I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed "Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming: Off-Trail Routes for the Advanced Backpacker," by Nancy Pallister. Spokane, WA: Gray Dog Press, 2010. I have no commercial interest whatsoever in this book but highly recommend it to those readers interested in backpacking in that area.
The Wind River Mountains of west-central Wyoming contain an area of approximately 20 by 100 miles of mostly wilderness areas, totaling approximately 900,000 acres, lying along the Continental Divide at elevations ranging from 10,000 to 13,804 feet. While there is an extensive network of established trails, most of the wilderness is trailless. With the current greatly reduced Forest Service budgets, many former trails are no longer maintained.
This guidebook describes in detail 48 spectacular off-trail routes in Wyoming's Wind River Mountains. Ms. Pallister is a former NOLS instructor with many years' experience climbing and hiking in the Wind Rivers. The guide is designed to supplement, rather than replace, the 1990's guidebooks by Ray Adkison and Joe Kelsey. Most of the routes in this guide are designed for advanced backpackers with considerable off-trail experience. Many of the routes require mountaineering skills and experience for at least Class 3 terrain and for glacier travel. The hazards of each route are included in the description. The author, however, also lists a number of routes that do not require extensive mountaineering skills and experience and are suitable for those (like this reviewer) who have extensive experience in off-trail navigation and in finding abandoned trails but are not up to considerable scrambling and have neither the skills or desire for glacier travel. The author lists in the Introduction these easier routes and others in which the difficult sections can be bypassed. It is important to read carefully both the sections of the Introduction in which the ratings are described and the details of each route, and to assess your own skills carefully and honestly when deciding which routes are suitable for your own skill and experience level.
This reviewer was easily able to construct well over a dozen itineraries using either all of the described routes or a combination of on-trail and the easier off-trail sections which would be suitable to her skills, even though not a mountaineer and not willing to subject her beloved dog to a lot of talus. For those advanced backpackers with mountaineering and glacier skills (and willing to leave the dog at home), there is almost a lifetime's worth of possible trips!
Unlike other Wind Rivers guidebooks, Ms. Pallister's book includes a number of trips on the Wind River Indian Reservation Roadless Area and describes the details of the permit system and regulations there. This is only one of the unique features of this book.
The route maps are printed in black and white at the end of the book. This reviewer, however, strongly recommends the optional CD that accompanies the book. The CD not only has much clearer maps to print out but also provides a visual feast of magnificent color photographs of each route which will leave you salivating! The photos alone are well worth the price of the book and CD! Some of these photographs include superimposed diagrams of the suggested routes, which clarify the descriptions and maps. Even for those not planning to go off-trail, the photos provide a preview of the entire range.
Some GPS enthusiasts may deplore the lack of GPS waypoints in this guidebook. As Ms. Pallister points out (p. 5), "GPS skills are no substitute for the canny ability of the experienced to efficiently get around small-scale obstacles. Trail sleuthing is not only the ability to see faint signs of travel, but also the ability to look at topography and see where an animal or human would most likely choose to travel." A GPS will certainly be an excellent navigational aid but will not substitute for these micro-route-finding skills.
In addition to the route descriptions, Ms. Pallister provides many important logistical details, including weather conditions, suggested gear, detailed directions to trailheads, descriptions of facilities available in nearby towns, shuttle services and many links to further information.
For anyone interested in backpacking in the Wind River Mountains, this book is, in this reviewer's opinion, a must-have!
For further information: http://www.mcreynoldscpa.com/BeyondTrails