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Spiderwoman’s Tips || Reflections, camps, conditions & other small details

In this multi-post series, Spiderwoman offers her tips for hiking the Wind River High Route and her comments about the Wind River Guide. View all of her posts.

Some of her pictures have been embedded in these posts. To see the remainder of them, go to: Section 1, Section 2, Section 3, and Section 4.


Where We Camped, Approximate Daily Mileage

  1. Just past “Campsite tr rejoins”. 2m
  2. “Protected camps in krumholtz”. Fished. 12m
  3. Lake 11,185 below West Gully. 4m
  4. Down in the trees just past “Legal camps on trailside benches”. 8m
  5. Just past “PR-20” & “Grassy lateral moraines, krumholtz + rockfield clusters”. 9m
  6. Outlet of Bewmark Lake. Fished. 7m
  7. Just past “PR-28” at “Last reliable water for 4 hard miles”. 6m
  8. South end of Upper Golden Lake. Fished. 8m
  9. In Alpine Lakes Basin at “Gravel camps if snow-free”. 6m
  10. “PR-41 | Soft Tundra, aka “sponga”. 7m
  11. “PR-44” & “Walled sites”. 4m
  12. Glacier Trail Exit. Near mapped Williamson Corral.
  13. Glacier Trail Exit. Motel in Dubois.
  14. Glacier Trail Return. Near mapped Williamson Corral.
  15. Glacier Trail Return. Double Lake. Fished.
  16. Glacier Trail Return. Along Dinwoody Creek just before reaching “PR-43”.
  17. Baker Lake by “PR-50 | Iceberg Lk Pass – Camp-able if not windy”. 9m
  18. “Water + walled camps” between Downs Mountain and No Mans Pass. 6m
  19. Trail Lakes TH. 13m

Camping Concerns

I felt daily anxiety about where we were going to be able to pitch our tent. We got early starts, but we often called it quits earlier than we were ready to (like around 1500, which was nice on fishing days).

It’s just hard to start the next pass-project at 1500 not knowing how long the ascent/descent is going to take, and what the terrain looks like on the other side as far as camping goes. And it’s not the kind of terrain, or navigation situation, I would want to be in at night.

We were super conservative in this regard. A single person tent would have opened up lots more camping options.

Below Downs Mountain (Skurka caption)

Crowded or Empty? People We Saw During the Day

  1. Day hikers
  2. Several small groups of backpackers
  3. No one
  4. Too many to count
  5. Climbers on Pingora. Guided Mule Packing Group. Couples/groups on Pyramid Lake Trail. Climbing/fishing party with base camp along East Fork River.
  6. Solo cheerful dude from Utah doing Dixon/Wilson’s Route at ~ 20 miles/day. Day-trip couple fishing in Bonneville Lakes.
  7. No one
  8. While looking for a camp spot, chanced upon a taciturn man camped alone, kicked back with a book
  9. All in Alpine Lakes Basin: 1 group was in the distance on the east side of the lakes. Passed a solo guy, then 2nd group that I think were actually 2 separate parties – both reported on the party of 3+dog that were separated. Then camped with man+dog.
  10. No one
  11. None until approaching Dinwoody Creek, then lots of tents and climbers
  12. Ranger up near Elk Camp asking passers-by about their food storage method re: bears, several couples/groups of climbers and backpackers, Mule Pack Team
  13. Several couples/groups of climbers and backpackers. Large NOLS group. Day hikers.
  14. Large NOLS group. Day hikers. Backpackers, climbers.
  15. Mule Pack Team. Backpackers, climbers.
  16. Dave and Chris – hi! – ultra marathon athletes – beta-tested WRHR with Skurka the year prior – lovely guys – wish we could have talked longer. Mule Pack Team. Backpackers, climbers.
  17. Good morning chat with Dave and Chris – a surprising treat to kick off the day – they were quick and soon all we could see was a speck of red shirt in the distance (look closely, they’re distant specks in one of my glacier pictures – talk about perspective!) – then they, with their tiny packs and big fitness, were gone. Sheep hunters at Baker Lake camp.
  18. No one
  19. Backpackers, climbers, day hikers.

Weather

  1. Threatened rain
  2. Scattered rain showers
  3. Thunder, rain close by
  4. Drizzle, then steady rain and socked-in
  5. Socked-in, drizzle, thunder
  6. Blue sky
  7. Blue sky, strong wind picked up in the evening
  8. Blue sky, strong wind.
  9. Blue sky, strong wind, cold
  10. Cold, socked-in, raining, hailing most of the night
  11. Socked-in, drizzling in the morning, clearing mid-morning, socked-in blowing ice evening
  12. Blue sky, turned to scattered rain showers and thunder
  13. Blue sky in Dubois
  14. Blue sky/partly cloudy
  15. Blue sky/partly cloudy
  16. Blue sky, clouds rolling in at camp
  17. Blue sky, clouds rolling in at camp
  18. Gunmetal sky, thunder, scattered rain showers, blowing ice, strong wind and sideways rain/hail at camp
  19. Blue-bird morning, scattered rain showers and thunder near TH

Weather Around Gannett

We were in this area, or had a view of it, for quite a while and it really seemed to get the brunt of the weather.

If the sky looks like this, consider getting down. The Divide is a bad place to be in weather such as this. (Skurka caption)

Flowers

Fading, but still out around “PR-08” and ascending “PR-14 | NY Pass”.

