Elevation: 13,754 ft.
Prominence: 1,173 ft.
Isolation: 4.5 miles
Technical Difficulty: Class 3
Fremont Peak Guidebook
In the hierarchy of northern Wind River summits, Fremont Peak is second only to Gannett in both height and popularity. From west of the range, Fremont can easily be mistaken for the highest summit in the Winds, a mistake most famously made by John C. Fremont in 1842, when he and others climbed his peak and claimed it was the highest in the Rockies. From Island Lake, where Fremont camped, his peak is unquestionably the monarch of all visible summits. Its massive southwest buttress rises thousands of feet to the jagged Continental Divide, dividing Titcomb Basin from Indian Basin and providing climbers with a staircase to alpine heaven
Fremont Peak is THE mountain to climb on a trip to Titcomb Basin, and would make a wonderful introduction to Wyoming for someone who has previous experience with class 3-4 alpine climbing in Colorado or California. While Fremont is the highest peak on the great western wall of Titcomb Basin, it is much easier to climb from Indian Basin.
A camp somewhere along the Indian Basin trail or near Island Lake is convenient for approaching Fremont Peak. You can see the southwest ramp route from Pinedale and from nearly everywhere along the approach, which can help you get an idea of the conditions. Depending on your inclinations, the view may be inspiring or intimidating, as the peak appears especially steep from afar.
Route 1: Southwest Ramp – Class 3
The most direct way to approach Fremont is via the Pole Creek Trail from the Elkhart Park Trailhead, then following the Seneca Lake Trail and Indian Pass Trail to Indian Basin. Where the Indian Pass Trail crosses the small inlet creek to Lake 11008, leave the trail to the left (northwest) and hike up the gently sloping valley to join the southwest ridge of Fremont Peak around 12,200 ft. where the ridge undergoes a change in slope and begins slanting steeply upward.
The southwest ramp looms above, and the route is fairly straightforward. A short rock step marks the beginning of the scrambling, beyond which 2,500 ft. of slabs, scree gullies, and blocky terrain offers a plethora of micro-routefinding choices. Many routes are possible at comparable difficulty, though in general the easiest path meets the summit ridge somewhat to climber’s right of the highpoint.
Keep climbing until the ramp abruptly ends at the wildly exposed summit ridge, with the Upper Fremont Glacier suddenly appearing dramatically at your feet. The ridge consists of huge talus blocks along which you can clamber to find the summit; mind the exposure, especially if it’s windy! The highpoint is a triangular block perched precipitously close to the edge.
Route 2: Southwest Ramp from Titcomb – Class 3+
The character of this route is sufficiently different from Fremont’s standard approach to merit a standalone description. From Titcomb Basin, hike up to Mistake Lake, and find your way through the confusing maze of slabs and cliff bands near Mistake Lake’s southern end. A precise description is impossible, but on a direct route, expect to encounter a range of loose scree gullies and slab traverses (class 4). Continue upwards to meet the southwest ramp around 12,200 ft., the same point as from the Indian Basin side, then join Route 1 to gain the summit.
Alternatively, a class 3+ route can be found farther south on the ridge separating Titcomb from Indian Basin. From Mistake Lake, angle southeast towards a talus gully, climbing up this gully, through a notch, and along the lower south ridge to reach the base of the southwest ramp.
Route 3: Northeast Ridge – Class 5.2, Moderate Snow
The first ascent of Fremont Peak after Fremont’s party (by Blaurock and party) was via the Upper Fremont Glacier and north face, crossing a major bergschrund. Snow chutes below the summit could still be climbed, but the author is unaware of any modern ascents of the direct north face. Recent climbers have favored a traverse route along Fremont’s northeast ridge to connect the summit with points to the north, bypassing the very serious snow on the proper north face.
From the Upper Fremont Glacier, head for the point where Fremont’s east ridge flattens out and turns north below the last major gendarmes. Climb moderate snow slopes to reach the ridge, which is a broad talus crest at this point. From here, the route traverses substantially below the crest on the climber’s left (southeast) side of the ridge. The easiest path follows a swath of highly fractured, darker colored rock.
