Tag Archives: hiking

Wind River High Route

Nearly 100 miles, over 30,000 feet of ascent, glacier crossings, snow slopes, one microspike, a two season sleeping bag at 12,000 feet,  and a pointless laptop on my back i forgot to send before the trip. Lets Go!!

Flying by the seem of my pants seems to be something i can thrive on. This trip started one morning in Salida where i didn’t quite know what to do with myself.

‘Come do the wind river high route with me’ Said Cheetah, an Ultra runner.

A hour later I had salvaged some food from a hiker box, enough for about 3 days (just), and packed up and walked out the door. Hitching back to Kathleens’ house, a half way point on the hitch route she provided maps of the Winds, a bonus as I had no idea where the route went or what was involved.

The next morning we hitched to Lander with the plan of kitting out properly for the route. I had a list of equipment i would need- an extra fleece, extra food, microspikes as a minimum if not crampons as there would be a lot of time on snow and glaciers and mail off my laptop so I don’t have to carry it. We spent the night in Lander. Next morning after getting no where trying to find microspikes/crampons suitable for the route, and finding no fleeces at decent prices I hitched to the trailhead frustrated, eased slightly by Cheetah sharing some fried chicken.

The first afternoon we went a few miles down the trail from bruce bridge (7,142ft), swam in the river and drank a few beers. I was carrying 3 days food. Most people would probably want a weeks supply for this route.

Day 1

Wind river peak(13,192ft)- I think this was about a 6000 foot climb. It passed fast, but the descent was knarly, Steep steep talus that seemed very unstable (we moved single file), followed by the first steep snow slope. We devised a plan for one of us to go first, tying some para-cord between us to pass the microspikes after the first was down. This worked well until the 30ft of cord proved about 70ft short of what we would need. What followed was Cheetah chucking the spikes as hard as possible, and me leaning down the slope with an extended trekking pole to try to reach where they managed to wedge themselves. It worked to a fashion and a short while later we were scrambling down a talus field feeling pretty good. A long descent to Big Sandy Lake, lunch, the a climb up to ‘The Cirque’, a beautiful mountain area. We squeezed one more pass, the third of the day, (Texas Pass) giving us near 10,000 vertical feet this day. Camping next to a high lake we pitched tarps for the night and drank whisky. I’m not going to bore you too much with the elevation gains and drops, but its serious up and down.

day 2

The food situation was very clear, there wasn’t enough. From this morning rationing started. By substantially reducing calorie intake and increasing daily mileage we might just swing the route if we go partly hungry every day and even hungrier with no food the last day. We had to make around 30 miles today, on a normal hiking day this wouldn’t be bad, but this was back country travel, no paths, talus, big passes, lots of snow. Cheetah shared one of his micro spikes (like mini crampons) and we both went with one each. The approaches to passes were epic, the bluff climbs enjoyable and snow firm in the morning and slush by lunch.  The end of the day was a surprise we didn’t notice when planning the night previous, after doing a mammoth 3 passes as fast as we could, we climbed a rise to a shocking site. A big pass, the biggest yet. At 6pm high in The Winds, a 3000 vertical feet climb to 12,750ft (Blaurock Pass)was a tiring odious thought. Reaching the top at 7.15 felt great. The descent was a mix of glissading and rock hopping. Camping in view of Garnett Peak, the highest in Wyoming, I was freezing. Dinner was a most miserable chicken noodle soup, the kind you put in a cup as a 4pm snack, I pretended to myself there were plenty of calories in it. Deep down I knew this was a lie.

My skimpy bag wasn’t up to a cool summer night, never mind a alpine frost. I shivered quite a bit, but consider it a good sign my body was still moving. Whats the worst that can happen right?

