An unnecessary explanation for silence

Five years worth of maps from trips in the Wind River Range, conveniently within arm's reach of my desk.

Five years worth of maps from trips in the Wind River Range, conveniently within arm’s reach of my desk.

For about the last month I’ve mostly checked out of my blog and social media channels, a contrast from months prior. I’ve been busier than normal, but projects behind the scenes are consuming all of my time. Partly to procrastinate before having to work on these things again, I’ll offer an unnecessary explanation for my silence.

1. Wind River High Route Guide

Early next week I expect to release my guide for the Wind River High Route. You can order it now, but I haven’t pushed the pre-order much since I don’t yet have something to deliver. The first installment will have all of the thru-hiking materials (annotated topo maps, datasheets, preparatory information, route directions); a second release later in the month will have all the section-hiking information. If it’s not already, this is going to be a 100+ hour project, and I think the finished result will show.

The Wind River High Route is an old idea —  Forrest McCarthy skied it in 1994, and it probably goes back further than that. But my guide is the only one available that fulfills the potential of the range. Most importantly, it penetrates the spectacular northeast corner, home to Wyoming’s high point (Gannett Peak, elev 13,809) and the largest concentration of glaciers in the Rocky Mountains. Other route proposals tragically bypass this section, which is never harder than Class 2 and which has no crevasse or high-water risk. The graphic below depicts the elevation of my route (blue) versus the others, for the final one-third of the route. Which experience would you rather have?

Many photos of the route are included in this trip report.

A comparison of Wind River High Route versions. Mine (blue) versus the others that drop into the Green River Valley and bypass the most spectacular part of the range.

A comparison of Wind River High Route versions. Mine (blue) versus the others that drop into the Green River Valley and bypass the most spectacular part of the range.

2. Second edition of The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide

We’re still working out some of the details, but it looks like a second edition of the Gear Guide will be available in Spring 2017, published again by National Geographic Books. I submitted my final files for the first edition in October 2011, and by now it’s in need of an update.

While backpacking gear has evolved, I’d say that the larger change has been with me. In the last five years my backpacking style has changed (from multi-month thru-hikers to “short is the new long“) and my backpacking knowledge has grown tremendously, mostly due to having guided some 50+ trips with 350+ clients, with a full range of locations, seasons, and client abilities and interests. With that much practice, I’ve been forced to get better.

Fifteen months from now there will be a second edition on this shelf.

Fifteen months from now there will be a second edition on this shelf.

3. Year-end accounting and taxes

This is the only time of year that I envy W-2 employees. The cost of being self-employed — with utmost scheduling flexibility, no interoffice politics, and the reaping of everything I sow — are the multiple days that I lose in January and February to closing out my books, submitting a dizzying number of forms, and assembling supporting documentation. And I stay on top of my accounting throughout the year, so this is just extra work, not catch-up.

The process also costs me several thousand dollars in accounting and tax filing fees, mostly for the business but also for our personal return. I’d rather be skiing, and I’m almost inclined in March to vote for Carly Firorina and her 3-page tax plan. Don’t worry — I said “almost.”

At this time of year, I spend way more time in QB than on the slopes.

At this time of year, I spend way more time in QB than on the slopes.

Posted in on February 4, 2016


  1. Walter Underwood on February 4, 2016 at 10:39 am

    If you are updating the appendix for Philmont and would like a proofreader/factchecker, I’d be glad to do that. Philmont has some unusual (but quite reasonable) rules.

    There are a couple of small omissions in the current list, though it is vastly better than most packing lists for Philmont.

    The byline got changed in a site update, but I wrote this review of the Philmont list:

    • Andrew Skurka on February 4, 2016 at 10:59 am

      I may take you up on that offer. The Philmont-specific rules (and strategies for addressing them) are difficult to comprehend for those who have not been there multiple times.

  2. Will on February 4, 2016 at 11:47 am

    Gannett: 13,804′
    Sorry, it was bothering me.

    • Andrew Skurka on February 4, 2016 at 11:57 am

      Shame on me, thanks for the catch! In fairness, my original 13,180 was a typo; I meant 13,810. But that’s not right either. I have so many other elevations in my head right now that it’s no surprise I couldn’t recall it exactly. Lowest Alpine Lake, 10,895. Big Sandy Lake, 9,710 (at least at the tr jct to Jackass Pass). The saddle below Pedestal Peak, 12,200+. Europe Peak, 13,259. Wind River Peak, a little less than 13,200 if I recall.

    • Andrew Skurka on February 4, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Actually, Google says we are both wrong:


    • Andrew Skurka on February 4, 2016 at 12:09 pm

      Although the USGS quads are consistent with your number:


      Given that the quad is really outdated, I bet Google is probably right. The Winds have not risen 5 feet in the last 40 years, but the technology to topographically map the earth has improved a great deal since then.

      BTW, what do you make of this photo taken from Wind River Peak, 42 miles to the south? Do you think that Gannett is visible, with the horizontal snowfield just below its summit?

      The view north from Wind River Peak. Is Gannett visible, with the horizontal snowfield just below its summit?

  3. Will on February 4, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    No worries. When in doubt of the elev, take the lower, I guess. I never know who to trust.

    Not sure if the above link will work but Google Earth shows that distinct snowy couloir on Fremont. I am not familiar with any other peaks that have a summit snowfield like Gannett in the Winds. Looks like it. Must have been a clear day. When I was up there in August it was way too smoky. You could barely see past the cirque. This is also pretty zoomed-in?

  4. Paul Mags on February 4, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Nice book choices… The Complete Walker, if outdated for specific gear, is an enduring classic for a reason.

  5. Kevin on February 22, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Do you have an idea of what your next trip will be? Or are you still working that out?

    • Andrew Skurka on February 23, 2016 at 8:56 am

      With no guided trips scheduled this year, my summer is wide open and it’s not necessary for me to dial in my plans. It’s likely that I will get out to Escalante and the Sierra again. I may get up to Glacier, which I haven’t been to since 2007. And otherwise I think I’ll be staying close to home — there are a handful of routes I want to do in the Colorado Rockies.

      • Kevin on March 12, 2016 at 12:37 pm

        You think you’ll release some guides for Colorado/Montana/Utah?

        • Andrew Skurka on March 13, 2016 at 10:25 am

          Among the areas for which I’ve written guides, one commonality is that I know the area well, after multiple visits and for many weeks or months. I’m uncomfortable in writing guides about an area I have visited just a time or two for a relatively short period of time — after such limited experience, I don’t yet have a thorough understanding of the area and I probably haven’t been able to check out alternate routes.

          In other states in the West, there are a few other areas I know as well as I know, say, Kings Canyon and the Winds. They are all in Colorado, California, and Utah. You can probably guess where my travels have me going this year.

  6. Kevin on March 15, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    Yeah, I figured Montana might be a little less likely than the others right now. Colorado and Utah definitely have tons of potential though and generate a lot of interest. On another note, do you still pack-raft at all and/or do you see any potential to incorporate that into a route in the near future?

Leave a Comment