Our Trip Report
We did Andrew Skurka’s version of the Wind River High Route in August of 2019. The timing lined up 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.
The day before we started our trip we shuttled a vehicle to the Trail Lakes Trailhead. We were lucky to have a group with multiple vehicles -- alleviating the need to arrange a shuttle beforehand. We spent the night camped at some free BLM land just down the road from Bruce Bridge Trailhead. We were excited and full of anticipation. 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 start of the alpine. It took us all day to make it to Deep Creek Lakes. We were excited when we reached the last hill, and finally saw the mountains we would walk towards tomorrow. Our bodies were sore after a long day on trail with heavy, Day 1 packs.
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. This area seems to be a popular spot in the Wind River Range.
During Day 3 we walked through the very popular Cirque of the Towers. There were TONS of people here. We headed up and over New York Pass, bypassing the more popular Texas Pass. Here, 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 we would get rain at some point that day. By the time we made it up and over multiple passes, the weather had blown away after just a few sprinkles. As the sun reappeared, we ran into one other person walking with their dog. They had been out for 8 days and we all chatted about our trips. 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 with some doubt. We double and triple checked our maps to confirm if that was actually what we were meant to go over! Turns out…it was. Luckily, it was much more mellow than it appeared as soon as we began to ascend. Soon enough (after some shenanigans along the lake below,) we made it up and over. We stopped in Alpine Lakes Basin to camp. We couldn't find a protected camping spot, so none of us slept much. The wind was whipping through the basin all night.
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 current fires in California, Washington and Oregon to 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 felt easy. We spotted Blaurock Pass from a distance and immediately felt intimidated by its size. 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 still 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 are close friends from our time in outdoor education, and we were glad to do it with this crew! We stopped for one last swim and long lunch in a nearby creek, and then walked back to our car at Trail Lakes Trailhead. Here, we enjoyed our sparkling waters and chips that we'd left in our shuttle car the week prior.