The upper south face is cut by several steep gullies and chimneys, and crossing these presents the route’s crux. Expect several exposed downclimbs on blocks and flakes. Regain the proper east ridge one gendarme short of the summit area, climbing over or around this stubby pinnacle and ascending a short slab to reach the boulder-clad summit ridge.
Mount Helen is one of the finest peaks in the Wind Rivers, and certainly the star of upper Titcomb Basin. Its complicated rock faces converge in a single tower leaning out over the abyss. From the west, the steep wall of Titcomb Basin sweeps upward in dramatic fashion, and two subsidiary summits, Tower 1 and Tower 2, contribute to Helen’s memorable profile as seen while hiking into Titcomb. The east side is gentler, with a broad but steep-walled ridge. If you need to convince your mountaineering friends why the Wind River Range is worth exploring, consider an ascent of Mount Helen. The Bonneys report that this peak was named for Helen Fisher in 1901, though no further information on its namesake is forthcoming.
While Helen is perhaps best known for its highly technical rock climbing routes (including the classic Tower Ridge) and alpine ice routes (including Tower 1 Gully), this guidebook only includes a variety of less-technical (but nevertheless, still serious) summit routes, as the more-technical climbs are well-documented by other sources. For summit-oriented peakbaggers, Helen is best approached from the east side of the Continental Divide, since the west face is so severe. Still, there are several ways to get from Titcomb to the east-side routes.
Route 1: East Ridge – Class 4, Moderate Snow
Approach A: North Fork of Bull Lake Creek
The most natural and aesthetic way of approaching Helen’s east side is to ascend the Helen Glacier from its outwash plain in the North Fork of Bull Lake Creek, which itself can be reached by backpacking over Blaurock Pass from the Dinwoody, North Indian Pass from Dry Creek, or Indian Pass from Indian Basin/Titcomb. The Helen Glacier is rapidly retreating, and is extensively crevassed in areas, but the glacier usually consists mostly of low-angled snow hiking.
Another approach is possible from the moraine below the Sacagawea Glacier, and the author has fond memories of a loop hike up the Sacagawea moraine, over the pass at the base of Helen’s east ridge, and down the Helen Glacier. However, the Sacagawea moraine is incredibly unstable and extreme caution should be exercised; car-sized talus blocks may spontaneously drop into bottomless pits or crush unsuspecting hikers. One way or another, find your way to the interesting col that separates Helen’s east ridge from the Three Brothers, a high 12er.
Approach B: Titcomb Gully
From upper Titcomb Basin, hike north below the imposing west face of Mount Helen, and look for a snow/scree gully leading west to a small col at 12,561 ft. on the Continental Divide. Cross this pass between Helen and Spearhead/Forked Tongue Pinnacles, descending the upper part of the Helen Glacier and turning south to gain the Helen-Three Brothers col.
Final Ascent, All Approaches
From the broad pass between the Sacagawea Glacier and Helen Glacier valleys, Helen’s east ridge begins as a broad bulwark of rock and snow. If enough snow remains, it is possible to climb directly up the center of this face on moderate snow. Alternatively, gain the ridge by scrambling the narrow rock buttress that forms the southern bulwark of the east ridge.
From the break in slope around 12,700 ft., continue up a snow or talus slope to the upper east ridge, which flattens out at 13,300 ft., forming an elegant sidewalk in the sky. Follow the ridge west to the summit. Most of the upper ridge is hiking terrain, but the last few hundred feet involves some class 4 climbing on blocky terrain to bypass gendarmes and surmount the summit pyramid.
Route 2: South Couloirs – Class 4, Moderate Snow
This is the most direct way to climb Mount Helen from Titcomb Basin at a moderate technical grade. From the bench that extends north from Mistake Lake above Lake 10598, climb a left-angling talus slope as described for Mount Sacagawea, obvious from Titcomb Basin when observing the wall between Sacagawea and Helen.
After topping out on the Continental Divide around 12,800 ft., descend north, crossing a snowfield that abuts the eastern edge of the Divide (melts down to ugly moraine in the late season). Head for Helen’s summit, climbing one of several short (200 ft.) couloirs to gain the east ridge just before the summit pyramid.
Fremont Peak Map
Click title to show trackSouthwest Ramp Route
Southwest Ramp Route from Titcomb
North Face Route
Fremont Peak Panorama
Fremont Peak Photos
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