Women's Adventure High in Wyoming's Wind River Range

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13163A, Backpack

Highlights

  • Hike on trails with endless mountain vistas
  • Explore areas with abundant glaciers, lakes, and streams
  • Enjoy a myriad of blooming wildflowers

Includes

  • Camaraderie and adventure
  • Tasty and varied lightweight meals
  • Permits and backcountry guidance

Details

DatesAug 9–17, 2013
Price$775
Deposit$100
Capacity12
Difficulty4 (out of 5)
StaffShelly Eberly

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Wyoming's Wind River Range offers an unparalleled wilderness experience. Join other adventuresome women on a week-long backpack through glacier-carved valleys with dozens of crystal-clear lakes and countless snowmelt cascades and streams. Alpine forests, rolling green meadows accented with vibrant wildflowers, and extraordinary mountain views are the backdrop for this spectacular hike. Highlights of the trip will be hiking to the top of Squaretop Mountain, Knapsack Col, and Stroud and Glover peaks.

The Winds River Range runs roughly northwest to southeast for 100 miles with the northern portion close to Grand Teton National Park.  With the Continental Divide passing through the range, it is not surprising that the highest peak in Wyoming, Gannett Peak at nearly 14,000 feet, and numerous peaks higher than 13,000 feet are located within the Winds.

The Winds are primarily granite that has been carved into its present shape by glaciers, glaciers that left behind valleys, and cirques that today are filled with flowing streams and refreshingly frigid lakes.  In the summer, the meadows in the valleys explode with blooming flowers in a myriad of colors enhanced by the grey granite, blue sky, and white snowpack or fluffy cloud.

When below tree line, we will be in forests of pine, fir, and spruce.  Fellow creatures of the woods include bear (both black and grizzly), elk, moose, deer, and the recently returning wolf.  Soaring birds can also be spied by a watchful eye.  Spending a week backpacking through and becoming a part of this primitive wilderness will revitalize and rejuvenate as only fresh air, starry nights, and long walks can.

Itinerary

Day 1:  We will meet at a lodge in Pinedale, Wyoming at 4 p.m. for introductions and distribution of commissary and equipment. We will review trip plans and maps, discuss and refine backpack packing techniques, and answer any last-minute questions.  After an optional group dinner, we’ll retire for our early start the next day.  (Dinner and lodging not included in trip price.)

Day 2: Today, we caravan to Green Lakes Campground where our route begins and ends. Elevation is approximately 8,000 feet.  The road to Green Lakes is in good shape and is a combination of paved and gravel roads that are passable by an ordinary sedan. After tightening our boots and hoisting our packs, we will be on our way, covering eight to nine miles and gaining almost 1,500 feet before reaching our creekside camp. 

Day 3: For our second day on the trail, we will hike about six miles, ascending 2,400 feet and descending 1,200 feet, all on good trails.  We will move from the forest and meadows to alpine country above tree line with dramatic views.  We will cross a 10,000-foot pass before dropping down to a beautiful lake for our camp.

Day 4: Today is a layover day with an optional day hike to Squaretop Mountain.  Even though our route is just a few miles, it is ambitious with lots of elevation gain and off-trail hiking.  Views along the way are spectacular.

Day 5: Today we again hoist full backpacks for a day of on- and off-trail hiking, with an optional side trip to the top of a tempting peak that soars over 12,000 feet.  After covering three miles on-trail and three miles off-trail and gaining/losing 1,000 feet, we’ll come to our next home beside some unusually named lakes.

Day 6: We will spend the morning backpacking to our next camp, beside yet another pretty lake.  This backpack is just five miles with less than 1,000 feet of ascent and descent.  For those inclined, we will spend some of the afternoon scampering to the top of Stroud Peak, another peak topping out above 12,000 feet.  If the day is clear, we’ll see all the way to the Tetons.

Day 7: This morning we hike less than a mile before dropping our packs for a day hike to Knapsack Col, our lunch destination.  From Knapsack Col we have spectacular vistas of the Continental Divide and the upper reaches of Titcomb Basin. After returning to our packs we will hike with packs for another three miles before setting up camp.

Day 8: Today we enjoy a mostly downhill hike, about seven miles with a loss of 2,500 feet.  If there is interest and energy, we'll offer an optional scamper up a scenic trail to a lake with glorious views.

Day 9: On our last morning we will get an early start and watch the sun rise over the verdant Green River Valley and light Squaretop Mountain as we hike nine miles back to our cars at Green Lakes Campground.  We should arrive at our cars around noon and then caravan back to Pinedale for a well-deserved celebratory lunch at a local cafe.

Please note that the itinerary may have to be changed depending on weather, the strength of the group, campsite availability, and trail conditions.

Photos

Details

Getting There

The closest major airport is in Salt Lake City.  It is about a five-hour drive to Pinedale from Salt Lake.  There are regional flights available to the airport in Jackson, Wyoming, which is just a two-hour drive from Pinedale, but these can be expensive and are subject to local weather. Carpooling is strongly encouraged and the leader will provide a list of participants so carpools can be arranged.