Fall Colors

So pretty. Especially in the ground cover plants. There was even a noteworthy change between the time we exited through the meadow below Gannett and when we came back. It was really special to see that change and was another silver-lining for that long of a walk for an unplanned resupply.

Birds

It was rare to hear bird song. Raptors were soaring.

Pika

If it’s on your life-list to have daily Pika encounters, to be greeted by their high pitch voices, to easily locate them in the rubble and watch them scuttle back and forth packing grass away for winter, the high Wind Rivers is your place.

Elk and Sheep

Lots of sign. Prints, pellets, rubbed trees. Saw one Elk south of Blaurock Pass. Got to watch a huge group just off Glacier Trail on our walk back in. A skylined bull with a big rack arched his neck and let out a long loud bugle that made the long, unexpected walk back in instantly worth it.

Saw a ram near Trail Lakes TH on our drive back from Dubois to start the Glacier Trail again. Then saw the group of ewes just above Baker Lake.

Above Baker Lake (Skurka caption)

Buggy?

Except for some totally-tolerable, weird, small biting fly things I’ve never seen before (that left really itchy welts) on the 14 mile approach, not a single mosquito or horsefly. Headnet unused.

Fording?

Never got our feet wet on a creek crossing. Rock-hoped and used logs people had placed.

Worries

Biggest

1. Visibility for navigation
2. Camp options for the night
3. Injury caused by traveling on unstable moraines
4. Slipping on loose talus while ascending/descending passes early on with the heavy backpack

Not relevant

1. Water’s everywhere
2. No National Park designation (need I say more?)

Limited visibility on New York Pass (Skurka caption)

I Learned…

  1. When in doubt, stay in the fall line when ascending/descending passes. Comparatively milder angle and more consolidated in the middle.
  2. Stay off unstable moraines whenever possible. Even if it means walking a little further, taking a little longer.
  3. That poles make all the difference when negotiating loose and/or steep terrain.
  4. To love micro crampons with my first grippy step onto a slick snowfield.
  5. Heavy backpack bad. Resupply good.
  6. Resupply good. Heavy backpack bad.
  7. Other backpackers hire Mule Packers for resupplying. Why the heck not!

I Wouldn’t Do This Particular Route Without My…

  1. Hiking partner.
  2. Poles (I didn’t use them on my previous thru-hike, the HDT, and have since learned how silly that was). Poles were indispensable safety tools for me on the WRHR.
  3. Shelter that I trust in strong wind with precip blowing in sideways.
  4. Approach shoes with their high-friction rubber. Yeah, I’m geeked out. Bomber grip on steep angles.

Protein supplement (Skurka caption)

Skurka’s WRHR – To Thru-Hike Or Not

The answer depends on your objective. If your objective is to immerse yourself in all that is the thru-hiking experience, and do it in a world-class-gorgeous place chock full of opportunity for challenge, growth, bonding, and immersion into nature, then I’ll shout it from the mountaintops: GO FOR IT!!!

If you find meaning, even elegance, in walking between two particularly significant landforms (in this case, between the highest 13ers of the southern and northern Wind River Range), go for it! Each year, hundreds of people thru-hike between arbitrary political boundaries that only exist in the human brain, and spend a lot longer, and go through a lot of so-so settings, doing it. So why not thru-hike from one real, Earth-made physical feature to its counterpart through an environment where nothing can be rated as so-so?

Knowing what I know now, considering my style + skill + fitness level, I’d plan a resupply at Big Sandy Lodge and another at the base of Gannett via mule packers. I’d zero at the Gannett resupply.

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2 Responses to Spiderwoman’s Tips || Reflections, camps, conditions & other small details

  1. dgray January 29, 2017 at 9:14 am #

    This series has been a compelling read – honest, raw, good info and a good story. Thank you for the effort of putting it together.

    I think you’ve also done a service to all of us regular backpackers (though your bio makes it clear that you too are a couple of steps above that!) by giving a realistic picture of what we would be getting ourselves into if Andrew’s text and pictures of these high routes seduce us into trying it.

    For many of us a committed high route trip like this is too much too soon. Andrew, would you ever consider a blog post that might outline some bite sized off trail options for backpackers with experience only on trails? I’m thinking that it would be nice to get an initial experience on an easier and rewarding pass that involves maybe a short day or two alternate while on a regular trail. For example if someone was hiking the JMT or CT and wanted to veer off trail at some point and join back up again a day later somewhere down the trail after an interesting high route type experience, what would be some good options with a high chance of success for someone wanting to dip a toe in the deeper water?

    I realize that posting an answer to this runs the risk of funneling a million people to those places, but some of us don’t know where to start and don’t want to get in over our heads at first. I’ve looked at maps myself to identify potential options, but without on the ground knowledge it seems impossible to know what would work. Thoughts?

    • Andrew Skurka January 30, 2017 at 7:47 am #

      I have forcefully stated in the past that my general recommendation is to NOT thru-hike a high route. They are too long and too hard, and the logistics are a pain. Most backpackers would be much better served by doing a loop that includes a portion of the high route, so that they get some high route experience without committing to extensive off-trail hiking or an unrealistic exit point/date.

      In the Guides that I have written for the Wind River High Route, Kings Canyon High Basin Route, and Pfiffner Traverse (a work in progress) I have already created information for those who would like to complete a section of the route. Links to that info:

      WRHR
      KCHBR
      Pfiffner

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