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The Winds, solo?
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Ben F
(tekhna) - F
The Winds, solo? on 02/18/2012 15:05:35 MST Print View

Is it totally irresponsible to do a 3-4 day loop in the Winds solo? I've got plenty of experience in the woods, but not so much at elevation. It also doesn't help that I live at sea level and wouldn't at all be acclimated to the altitude. I'm game to try it, but I was wondering what you guys thought. Also, if you had any loop suggestions for those that have been, that'd be awesome.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: The Winds, solo? on 02/18/2012 18:02:28 MST Print View

What month?
Are you willing to pay for a shuttle?
How far can you comfortably hike in a day?

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Re: Re: The Winds, solo? on 02/18/2012 18:20:09 MST Print View

Mid June. I could pay for a shuttle, but I was thinking of just doing a loop starting from the Elkhart trailhead. I'm pretty young and fit, I'm comfortable doing ~14 miles a day, but at my normal altitude and trail pattern. I could probably do more if I needed to, but I don't know how the elevation would factor in there. I'd imagine my comfortable rate would drop pretty significantly, between the thinner air and ascending/descending. So that might drop it to 8-10 miles a day?

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
Re: The Winds, solo? on 02/18/2012 18:27:27 MST Print View

Its not irresponsible or crazy. The Winds are just like any other destination/goal that you may have. Do the prep, plan the route, go for it. If its something you want to do, then go do it.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Re: Re: Re: The Winds, solo? on 02/18/2012 19:20:09 MST Print View

What would make it irresponsible?

Hiking solo does carry a higher risk than hiking in a group but that can be mitigated to the extent you like. Backup gear, more food, more insulation, a spot or plb.

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: The Winds, solo? on 02/18/2012 19:24:36 MST Print View

My concern is mostly elevation, having basically no experience. The Winds don't seem like a great place to make a mistake.

Art Sandt
(artsandt) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The Winds, solo? on 02/18/2012 19:39:00 MST Print View

You could always do a 1-day shake-down hike before any multi-day trips, although I guess that might not be an option if you don't live so close to the mountains. What about the elevation are you concerned about, more specifically?

Edited by artsandt on 02/18/2012 19:39:45 MST.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Elevation on 02/18/2012 19:45:12 MST Print View

I think a loop hike is a good idea. If you get sick just go back. I would not plan to ambitiously but I wouldn't sweet it either. For me I feel elevation at 8000 but its not a huge deal. It slows me down a bit more at 10,000. I've felt a bit sick from going up to about 12,000 too fast. Taking it a bit slow and drinking helps. Carry some hershey's chocalate. Its a good way to get calories down if you lose your appatite.
Personally I'd say go for it.

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Re: Elevation on 02/18/2012 20:38:49 MST Print View

I love chocolate milk! Sold. I'm doing this trip.

Dan Rimar
(tarpon6)

Locale: Florida
Altitude on 02/18/2012 20:41:29 MST Print View

I've lived in Florida for 20 years, and did a solo trip to the Sangres last July. I spent one night in a hotel at 8000 ft before hitting the trailhead at 8500 Ft. That day I went from 8500 to a base camp at 11500 in 7 miles. I did not experience any altitude sickness or even a headache. Everyone is different so you have to monitor yourself and be prepared to head lower if symptoms occur. There's lots of reading material out there on signs and symptoms- do a search for altitude sickness.

I can tell you that altitude and elevation gain absolutely effected my stamina. That 7 miles took me 7 hours. I took frequent breaks and did not hurry- I had all day to get there. Before the trip back in Florida I was breezing through 7 miles with extra weight in my pack. I thought it might be a little harder at altitude but did not expect it to be THAT much harder.

I doubt you experience as dramatic of an altitude gain - but you could depending on where you go in the Winds. I also plan to head to the Winds this summer solo. I'll cary a PLB and I won't take unnecessary risks. No peak bagging, glacier traverses, or class 3 scrambles. Make sure you leave your route plan with someone and a date / time when you will be off the trail. I take a solitude trip every year- just me - doing what ever I want when I want. Have fun.

Mark Mendell
(mmendell) - M

Locale: Midwest
Winds Solo in June on 02/18/2012 21:13:20 MST Print View

Winds in mid-June can be a problem. Although so far this year they have received less-than-typical winter precip, you'll want to keep an eye on the snow pack.

I've done solos in the Winds even in late June where within 3 miles of the trailhead (Elkhart) I was up to my waist in snow. I'd have a back-up destination in mind just in case the next 6 weeks are wet ones up there.

Having said that, I'm hoping to get into the Winds with my girls a group the 3rd week on June this year! I'll head back for my solo in July.

Edited by mmendell on 02/18/2012 21:14:05 MST.

daniel B
(dbogey) - F

Locale: East Coast
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The Winds, solo? on 02/18/2012 21:39:24 MST Print View

I've found that for me it's about being in good shape. I'm from Pennsylvania but did a week ski trip in Utah a few months ago and was staying at a house at 9000 feet and was out running at night because the lack of snow and was bored. Had a little headache for a day but no other problems. I'm 40+ yrs old and id say as long as your in good shape go for it. You know your body better than anyone else and only you can make that final decision. I'm up in the air about the winds to a partial jmt.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Snow and Chocalate on 02/18/2012 22:48:21 MST Print View

I missed the June date. Yes check on snow. I go solo but I've had close calls in snow so I'd have a backup plan if snow is a problem.
By chocalate I meant the bars you make s'mores with (if it so warm they'll melt I take M&Ms which are more resistant to heat). If you're feeling the altitude you won't have much of an appatite but you still need to fuel your body. Chocalate works well for me. Andy Skurka likes it too. My theory is that it gets you the fat and the calories but its easier for your body to break down than a power bar. And it just tastes good.