Day 3

Breakfast- a premix bag of oats and a breakfast essential mixed together. Today would be my last bag of MnM’s which was also my last food. Not the worst thing ever, and a coffee. In reserve i had more instant coffee and herbal tea. We approached Garnett Peak ready to turn up to Garnett Glacier near the base. A group of climbers were descending and after hearing we were torn between an ascent of Garnett Peak or attempting to finish the high route due to lack of rations they gave us a big bag of almonds, some cliff energy bars and a couple of extras. The decision was made for us, with this stroke of luck, and still short on supplies we approached Garnett peak. After assessing the route, I decided it was too dangerous to take on the steep snow gully with snow bridge over crevasse with only one microspike, (also a monsterous death drop if a slide was not arrested) so passed it to Cheetah and he went for a summit attempt. I was gutted not to be making the climb but knew it was the right call (a lot of people climb this with ice axe, crampons and roped together). I did climb around half way up as far as the rocks would allow. When Cheetah arrived back at our min camp we changed direction back to the glacier route. The glacier itself was uneventful apart from the rumble of thunder keeping us moving. When your that high there isn’t really any point in trying to run downhill.  The ascent out the other side of the glacier for those interested I would suggest warrants sturdier footware and crampons, even an axe if you can be bothered to carry one, but with one microspike on and clutching my hiking poles tight looking a little like a praying mantis I staggered up the slope above the crevasses (they were small here). A quick glissade down and one more climb out the next valley. We pushed hard over more open ground, more rock hopping, plenty of extra up and down, across a safer beautiful glacier and onto the most northern mountain of the route ‘Downs Mountain'(13,350). I’ll be honest and say I despised this mountain. I felt like Alice in wonderland on mushrooms. Giant boulders continually thwarting forward movement as my dehydrated body struggled up, continually trying to decide if I could step up, or jump across gaps, I was drained. We descended a short way down to the final camp. Cheetah cooked up the last noodle pack, added some almonds and split it with me. Man it was good to eat. This night was like the previous nights but more so, more vibrant shivering all night and frozen shoes and socks in the morning. My footwear and feet for that matter didn’t get to dry out at any point during these few days.

There are so many awesome pics and so much I could say but I’m burned. I’ll rewrite this later. Theres also going to be an awesome vid of this trip soon enough in 4k highlighting my terror and joy onroute. Here I lie battered and bruised but content in dubois. Where should I head next?

 

Fearing I would be trapped in the hostel till the cogs in my mind fuse into a solid state I decided to take a friend up on an offer and go for a hike for a day or two and make a decision on where to go next. In the car as we drew closer to the pass and starting point speckles of rain began to accumulate on the windscreen.  At the top of the pass we picked our packs out the trunk and set out up the hill. 6pm. The clouds were low and a cool breeze swept around the hill. Walking this part of the colorado/continental trail is refreshing, staying high on easy trail in and out of trees. I knew from 2 years previous of a 3 sided wooden shelter with metal roof 8 miles away. This was the target, we drew towards the shelter at around half 8 as darkness was setting in and rain becoming heavy. To my surprise there were tents pitched around but nobody in the shelter itself. Saving a tent from becoming heavy and wet and having space to move and think it was the only logical place to unroll a sleeping bag and heat some noodles. It rained the whole night. I tried catching rain dripping off the roof but every time i placed my pot the drips seemed to change landing patterns.

In the morning the tenters joined us for breakfast. The day continued much the same as the evening before, in a semi-concious zombie state soaked to the bone and hands numbed enough to move slowly when trying to use them. I was calm and composed, trying to be at one with the rain and embrace the cold, not entirely believing myself it was worth coming out.  I fashioned what I would call a pumpkin prom jacket out of an orange coated survival bivi bag, this added a small amount of warmth at the expense of my dignity and of Sabrinas’ who hiked with me. Towards the middle of the day we arrived at the summit of Sgt. Mesa. A beautiful high hill with meadows and trees and fluffy black storm clouds a mile or two off to the side.

Sabrina said “As least the storm cloud is over there”.

Moments later lightning forked across the sky close above out heads with a tremendous crack like a wagon plowing into a concrete bunker. Where most people would stop and sit or panic the thru hiker mentality of ‘stay calm and carry on’ shone through boldly and we kept hiking along the ridge line like a couple of idiots. The addiction to hiking building, adrenaline growing, and tree cover getting thinner. The ridge line narrowed slightly and the rumbles became bombs detonating very close. Another hiker called Steven was heading the opposite direction towards the Mesa summit. I wouldn’t want to be him.