Pinedale is a reasonable-sized town with several lodging choices and restaurants, some grocery stores, a complete outdoor gear shop for any last-minute needs, and an exceptionally good public library complete with internet access.

Accommodations and Food

All meals are included, from lunch on the first day of the outing through lunch on the last day of the outing.  Everyone shares in meal preparation and cooking chores including cleanup.  Meals include hearty, healthy, and varying breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. The leaders work hard to make the weight of the food as light as possible to lessen the loads in our packs. Careful attention is paid to ensuring sufficient calories with high protein content so our bodies are well fueled.  Organic foods are used as much as possible. We can easily accommodate vegetarians.

Trip Difficulty

This trip is rated level 4 on a scale of 1 to 5.  Our route is mostly on-trail and is rated 4 (moderately strenuous) because of elevation gains and losses, although there will be rugged sections that will feel more like a level 5. The entire route is about 45 miles; 40 on-trail and about 5 cross-country.  Nearly every day there will be a day hike, usually up a peak, and these day hikes will add considerably to the mileage.  But each day hike is optional.

Summer weather is often sunny and pleasant, but we may contend with rain, hail, sleet, thunderstorms, and even the possibility of snow at higher elevations. Days are usually mild, about 70 degrees at this time of year, and evening temperatures can drop into the lower 30s occasionally.  Mosquitoes can be challenging, depending on the seasonal snowpack and runoff. Backpacking is by nature a strenuous activity with unexpected challenges. To tolerate the high altitude and fully enjoy this experience, you must commit to a regular aerobic training program with pack weight for the three months prior to our trip. The leader will recommend several practical techniques to prepare for the outing.

Equipment and Clothing

Sierra Club provides the cooking gear, food, water purification, and a first-aid kit (which is used only for emergencies).  We will distribute 12-13 pounds of group food and gear for each participant to carry.  We strongly discourage anyone from bringing an overloaded pack. This trip will be much more enjoyable if you keep your pack weight to a minimum (personal gear below 25 pounds, if not lower). In the pre-trip correspondence we will provide a comprehensive gear list along with recommendations and comments.

References

Maps:

  • Northern Wind River Range, Hiking Map & Guide. Earthwalk Press.  This map provides an overview of the entire northern section of the Winds.  Leaders will carry one copy of this on the trip for all to peruse.
  • USGS 7.5-minute maps: Green River Lakes, Gannett Peak, and Square Top Mountain.  These topographic maps are for the map enthusiast.  Leaders will carry one set of these on the trip for all to peruse.

Books:

  • Woods, Rebecca, Walking the Winds.  Considered to be one of the basic guide books for the Winds.
  • Kelsey, Joe, Wyoming’s Wind River Range. An excellent introduction to the area.
  • Kelsey, Joe, Climbing and Hiking the Wind River Mountains. Comprehensive guide to trails, routes and climbs in the Wind River Range.
  • Kershaw, Linda, Plants of the Rocky Mountains. Detailed field guide to the flowers and trees of the Winds and all of the Rocky Mountains.
  • DeLella Benedict, Audrey, The Naturalist’s Guide to the Southern Rockies. Introduction to the ecology of the Rocky Mountains.

Website:

Conservation

We will discuss the devastation that the Pine Bark Beetle and Blister Rust are causing to lodgepole pines and whitebark pines in the western mountains, and how climate change may be part of the cause. The Bridger Wilderness area is permanently protected by Congress, but most of Wyoming's roadless areas have no such legal protection, and logging, drilling, and off-road vehicles continue to threaten them.  We will discuss what wilderness protection means, reasons for protecting more land as wilderness, and the Wilderness Act itself. We'll also discuss returning wolves to some of the areas where they were eliminated in the last century, such as Yellowstone and New Mexico.

Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from Bridger-Teton National Forest, Pinedale Ranger District.

Staff

Leader:

Shelly Eberly has loved hiking and backpacking since being old enough to walk, and she has finally balanced work and play enough to have time to share that passion with others. She has led backpacking trips in the ecologically rich Appalachians of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, and in the deserts of Utah and Arizona. Regardless of where she is backpacking, Shelly looks forward to sharing the rejuvenating power of the natural world with you. She is a certified Wilderness First Responder.

Assistant Leader:

Wendy Davison is a Sierra Club leader who enjoys helping others discover and appreciate America's wild places, and this year those wild places include the Grand Canyon, the Bitterroots in Montana, and Dark Canyon. In addition to sharing beautiful places, she loves to witness the blossoming of newly found self confidence in others while expanding their comfort zones gently, safely and with encouragement. She believes that a large component of trip success results from being prepared and encouraging participants to act as a team. Wendy is trained as a Wilderness First Responder -- but puts much more value on avoiding injuries than on treating them. When not leading Sierra Club Outings, Wendy can be found hiking and cycling in North Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and other hilly places.

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