned Class 2 route climbs to the summit from the southeast. There are a few spots where those scared of exposure may feel the butterflies in places but there is no real danger if care is taken. Once on the summit the views were great but the weather was closing in so I quickly headed down to meet Julie at the saddle. We began to get a light rain so I didn’t find Julie until a few hundred feet below the saddle. We got back down to our camp without encountering anything worse than a steady light rain.
We made it back to camp in a little under two hours and packed everything into our backpacks for the trip out. The hike out was uneventful, other than a large mule deer buck who ran in front of us across the trail, but seemed to go by rather quickly. Once at our jeep we agreed that we were ready to take on the Winds!