We pitched tent about half way along the 6 mile ridge close to where a tree had been previously struck by lightning. They say lighting doesn’t strike the same place twice, a myth I was willing to believe for the evening with impending rain seconds away. Pitching early did not save us from rain splashing up between the fly sheet and inner tent. This did not put me in the mood to attempt to cook noodles alfresco so we went to sleep hungry questioning why it was so. I dreamt about bears savaging the tent and other wonderful things. My sleeping pad still deflates every couple of hours waking me to the real horror of trail life, the sound of everything becoming wet. This morning was glorious, not sunny, but not raining. It was nice being high up early and having a vile concoction of triple herbal tea with extra sugar from my unofficial trip sponsor ‘the hiker box’. Three miles down the path in fairer condition was where my and Sabrinas’ path would split. I turned north and down hill back towards the road and pass. Deep house tunes blasting out (a one hour kygo mix) I ran the next 6 miles. I felt alive, this is what outdoors was meant to be.

At the roadside I stuck my thumb out and the first truck pulled over.

“Jump in!!! theres a car behind I dont want to get past me” shouted the driver.

I hopped up, “Beer?”

“Yes” I replied. The next half hour back to Salida was nice. I was Acutely aware of how bad my trainers were smelling after fording a stream the colour of cow muck. The driver seemed to understand.

Salida! I’ve wound up back in Salida! Of all the towns in all the states in America, why am I going back to Salida again? With no decision on what I will do next the Vortex has me. The sirens beckon.

‘Wakey, Wakey Rise and Shine! and don’t forget your booties, its cold out there today’

 

Climbing Up A Teton

 

PRE-CLIMB

This Was a Pretty Cool Day for me that nearly didn’t happen. It started two days before, trying to collect my ice axe and crampons from the post office. I went in to enquire if a parcel had arrived and there was no parcel but the lady took my name and said she would set it aside. When I went back to collect it the next morning I was greeted by her saying. ‘They tried to deliver it but I had to refuse delivery as you hadn’t paid to have it left here, you better call UPS and find out where its gone before its lost’.

‘Thankyou’ I said in slight disbelief. I walked out and cycled back to camp.

A while later in the afternoon, and after calling UPS I found it had been take to a depot 27 miles away. On my bike I hopped and peddled as fast as I could to Jackson. I collected my parcel and cycled back. O well, 54miles isn’t too bad. When I arrived back it was around 6pm. I didn’t want to use my legs but it could have been worse.

At the campground the attendant came around for money for the night. I had only a couple of dollars left in my wallet. ‘You’ll have to go to moose to get some cash then’. second sigh of the day and i hopped on my bike and peddled the 7.5mile there and 7.5mile back. It had been a hot day, I hadn’t eaten properly and my legs were slightly cramped. This was not the easy day I imagined. Instead of 15miles, I did around 84. I rolled out my sleeping bag on a tent pitch and lay down.

SUMMIT DAY.

I woke at half 4. I was late. The plan was to be up at half 2 and start walking to the trail head. I lay there, trying to dig for that determination I had years ago. I twisted the nozzle on my camping pad and it deflated. I was committed now! No going back.

I chucked my sleeping kit into a bear box(large metal container that stores food away from bears) and pulled out my rucksack. I started walking. It was 2.6 mile to the trail head, when I arrived, I could tell sunrise was close. Half 5- I ate a choc bar, drank a 5 hour energy and started walking up. At the treeline daylight was breaking. Some of the trail i was running up. When I reached the snow in Garnet canyon I walked as high as I could then put on crampons. Up the South Fork I kept pushing fast. Suddenly it ended. The ground dropped away, I could see for miles. I was at the saddle already. It was around 7.45 am. After a few quick pics, I looked up towards the summit and started up the ridge line and into a hidden gully. It was joy, just out of the gully was good clean easy rock to climb up.  At Half 8- I was on the summit. I checked the time. Then I sat down. No one in sight. This was a pretty special feeling. The ground dropped away in all directions, I turned off my music………silence. I dithered a bit trying to get a few good pics, then after about 15 minutes I started descending.  The way down was as nice as the way up. An interaction with something natural. When I reached the saddle between the South and Middle Tetons, I decided one was enough for the day. I walked to the snow and started sliding. It was joy, glissading till it was too steep to stand. I came across another climber on the way up. ‘Butt-slide it man!!!’. And so I did. All the while fearing my lycra cycling shorts (yes I was wearing my cycling clothing) would rip and leave me in a precarious exposed position. At the end of the snow I started running, this was it, a perfect day. I reached the trail head at 11am. It was a quick day. A climber also finishing at the same time from another peak gave me a ride back to the campground. Harry and Roelie were there making lunch. They gave me fresh coffee and delicious apple and I told them of the day I had.

