The trip in
The three of us met up at Deer Haven Lodge on Friday about noon. We had planned for a 5.7 route up the Innominate in the Bighorn Mountain Range. We had Friday, Saturday and Sunday to get it done. Paul had to back to work in Montana and Loyd and I in NE Wyoming. Three days we figured would be plenty and would have been if not for the elk.
From Deer Haven we went north to FR 411. The road is fairly rough with boulders that required close attention. It was slow going but finally we topped out on Bald Ridge just before sunset. We were to camp just before Wilderness boundry for the night then pack in the next morning, climb Sunday pack up and come out. Old man mountain had different ideas. As we topped out on Bald Ridge a herd of six bull elk crossed in front of us. Despite my excitement I payed attention to the road of boulders and carried on. Not more than 300 yards further another herd of bulls came in front of us and two were big, big bulls. I lost my senses and heard a "THUD" beneath my feet. I finished watching the elk until they went over the hill and then assesed the situation. Still thinking of big bulls I just simply backed up knowing the "THUD" was simply a rock on my skid plate. I then got out to look at things and realized I had just pushed my skid plate into my radiator and all my coolant was now gone. Oh shit.
We camped that night and decided to climb Black Tooth instead of the Innominate due to extra time needed to get new radiator and come back and install it.
A long day
N side Cloud Peak Wilderness Basin
We left camp and headed towards our new destination. Despite our bad luck the night before we felt pretty good about the day. Traveling with a light pack we were making good time. We started jogging the trail and making even better time. We would stop to break and give "at a boys" because we were making really good time. At about 10 am we got to Wilderness Basin which is the drainage to Black Tooth, The Innominate, and the north side of CLoud Peak. The peaks got some snow the night before and we decided our route had too much snow to makeit safe. Again we changed our destination. We were now headed for the north side of Cloud. None of us had ever been up this side so we thought "what the hell."
The route we chose was nothing more than a hard scramble. Some 4th class climbing for sure but nothing too technical. The biggest obstacle was the loose rock and scree. There was one time I pulled on a boulder the size of my body and scooted to the side just enough to watch it go sliding by my hips. Finally we made it to the snowfield where it starts to flatten a bit. Another half hour and we were on top. It was a nice day to be up there, but soon clouds rolled in we headed out. There was snow down to about 11,500 ft which made the granite boulders miserable to travel on. Loyd and Paul began to jog again which I thought "WTF, where's the fire?"
Another three hours back to camp and we were shot. All we wanted to do was eat, drink a beer and go to sleep. Loyd's plans went to hell when he dumped a cup full of boiling hot Ramen noodles on his crotch. After realizing he was gonna survive I walked away from camp and laughed my ass of thinking of him dancing around saying"my balls, my balls." He never did eat supper, he just went to bed. All in all we did around 22 to 25 miles, and about 6000 ft. gain/loss in just over twelve hours. I knew the next morning was gonna hurt.
Cleaning up the mess
Elk on the horizon on our way back to camp]We woke up the next morning and were in sorry shape. Paul was sore, but Loyd and I were having a hard time even packing up camp. We both had managed to temporarily trash our knees. I'm guessing the jogging down snow covered Cloud Peak had something to do about it. We bushwacked our way back to West Tensleep TH where we had a member of the Forest Service give Paul a ride to his car at Deer Haven. My wife came and got Loyd and I and Paul went back to Montana. Loyd and I came back the next day and changed out the radiator and that was it. When we got back to the crippled 4runner it was obvious the elk came back to see the damaged they caused (by me not paying attention). They had tracks all the way around and even used the windows as a licking post. Rubbed their smelly asses up and down both sides, but that was ok with me. The 4 runner smelled like elk for a couple of days and all I could think of was next month's elk hunt. Despite our problems we had a great time and we will try for the Innominate next year.