Grebenkemper offers "final word" on Fremont Peak

Corrections and additions for Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone.

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Grebenkemper offers "final word" on Fremont Peak

Postby TomTuriano » Thu Dec 02, 2004 4:19 pm

Writer and mathematician John Grebenkemper has just completed a thorough study of which peak John C. Fremont climbed. His article will be published in the American Alpine Journal, but is available for preview and comment at:

http://home.pacbell.net/johngreb/fremont1842.htm.

Comments about the article may be sent to Grebenkemper at <fremont@pacbell.net>

Here is my reply to the article, written 12/2/04:

Dear John,

Fine job on your article!

Your work with the barometric pressure and elevation is very impressive and, as you showed, with little doubt, proves that Fremont climbed Fremont Peak.

I've always been 99.9% certain of this, but good to convert those spending time thinking they climbed Woodrow Wilson. You might have converted at least one diehard WW fan....Jim Wolf, who wrote a similar dissertation in 1999 supporting WW. I know Lorraine Bonney quite well (had pleasure of guiding her up the Grand 15 years ago)....she'll be the next one to convince.

Once more thinkers like Jim and Lorraine join up, we'll all be able to ferret out the route that Fremont followed on the approach, and his routes on the 14th and 15th.....as I believe your article still has left some items to be discussed.

In particular, the approach route, but my arguments are still not really solidified for that because I have not tried to trace the routes on the ground. In don't think your rendering/plate comparison conclusively shows that they traveled via Lost Lake. Also, I don't think they used Fremont Creek because the location of their camp at Boulder Lake doesn't set them up for that, and because of the difficulty of travel there. I think Wolf's suggestion of Monument Creek and Pole Creek Lakes is much more feasible. (There is a popular outfitter trail today that takes a mellow line over the ridge dividing Monument Creek and Fremont Creek and traverses easy benches above and south of Big Seneca Lake toward Island Lake.)

The item that I feel more able to judge is the left-right issue. I don't think it is "impossible" to draw a conclusion based on the left-right statements by Fremont and Preuss. In fact, I think we can rely on those directions at least 75%. It is far more likely than not that both men's perspective of right and left was made from the same place....base camp or somewhere west of basecamp.

I believe that the men followed the southerly inlet of Island Lake near the se corner of the lake up to Lake 10,813 (almost one mile long and bound by steep snow near outlet) in Indian Basin on the 14th. It is difficult to traverse the shore of this lake, so they took off up through the domes and hummocks where men became separated. Preuss, Johnny, and Carson made it onto the sw spur of the mountain, and Carson made it to the highest bump along that ridge immediately below the final ascent.

On the fifteenth, Basil led them "right of the mountain" (though this does sort of imply that the day before they went left of the mountain) but "left of yesterday's route" which leaves today's Indian Basin trail route as the only option up past the three lakes to the giant bowl below the south face. (which begs the question, why didn't Preuss mention in his journal having crossed his route from the day before?). The other option is that "right of the mountain" means going up the right side of the mountain from Mistake Lake....away from the giant walls visible up and left...(a route that I have climbed, that goes with easy scrambling.)

There are a few other statements in your article that seemed a little off the cuff when I read them but not worth arguing over. Overall, I think it is a great article and will serve as the "final word" on Fremont, at least until we discover the next big item to argue over.

thank you very much for your effort!

Thomas Turiano
Last edited by TomTuriano on Mon Feb 28, 2005 10:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

TomTuriano
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Grebenkemper reply to my letter

Postby TomTuriano » Fri Dec 03, 2004 9:45 pm

Thomas;
>
> I've always been 99.9% certain of this, but good to convert those spending
> time thinking they climbed Fremont Peak. You might have converted at least
> one diehard WW fan....Jim Wolf, who wrote a similar dissertation in 1999
> supporting WW. I know Lorraine Bonney quite well (had pleasure of guiding
> her up the Grand 15 years ago)....she'll be the next one to convince.

Isn't Lorraine living in the Houston area these days? If you know her, feel
free to mail her a copy of my analysis. I didn't want to send her a copy
since I haven't met her.
>
> Once more thinkers like Jim and Lorraine join up, we'll all be able to
> ferret out the route that Fremont followed on the approach, and his routes
> on the 14th and 15th.....as I believe your article still has left some
> items to be discussed.

This is certainly true. Where I couldn't develop any new information, I've
just followed the current historical interpretation.
>
> In particular, the approach route, but my arguments are still not really
> solidified for that because I have not tried to trace the routes on the
> ground. In don't think the rendering/plate comparison conclusively shows
> that they traveled via Lost Lake. Also, I don't think they used Fremont
> Creek because the location of their camp at Boulder Lake doesn't set them
> up for that, and because of the difficulty of travel there. I think Wolf's
> suggestion of Monument Creek and Pole Creek Lakes is much more feasible.
> (There is a popular outfitter trail today that takes a mellow line over
the
> ridge dividing Monument Creek and Fremont Creek and traverses easy benches
> above and south of Big Seneca Lake toward Island Lake.)

