Ralph will again accompany Tucker
Smith on another painters’ pack trip into the Wind River Mountains in
August of 2006. This trip will include Chris Blossom, Clyde
Aspevig & Carol Guzman, Jim Morgan and collectors Jim Hinckley and
Dan Fiehrer. This will be a more leisurely trip that will focus on
painting and having fun.
Painting by Ralph
"Gannett Peak and Scott Lake"
Our August 2005
Pack Trip as told by Tucker Smith:
Peak in the Wind River Range is the highest point in Wyoming
(13,804’). On the map I noticed there was a lake on the west
side of Gannett called Scott Lake. I knew the views from this lake
would be spectacular, but access would be difficult. To reach the lake
we would have to climb 3000’ higher than the nearest trail with no
easy route. I also knew at 65 years old I needed to do this while
I was able.
On August 2, 2005
artist Ralph Oberg, friend Jim Hinckley, retired outfitter Courtney
Skinner, and two porters, Tom Dirk and Justin Adams (who has summited
Everest), joined me on the trip. My brother Dexter packed us in
the 11 miles to our base camp location using his and my horses.
Dexter then returned to the trailhead and went home to return in a week
to pick us up. Courtney also brought a pack string into base camp
the next day.
We planned to
climb the 3 ½ miles, 3000’ elevation gain up Tourist Creek and across
a ridge to the lake in one day. On August 4 we all started for the
lake except Courtney who remained in base camp to tend his stock.
Ralph and I were carrying our painting gear, camera equipment, and some
camping gear. The rest took camping gear and food. My pack
was about 30 lbs. which was by far the lightest. I knew I would be
bringing up the rear even at that.
We found the
climb was one continuous steep boulder field. Late in the day we
came to a beautiful wide spot on the stream with a grassy meadow, the
first we had seen since leaving base camp. We were only half way
to the lake. Tom returned to base camp to help Courtney.
The next day was
easier climbing, but still strenuous for me. When we reached the
ridge above Scott Lake, the panorama was grand. Across the valley
were three glaciers: Minor, Mammoth and Baby. Above them were the
high peaks, with Gannett towering above the rest. The lake was
about 600’ below us. However, we were standing on top of a cliff
with no apparent way down. We decided to go back to a nearby lake
to camp. This lake was over 11,000’ so was above timberline.
Ralph found some ledges that would allow us to descend the cliff so we
could get down to Scott Lake. The next morning Ralph and I were on
the ridge watching the sunrise. The weather was beautiful as it
had been most of the trip. Ralph decided to do a painting from the
ridge and climb down to the lake later. I wanted to be down by the
lake in the morning light so I descended the cliff alone. I spent
the whole morning in the valley. Above the head of the lake
Gannett Peak dominated the scene with the other peaks sweeping around to
the right. On the left side of the valley was a waterfall cascading down
the cliff and steep slopes of Desolation Peak. At the head of the
lake streams were cascading down from Minor and Mammoth glaciers.
Scattered clumps of stunted Alpine Fir and Whitebark Pine grow on the
benches above the lower end of the lake. It was like having my own
private Shangri-la. Ralph joined me about noon and together we
reveled in the sights.
The trip down to
base camp seemed as arduous as the climb up. It was more dangerous
because some of the boulders had a tendency to tip when stepped on.
We all fell several times. Ralph hit his head on a rock but no one
was seriously hurt.
While Dexter was
bringing in our horses and his pack string for the trip out, one of the
pack horses pulled back and pulled the entire pack string (three horses
and one mule) off the trail where they tumbled over and over down the
steep rock slide to end up at the edge of Upper Green River Lake.
If they would have gone into the lake they would have drowned because
they were all tangled in the ropes. Fortunately none were
seriously injured but two pack saddles were broken, one beyond repair.
It took Dexter two hours to untangle the pack string and get back on the
trail. On the way out Dexter’s helper got bucked off and landed
on his back on a rock. He was very sore the rest of the way out.
Our pack trips
are usually adventuresome, but this one was a little more than usual.
We felt very fortunate to have visited this remote spot. Being at
Scott Lake made it all worth while.