I first read about the Wind River Range in an Adventure Alan trip report and was instantly attracted to its remoteness, difficulty, and beauty. I invited Ross Wise and Dan Bakke, roommates and rowing team mates, to come along for a planned through-hike of the Winds - about 80 miles over 5 days. Things went…amiss…but we had a wonderful time and saw just a fraction of the incredible landscapes of the Wind River Range.
Departure - Day 1
We left from Minneapolis and drove the 18 hours to the trailhead in a one long push. We managed to fit 5 days of backpacking gear and three people in my hatchback. Not much sleep was had. We stopped into Lander, Wyoming and dropped off a spare set of car keys for a guiding company to shuttle our vehicle around to the southern trailhead. We planned on camping at Green River Lakes Trailhead that evening before striking out. Turns out Green River Lakes Trailhead is freezing. It sits at 8,000ft and temperatures dropped into the low teens that first night. We got a bit worried about what the temperatures would be in the mountains at even higher altitudes.
Green River Lakes - Day 2
We left left GRL early and hiked through the meadow to reach Cube Rock Pass. Along the way we got spectacular views of Squaretop Mountain (aptly named) and had a grizzly scare. Hiking through thick forest, we saw two cubs scamper up trees. Understandably, we immediately freaked out, huddled together and sang at the top of lungs while trying to get to higher ground. Luckily we never saw mama bear.
Our campsite for Day 2 was near Peak Lake, over 10,000ft. Luckily, it was much warmer and we were treated to clear blue skies and a gorgeous sunset on the rocks.
Peak Lake- Day 3
Day 3, second day backpacking, we left our campsite and immediately took a wrong turn down the trail that was supposed to take us over a pass. Instead, we spent the morning following goat trails through a meadow (really lovely meadow though) and by the time we got back on track, we had wasted half the day. Eventually we made it back to the trail but lost it again going over the pass. We really needed to practice our orienteering…
When we got to the top of the pass, we realized we were almost a day behind schedule already. We would need to high 20+ miles the next few days to make our scheduled pickup. In a hilarious turn of events, Ross’ mother had made us take a satellite phone with us for emergencies. This thing weighted about 3 pounds and cost a mint to make a call. We sort of laughed and just made Ross carry the brick. So, at 12,000ft on the rocks of the pass, Ross made the call. He got in touch with his mother (a very surprised mother) and had her call the shuttle company to cancel our pickup. Then we shamefully downclimbed the pass and hiked out to our car. Instead of calling it quits, we decided to drive around to the southern end of the trail and hike in from the south.
Cirque of the Towers - Day 4
We hiked in from the south to the Cirque of the Towers. This is a climber’s paradise and Ross and I would both be back at later dates to climb here. We camped at Lonesome Lake and, after setting up camp, hiked further north for the day before returning to the lake
Check out our trip report for 2016 when we tried (and failed) again to hike the high route