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Wind River Advice Wanted
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Andrew Wolff

Locale: Chattanooga
Wind River Advice Wanted on 06/21/2010 21:45:43 MDT Print View

I have been planning a trip to the Winds and thought it might be about time to solicit some advice. I've found lots of useful threads on the topic searching around here which have given me a good start but a few questions linger before I begin booking tickets.

1. I guess I'll be going solo and would like to get somewhat off trail here and there although nothing to difficult from a navigation or technicality standpoint.

I'm planning on starting out at the Elkhart Park Trailhead and heading up to Titcomb Basin possibly going off trail to enter it from the north end, then going down to Indian Basin and Indian Pass. (I'm wondering about a possible off trail route from Indian Pass down the Knife Point Glacier to the Alpine Lakes and on down to Hay Pass but I'll admit to having no glacier experince and don't know how difficult or advisable this would be).

Alternatively I would head down the Highline and Fremont trails to Bonneville Basin then over into the Washakie Basin then down to the Cirque and finally a possible climb of Wind River Peak before exiting at Big Sandy. I guess this is a pretty standard highlights itinarary but is there any little gems I'm missing?

I see that Nancy Palister's book of off trail routes is out and I'm planning on ordering it too, but does anyone here have any offtrail variation suggestions?

2. I'm planning for about 10 days late August into early September, I figure this should help me avoid the worst of the bugs and the lightning storms and slide me in before there's too much chance of snow (although I'm aware that there's always a chance of snow there, does this timing make sense?

3. I'll be flying into Jackson and understand that there are outfitters in Pinedale that can shuttle me to the trailhead and even pick up from the Jackson Airport. besides doing this or renting a car and leaving it at the trail head are there any other transportation options between Jackson and Pinedale and is there a recommended shuttle service? I was hoping there was bus service to Pinedale but haven't found any yet.

4. What is the bear and food storage situation in the Winds?

I'm sure I'll think of some more questions as I go along and I'll post a gear list for disection in the appropriate forum soon. Thanks.

Edited by Andrew on 06/22/2010 20:39:20 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Wind River Advice Wanted on 06/23/2010 20:20:56 MDT Print View

1. I highly recommend Nancy Pallister's "Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains." Do get the accompanying CD which has far clearer maps and photos that you'll drool over. Be sure to read her introduction, study the descriptions of the routes and carefully assess your skills. Since you say you have no glacier travel experience, I'd avoid anything that goes over a glacier, especially solo (definitely not advised for glacier travel). The glaciers will be mostly bare ice and snowfields will be icy for part of the day when you plan to go.

2. There is often a snowstorm about Labor Day. After that the probability of thunderstorms is less but the probability of significant snow is greater. Of course last year it snowed a foot (per reports) in Titcomb Basin on Aug. 8 and Aug. 15, so going earlier is not a guarantee of no snow! Best to be prepared! The locals may tell you that after the Labor Day storm, you'll have several weeks of warm sunny days and clear COLD nights). Personally, I wouldn't count on it!

3. No bus into Pinedale. There basically isn't much public transit in Wyoming, a very sparsely populated state. The shuttle services on the west side of the Winds and to the Jackson or Rock Springs airports are provided by the Great Outdoor Shop in Pinedale. Not cheap, but excellent service. Their phone number is on their website.

4. Check the Bridger-Teton National Forest website. The rules are to hang or use a canister. Frankly, I used my Ursack because I can't throw (arthritis and lack of skill) and no way could I carry two canisters (one for me and one for my dog's food). I never saw any sign of a bear. Some grizzly have been sighted in the north end of the Green River Basin (north and east of Green River Lakes). A few places have problem black bears--Golden Lakes, Big Sandy Lake, Cirque of the Towers.

One thing you should know is that most of the lower and mid-level forest in the Winds is lodgepole pine, which has pretty well been killed off by the bark beetle epidemic. The result isn't pretty, but you get used to it. You thus may have problems finding a safe place to camp at lower elevations, and will probably have to camp in a meadow. Up in the high country, no problems with the trees, but there is a lot of area above timberline with no shelter except boulders, so you need a tent that will stand up to wind. Just yesterday Elkhart Park reported 45 mph. wind gusts. I'm sure they were a lot stronger higher up!

The Earthwalk Press maps are excellent for planning but lousy for details. I'd download and print out the appropriate USGS maps once you figure out your route.

I'd plan a couple of layover/contingency days into your itinerary in case of bad weather (you don't want to be crossing a 12,000 foot pass in a blizzard whiteout). It's also a good idea to have a bailout plan just in case.

One other thing--altitude. The Elkhart Park trailhead is 9300 feet and you'll be well above 10,000 feet the first night. Know the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness and descend immediately if they happen. Otherwise, you'll mostly find that you get really tired. Plan to take it easy the first few days.

Andrew Wolff

Locale: Chattanooga
Wind Rivers on 06/24/2010 21:20:30 MDT Print View

Thanks for the advice Mary, I've read a bunch of your previous posting on the Winds and it was influential in my decision to go there. I've ordered the Nancy Palister Book with the CD. I am definately revising my mileage expectations down for this trip because of the altitude. I'm interested to hear you say you've not seen much in the way of bear activity there, I usually hang food but on this trip I plan on staying above treeline as much as possible so that may not always be an option.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Wind River Advice Wanted on 06/25/2010 10:05:08 MDT Print View

Just because I didn't spot any bear sign doesn't mean there are no bears around--just that I didn't see any! :-) I haven't been to the places I mentioned like Cirque of the Towers where there are habituated bears--i.e. people have not secured their food, with the inevitable result.

Unless you develop specific altitude problems (such as AMS), you'll find that after 3-4 days you should be able to do close to your usual mileage. It's those first few days that get to you.

Enjoy your trip! IMHO, the Winds are one of the most beautiful places in the world!