Wind River Range -- Part One -- Trail Conditions

At the beginning of this month my friend Dr. G and I went hiking in the Wind River Range in Wyoming. It was hard for us to find online information regarding weather etc., so my trip report is going to consist of three parts: (1) Weather Report / Trail Conditions, (2) Logistics and (3) Trip Report. This way if anyone needs trail info, they will hopefully be able to find it here. If you are reading this and don't plan on hiking, you can skip part one and wait until part two or three come out! 

A taste of what's to come

I will go into this in more detail later, but most of our hike consisted of traveling on the semi-charted and very informal "Wind River High Route." (See here for the Skurka version or the Wilson/Dixon version) Described by Andrew Skurka as being approximately 66% off trail, it consisted of a lot of boulder hopping, stream fording, snowfield crossing, bushwhacking and route finding. This was a huge challenge as well as being a lot of fun. However, there were some things that it would have been nice to know beforehand. 

First and foremost, there was A LOT more snow than I expected. Most of the route is above 10,500 feet and much of it is even in the 12,000 foot plus range. I knew there would be some snow; I knew this year was more snowy than others have been. However, there was still even more snow that I expected even after taking certain factors into consideration. I brought Yaktrax and Dr. G had micro-spikes and we used them a lot! However, depending on your expertise, I would even say that some sections warranted crampons/ice axes or at least trekking poles, especially if you are inexperienced or faint at heart. 

Wilson/Dixon descending the south side of Alpine Lakes Pass in 2013 (source)

Dr. G ascending the south side of Alpine Lakes Pass Aug 2017

Dr. G ascending the south side of Alpine Lakes Pass Aug 2017 (he is the tiny speck beyond the tiny rock)

Foodwise, I ate ALL of my food. When the hike was done, I had one packet of peanut butter (180 calories) left over. I had eaten every other scrap of food that I brought. I will go into more detail about this in the logistics portion of this series, but basically my takeaway is that I forgot how much the altitude and constant movement can burn up those calories!

In addition, of the seven days we hiked, five of them had rain, hail or snow. One night, as we were camping at about 11,000 feet, we got snowed on and woke up to the sound of the snow sliding off the top of the tent to the ground. The next day there was a beautiful layer of new snow, which was priceless, but it was hard to see the rocks underneath to see where to step or to determine where the best path was. Needless to say, I wore pretty much everything that I brought, even the "just in case" layers, and I was mighty glad to have bought a new sleeping bag before setting out. Also, if you do not have a waterproof backpack, I suggest dry bags or at the very least a trash bag pack liner. 

Rainy but never gloomy!

New snow! Beautiful but hard to get traction! Looking north from Europe peak.

Due to the above and probably other things such as route finding errors and variability of the route in general, the hike took us a lot longer than expected. The total route is supposed to be 96 miles, so we thought it realistic that we would take five or maybe six days to complete the route. However, due to a few wrong turns and snowy days, it took us seven days, we only averaged about 15 miles per day AND ended up with a total route distance of 114 miles. 

If you have any questions, I am happy to answer them! 

For my normal readers, have you ever gone off trail when hiking? Have you ever heard of the Wind River Range?

1 comment:

  1. Man this was a hard core trip! You are TOUGH!! That's an impressive amount of distance to cover in a week! I can see why you ate nearly ever scrap of food, though! I can't wait to see more pictures and hear more about it.

    I've only stuck to the trails while hiking. I'm too much of a newbie to make my own path! And I've never heard of the Wind River Range!


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