Our Trip Report
We did Andrew Skurka’s version of the Wind River High Route in August of 2019. The timing felt just right for the two of us and three of our close friends from Outward Bound to complete the route. We had a group of 5, each with 8 days of food and endless excitement to see a new place for all of us.
The day before we started our trip we shuttled a vehicle to the Trail Lakes Trailhead. We were lucky to have a group of friends doing the trip with us and we had multiple vehicles, so this alleviated the need to arrange a shuttle beforehand. Then, we spent the night at some free BLM land just down the road from Bruce Bridge Trailhead. We were excited and full of anticipation that night. We had all been hoping to do the Wind River High Route at some point and it was finally coming together.
We didn’t get an early start on Day 1. We took our time making breakfast and ensuring we had all of the necessary last minute items. We left the Bruce Bridge Trailhead and began the multiple miles on trail up to the spot where the alpine began. It took us all day to make it to Deep Creek Lakes. We were excited when we rounded the hill to Deep Creek Lakes and finally saw into the alpine that we would head into tomorrow. Our bodies were sore after a long day on trail and heavy packs to start with.
We packed up and started Day 2 by climbing up and over Wind River Peak. Wind River Peak is the southernmost thirteen thousand foot peak in the Wind River Range. The descent of Wind River Peak down to the lake north of the temple was extremely loose. So much so, that rocks were falling when we didn't even touch them. Being a group of 5 we took it slow and moved together down the loose sections. It took us a while and we stopped at the lake just below for a lunch break and a swim. So refreshing. The rest of the day was spent walking down stunning and picturesque mountain valleys towards Big Sandy Lake and eventually a campsite near War Bonnett Peak. Once we hit the Big Sandy Lake area there were tons of people - it seems like this may be one of the more popular areas in the Wind River Range.
During Day 3 we walked through the very popular Cirque of the Towers. There were SO MANY people in this area. Many folks were camped within ¼ mile of the lake, which, for the record, is not supposed to be done. Then, we headed up and over New York Pass, bypassing the more popular Texas Pass. We stopped for a swim in the lake below New York Pass to eat lunch and take naps. After our post lunch tiredness subsided we walked on a good trail for a few miles and stepped off the trail to head towards Raid Peak Pass. We stopped just below Raid Peak for the night at a stunning campsite. During the day, we saw some clouds building and eventually saw rain falling in the Cirque of the Towers behind us. We wondered if we would get more weather tomorrow.
The air was noticeably colder this morning, the wind had picked up, and clouds were swirling. It seemed inevitable that weather would happen at some point that day. By the time we made it up and over multiple passes the weather had blown away after a few drops of rain and the sun had come out. We ran into another person walking with their dog and chatted with them for a while. They had been out for 8 days and were interested in our trip on the Wind River High Route. We stopped at Bewmark Lake for a later lunch than usual. None of us were inclined to swim as the wind was still strong and the air still cold. After our break it was an easy ascent up to Photo Pass and the view was incredible! We descended and made our way back up to a lake south of Milky Ridge seeing a few elk along the way.
The day started with a really fun scramble up Europe Peak. Then, we made our way through the mellow valleys and drainages all the way down to Lake Louise and the Golden Lakes. From there, we picked up a good trail all the way to a lake south of Douglas Peak. Here we looked up at Douglas Peak Pass and had to double and triple check our maps to see if that was actually what we were supposed to be going over. Turns out…it was. It wasn’t as bad as it appeared as soon as we were on it! Soon enough - after some shenanigans along the lake below - we made it up and over. We stopped in the Alpine Lakes Basin for the night. We all slept very poorly this night as the wind was whipping and we were unable to find a protected camping spot.
We awoke and the sky was blanketed in a thick layer of smoke. It seemed as if the wind had changed direction and carried smoke from all of the fires in California, Washington, Oregon and basically everywhere into the Wind River Range. This day the views were unforgettable. We walked on some of our first “friendly” glaciers of the trip. By far, the section between Alpine Lakes Pass and Blaurock Pass was some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve seen and the walking was easy. We spotted Blaurock Pass from a distance and immediately felt intimidated by the size of it. Slowly but surely, we made it up and over the pass and down to Dinwoody Creek where we slept for the night. We jumped in a small tarn that evening and it was freezing! But we always tell ourselves -- a saying we hear all over -- never regret a swim! We went to bed interested to see what the next day would hold. We had carried microspikes all this way and we were excited to see if we would actually need them to travel over the ice.
Heading up the first snow covered hill we weren’t sure what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised by what felt like “friendly” glaciers. We had brought four pairs of microspikes between the five of us. So, three people got a full pair, and two of us had one per foot which actually worked out fairly well. We traveled on and off of glaciers most of the day which eventually led us to Downs Mountain (the official end of the alpine on this version of the Wind River High Route). We had a few moments of reflection on top of Down’s mountain and started down towards a small pass southwest of No Man Pass.
The last day of the trip. We had mixed feelings about almost being finished. As we walked along Goat Flat, we reflected on how challenging, memorable, and unique this version of the Wind River High Route was for us. We were grateful to do it in a group of five and grateful for the opportunity. All of us were really close friends from our time in outdoor education and we wouldn’t have wanted to do the trip with any other crew. We stopped for one last swim and lunch in a nearby creek and then walked at a strong pace down to our car at Trail Lakes Trailhead. Here - we enjoyed our sparkling waters and chips that we had left in the shuttle car one week before.