I'm quite certain of the position for the drawing of View of the Wind River
Mountains. I spent a lot of time with the Digital Elevation Maps with
drawings done from numerous positions. It actually amazed me that position
changes of only a few hundred yards dramatically changed the view so it
didn't match the drawing. The drawing covers a horizontal angle of about 55
degrees. If you have some other position from which you think the drawing
was done, I can run it in my mapping program.

In my narrative, I used the approach up Fremont Creek since it was generally
accepted. However, there is nothing in my data analysis that rules out an
approach from a different route. The location of the drawing is on a small
summit which is just north of Seneca Lake. If you were approaching from the
Seneca Lake area, it would have been a easy climb to get a better view of
the area. I don't think the location of the drawing either proves or
disproves an approach passing by Seneca Lake.
>
> The item that I feel more able to judge is the left-right issue. I don't
> think it is "impossible" to draw a conclusion based on the left-right
> statements by Fremont and Preuss. In fact, I think we can rely on those
> directions at least 75%. It is far more likely than not that both men's
> perspective of right and left was made from the same place....base camp or
> somewhere west of basecamp.
>
> I believe that the men followed the southerly inlet of Island Lake near
the
> se corner of the lake up to Lake 10,813 (almost one mile long and bound by
> steep snow near outlet) in Indian Basin on the 14th. It is difficult to
> traverse the shore of this lake, so they took off up through the domes and
> hummocks where men became separated. Preuss, Johnny, and Carson made it
> onto the sw spur of the mountain, and Carson made it to the highest bump
> along that ridge immediately below the final ascent.

The only information I can contribute is that Preuss was up above 12,200'.
My personal opinon is that Preuss was on the West Face of Fremont Peak and
got hung up in the cliffs that are high up on the face. Carson was somewhat
south of Preuss and reached one of the bumps along the SW ridge. I have no
way to prove this; its just my feeling reading the text and having been into
that area several times.
>
> On the fifteenth, Basil led them "right of the mountain" (though this does
> sort of imply that the day before they went left of the mountain) but
"left
> of yesterday's route" which leaves today's Indian Basin trail route as the
> only option up past the three lakes to the giant bowl below the south
face.
> (which begs the question, why didn't Preuss mention in his journal having
> crossed his route from the day before?). The other option is that "right
of
> the mountain" means going up the right side of the mountain from Mistake
> Lake....away from the giant walls visible up and left...(a route that I
> have climbed, that goes with easy scrambling.)

My altitude analysis shows that the lake below the summit was most likely
between 10,750' and 11,000'. I also did a calculation of its height above
Fremont's campsite, which is not published in the paper. That analysis
yields an elevation around 10,800', but this number has more uncertainty
than the summit estimate because I am not sure of the time of the
measurement. Any route on the 15th needs to account for where Preuss took
that measurement.
>
> There are a few other statements in your article that seemed a little off
> the cuff when I read them but not worth arguing over. Overall, I think it
> is a great article and will serve as the "final word" on Fremont, at least
> until we discover the next big item to argue over.
>
I'm always looking for constructive comments. I will admit that I didn't
spend that much effort on my comments on the Fremont and Preuss narratives.
I primarily included them for the readers who might not be familar with the
original text. I really focused most of my effort on getting the locations
for the two drawings and doing the altitude analysis.

There is one more puzzle that could be solved and would provide another clue
as to their route. The right half of the Island Lake drawing is a complete
mismatch for the view from that point. Both Bob and I feel that it is
highly likely that Preuss used a camera obscura for the drawings of the
skylines. Such a camera with a 45 degree glass plate as a sketching surface
would give precisely the 40% vertical exaggeration that is present in many
of the Preuss drawings. However, this type of camera would only have a
limted field of view, probably 30 to 40 degrees of horizontal angle. Bob
even found a record of the expedition buying a camera obscura.

I believe that many of the Preuss drawings were done from two sketches and
these were combined when the expedition reports were written. In the case
of the Island Lake drawing, the two sketches were from entirely different
areas and accidently combined. I've been looking around for a piece of
topography in the Wind River area that would match the right half of the
Island Lake drawing. If we can find it, it will give another precise
location through which the expedition passed.

Maybe one of these days I'll make it to the Tetons and look you up. I've
always wanted to do a trip into them, but have never been able to make it
happen.