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Altitude on 02/19/2012 01:05:09 MST Print View

I'm not sure if there's any way to predict if you'll have any problem at altitude. I have a friend who lives at 6000' and is very good shape and also a backpacker and ski instructor. So he spends a lot of time at 8-10K but still can sometimes get mild altitude sickness at 11500 or more. And another friend who flies in from sea level and hikes/skis to 12K the next day without a hint of problems. You just never know until you do it a few times. Acclimate if you can and stay hydrated.

If you're comfortable going solo the Winds shouldn't be any different. I'm going on September and really looking forward to it. Still need to do more research on where I'll be going but I hope to do a 7 day loop. I'm looking at September because the mosquitoes shouldn't be an issue then. Have fun on your trip.

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The Winds, solo? on 02/19/2012 01:12:47 MST Print View

I think most of my concern is about skills, and not knowing so much what I might need to know. It'd be my first trip of this type, and I'd be doing it alone rather than with someone more experienced. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it would be about knowing my limits and not allowing myself to get into stupid situations, as some of you have mentioned.
Good to know about snow. I'm out in California and I've been contemplating a quick trip up to Yosemite just because there's no snow this year! But that is the advantage of the loop--find a wall of snow, turn around. Although the truth is, I'd rather risk the snow than deal with the mosquitos, which sound absolutely unholy.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Bugs vs. Snow on 02/19/2012 17:44:15 MST Print View

"I'd rather risk snow than deal with mosquitoes"
Yeah I've heard the Winds can have really bad mosquitoes at times. My friend and I did about 20 miles through spring snow, mostly post holing. I can tell you its not fun. Snow hides holes and slippery spots. For example I once stepped onto a small frozen waterfall buried by snow. I fell hard and would have slid into more trouble if my friend hadn't grabbed me. I've had my ankle twist in weird ways when I step through snow and step betwen tree branches etc.

If you don't mind my asking - why the Winds? If you're coming from CA there are lots of other place in between that probably won't have the snow issues.

Mark Mendell
(mmendell) - M

Locale: Midwest
Snow in the Winds on 02/19/2012 18:05:23 MST Print View

My first solo was in the Winds. Did a great loop out of Big Sandy, clockwise over Haley Pass and back through Cirque of the Towers and Jackass Pass.

Postholing can not only be a pain, but dangerous, especially if you are alone. I met a pair on the trail headed back out once because one of them had a 6" spike buried in her calf. It was hidden in 3' of snow. It certainly changed my attitude.

And mosquitoes...they can...and will be horrific. I just plan on them being bad, pack for them, and am happily surprised if they are tolerable.

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Why? on 02/19/2012 19:25:06 MST Print View

Mostly because I've been wanting to go for a long time, and this would be my chance to on a roadtrip east. I'll have to bring my snowshoes it sounds like!

joseph peterson
(sparky) - F

Locale: Southern California
"The Winds, solo? on 03/02/2012 17:49:42 MST Print View

Dont worry about the elevation, just go and pay attention to your body. I live close to sea level and routinely start at trailheads over 8000 ft with no acclimation time. Sometimes you get sick sometimes you dont. I find when your well rested, fed, watered you adapt quicker. If I get a headache I stop and make camp. Usually a snack/nap clears it up. Sometimes i sleep through dinner. One time it persisted into the next day so I bailed. As soon as I got to my truck at 9500ft I felt 100%. People do die from this in the lower 48 so be aware that your milage may vary.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
The Winds, solo? on 03/02/2012 19:09:05 MST Print View

Mid-June, even assuming snow continues to stay at normal levels rather than way above normal like last year, is pretty early. You are going to be doing a lot of walking on snow. Check the snotel sites (remember that those are inches of water equivalent, not inches of snow) starting in mid May. Page down to the Upper Green River Basin section and look for Elkhart Park.
http://www.wrds.uwyo.edu/wrds/nrcs/snowprec/snowprec.html

Streams will also be high with snow melt, which will be a problem some places. Note that in the Winds, the USFS builds bridges only where it is unsafe for horses to ford in low water! You don't even want to think about trying to cross Pole Creek in high water. You can check stream flows at:
http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/?m=real&r=wy
Click on "Pine Creek above Fremont Lake, WY"

You really should to take a couple of days to acclimatize before starting a trip at 9400 feet that goes up to 10,500 the first day, which is what happens at Elkhart Park. Everyone reacts to altitude differently--you may have no trouble at all going right up to 11,000 feet, or you may start getting symptoms at 8,000 feet. At least stay one night in Pinedale and then go up to Elkhart Park, dayhike around and then camp there. That will give you a pretty good idea whether you'll have problems the first day on the trail. Plan short days for the first 2 or 3. Most important, read up on the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness so you recognize them if they happen!
http://dwb4.unl.edu/Chem/CHEM869V/CHEM869VLinks/www.nols.edu/Publications/FirstAid/AltitudeIllness.html#ADAPTATION

Frankly, for mid-June I'd suggest Yellowstone instead. The altitude is lower, so you can start right in if you take easy days. For the same reason, most of the snow will have melted. The Park staff will be happy to work with you to plan a good trip and give you the appropriate permits. Save the Winds for a future year when you can come in July, August or September. There are low altitude hikes in the Winds, but you'll be in a lot of bark-beetle-killed timber. The Winds are at their best near and above timberline, which is most of the wilderness area.

Edited by hikinggranny on 03/02/2012 19:14:08 MST.