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Cloud Peak Wilderness Trip

From: Josh W.
Sent on: Sunday, June 3, 2012 1:47 PM
I am planning a trip to the Cloud Peak Wilderness in Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming.  Dates for this trip are July 15-22, 2012.  It is a 13hr drive from the Twin Cities and 4 hours past Rapid City, SD.  Since this is my first time to that area it will mostly be an exploratory trip with hiking in and setting up a base camp and doing off trail day hikes to explore the mountains.  My goal for base camp is Willow Lake at an elevation of 9600ft.  From the maps, it looks like there are several alpine lakes and areas above tree line for views near Willow Lake.   One of the goals of this trip will be to see if there is a possible route up 12,400ft Darton Peak for a future trip.

My intended schedule is as follows:
Wed 7/15:  Drive to Buffalo, WY.  Either stay at a hotel or find a nearby campground depending on group consensus.  Finding a campground between[masked]ft would be best for acclimatization.
Thur 7/16:  Hike into Willow Lake, setup camp, explore the area.
Fri 7/17:  Explore the 4+ mile route up Darton Peak to see if it will go.  Depending on the number of people going, we could split up and explore different areas.
Sat 7/18:  Break camp, hike out, be back to the cars no later than 2pm, drive to Rapid City, SD.  Either stay at a hotel or stop at the Flying J truck stop to shower and then find a campground - maybe in the Badlands.  Have dinner at the Firehouse Brewery - awesome beer!!!
Sun 7/19:  Drive back to the Twin Cities in time to do laundry before having to go back to work on Monday.

Other details:
Bear canisters will be necessary for food.  The Bighorn National Forest website only mentions black bears, so I don't think we will have to be conscious of grizzlies.  
If you have never been above 8000ft or haven't been above 8000ft within the past year, I need to know that in advance.  You are still welcome to come along, this knowledge is just necessary for safety purposes.
I don't know what the snow pack will be like in mid-July, but if you are interested in exploring a possible route to Darton Peak, I would recommend bringing an ice axe.  On this trip I will not go anywhere that crampons or roping up is necessary.
Although the trail mileage will not be long, this trip is only for those who are experienced backpackers, are in good enough shape to carry a large, heavy pack up steep terrain, have experience navigating with map & compass or GPS off trail, and can handle cold, windy, bad weather conditions.
You must be comfortable being in the wilderness without cellphone reception.
If extreme weather sets in in the mountains, possible alternatives include hiking below tree line in this area, or going back to the Black Hills to hike.
You must have all of your own gear!  Possible shared equipment may include camping stoves, bear canisters, and tents, but you have to have everything else.

For those interested in joining me:
I took a Wilderness First Responder course years ago, and remember enough to deal with most situations.  If you are a Wilderness EMT or Wilderness First Responder that is a big bonus.
I am happy to carpool with anyone.  I have a little Kia Spectra, so if you have a 4WD vehicle that you would be willing to drive, that is a big bonus.  Since it will be a long drive I would appreciate anyone who is will to share in the driving duties.  If we end up taking my car, please note it is a manual transmission.  I am willing to cover a majority of the fuel costs.
For those located in the Twin Cities, I will want to have a pre-trip meeting to discuss logistics and how to best share equipment and camp duties.  For those outside the Twin Cities, emails will have to be sufficient.

If I haven't scared you away, and you are still interested, please email me directly at [address removed].    

Best regards,

Josh Wirtz

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