-John Grebenkemper

TomTuriano
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Posts: 167
Joined: Thu Dec 02, 2004 11:02 am

Bob Graham on approach to Fremont

Postby TomTuriano » Fri Dec 03, 2004 9:46 pm

Hi Thomas.
The approach route, as I looked at it some years back, is based primarily on the two narratives.
The starting point is, of course, the latitude determination which puts them at Boulder Lake.
There were (notwithstanding the statement in the Bonney examination) no further determinations of latitude during the period until the return to that camp at Boulder Lake. This comes directly from the Tables of Astronomical Observations in the government printing of the Report in 1843.
The map is also found only in that printing.

When I first looked at this back in 1999, Bonney was cited in all history printed matter relating to the expedition movements in the Winds.
I didn't know of Kelsey, or of the opinions of climbers and guides like yourself.

In fact, Tom Chaffin had cited the Bonneys in the his MS of Pathfinder, until I convinced him to leave the matter open.
Tom is a good friend, and I was one of his "fact checkers" in that writing project.
The fact that Tom did leave the matter open, was what prompted John G. to contact Tom about the matter after publication in 2002.
John had accepted the Bonneys findings, because, like the Bonneys, he had never seen the 1843 printing which contained the Tables of Astronomical Observations, the Barometric Registers, the original map.

The Bonney footnote 18 reference to latitude is to a footnote at the bottom of page 54 in Bigelow, John, Memoir of the Life and Public Services of John Charles Frémont, Derby & Jackson, New York, 1856. But Bigelow's latitude 43° 10' (he tells us this) was taken from Humboldt's Aspects of Nature. it has nothing to do with the Fremont route in '42.

In all cases, the map coordinates should be based on Fremont's latitude determination (always good) but using a water feature as the second line of position--not his longitude determinations.

So, from that point on, the Preuss map, the Fremont and Preuss narratives, and the Preuss drawings are the only evidence as to the approach route. Carson doesn't even mention the side trip to the Winds, or the climb, in his dictated autobiography.

The narrative comments are indicative of the Fremont Creek (canyon). Notably, Fremont's statement on the 13th:
"...we soon entered the defile I had seen the preceding day....sometimes we were forced, by an occasional difficult pass, to pick our way on a narrow ledge along the side of the defile, and the
mules were frequently on their knees; but these obstructions were rare...this road continued for about three miles, when we suddenly
reached its termination in one of the grand views which, at every turn, meet the traveler in this magnificent region. Here the defile up which we had traveled opened out into a small lawn, where, in a little lake, the stream had its source."

(This was not, however, the route found and used by Carson on the return on the 16th--he did not enter the canyon.
Routes kept being altered as they gained knowledge of the topography)

This place was where the mules were left--the "mule camp."
Lost Lake not only fits the description of the approach, but also Preuss's later statement that it was, from the waterfall Island lake camp, "only two miles distant as the crow flies."

Further, that this was the place is dictated by the Preuss drawing.
My early DEM renderings were done from this vantage--John has refined the coordinates with his more comprehensive rendering engine. But it was just south of that meadow (grazeing) south of Lost Lake.
http://www.longcamp.com/bob_fpk_2.html
http://www.longcamp.com/bob_fpk_3.html

One cannot reproduce the view from anywhere else.
The narrative descriptions of the difficult approach to Island Lake from this point indicates a nearly bee-line route to Island Lake.
Which is contrary to the grain of the topography.

Preuss: "...over rocks and through water. The actual height which we had to climb we were forced to repeat at least two or three times because we had to go downhill again and again, from one mountain to the other."

Fremont: "We were soon involved in the most ragged precipices, nearing the central chain very slowly, and rising but little. The first ridge hid a succession of others; and when, with great fatigue and difficulty, we had climbed up five hundred feet, it was but to make an equal descent on the other side; all these intervening places were filled with small deep lakes, which met the eye in every direction, descending from one level to another, sometimes under bridges formed by huge fragments of granite, beneath which was heard the roar of the water. These constantly obstructed our path, forcing us to make long détours; frequently obliged to retrace our steps, and frequently falling among the rocks. ..We clambered on, always expecting, with every ridge that we crossed, to reach the foot of the peaks, and always disappointed, until about four o'clock, when, pretty well worn out, we reached the shore of a little lake, in which was a rocky island."

All this to cross Preuss's "...only two miles distant as the crow flies."

The route was, of course, not good, and when Basil returned to Lost Lake to obtain mules and supplies, he accomplished the round trip, by a new route, in less time than the original one-way transit.

Basil Lajeunesse was Fremont's favorite. He was not with Fremont on the 2nd expedition, but was on the 3rd--killed by Klamaths during a night attack near Klamath lake in 1846.
Best, Bob


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