AFTER CLIMB.

Most would probably stop after a good alpine day, but I decided while on a roll to roll on to the next pass. a nice 43 miles , with around 8 of them near 6p.c. gradient. The flies loved me. I did not share this feeling and spent the whole ascent swinging a bottle of bear spray in the air. just over the top and I realised my back tyre was bald. I decided to change it. This was a terrible idea as the next hour was spent like a mad man fighting mosquitoes while trying to fit the new one. With the tyre barely on right i lumpily rolled down hill to the campground a mile away.

Today I cycled 103 miles to Lander where I have showered for the first time in days, this is a good thing. Tomorrow will be iced coffee and feet up.

Cycling on the 4th July

My 4th July started like you are aware, with McDonalds. I have to say im begining to detest the Mcmuffin but it fuelled me up. I hung about in the town till the parade, the one big surprise at the start of the parade being everyone lining the sides of the road standing to attention with hand over heart as the American flag and servicemen led the way. This was followed by ex service men charities and support groups, then the fire services, with firemen dancing behind the wagon. It was pretty hot and I wondered how enthusiastic the dancing would be by the far end of the parade. There were plenty of entertaining floats and youth clubs, cheer leaders, boxing clubs and more. One thing that stood out was the amount of advertising with dates for events displayed on the side of the wagons. Then the beer companies getting their adverts in, even some mining companies. While the parade was entertaining, it did feel like watching a commercial, all be it a very colourful one.  At 1pm I set off. It was hot, with a gentle headwind drying my skin and mouth and causing frustration. It was a long climb up a mundane gravel road mile after mile. Once I reached the divide crossing it felt easier, probably because it was downhill. when I reached the bottom of the next valley i sat under the highway in the shade. It was 5pm, I promised myself I wouldn’t ride through the mid day but its all I seem to end up doing of recent. I decided to take the easy alternate instead of an infamous steep ridgeline. An evening of 18 mile road cycling with a river lunch half way was nice. I rolled into Wise River and grabbed a beer. Then a second beer, then a third beer. At which point it started getting dark. I rolled out to find somewhere to camp.

In the middle of the main road in the town a group of adults and kids were setting off fireworks. They invited me to join them and handed me a beer. This seems to be becoming a theme along the route and one I am getting used too,  by nearly midnight the fireworks were over and a lovely old lady who seemed to be grandmother to many of the kid offered the back porch to sleep on, which i gladly took.

5th July- 6am- I woke dehydrated, I said the previous night I would be up and gone early to get some miles in and as promised woke early. As I went around the front of the cabin I realised about 15 yards from where the fireworks were being set off was a fuel pump, it made me laugh a little. Todays ride has been glorious, climbing a pass to 2360m (7740ft) before descending to Elkhorn Hot Springs and covering around 30 mile by lunch. Now I am deciding if I should stop the night. After glancing at the map i have realised Yellowstone is within striking distance. Finally feels like I’m getting some miles in.

Americas Night

When I arrived at the Layby I was greeted by a family that has pulled in for the fireworks, 3-4 vehicles full of parents and children that turn out here every year to watch, this seemed to me to be the epitome of American life, families gathering for Americas day, enjoying it together, they told me they had just enjoyed a hog roast hand turned by themselves over hours. The gave me water, beer, candy, and let me join them with a comfortable seat. From about 9 pm fireworks were flying all over the city. It seemed from every household. At 10.30 the main even started, with giant fireworks dwarfing the hill from which they were launched from. A brilliant light show. Made even better by the will of the locals to have fireworks going off solid till midnight.  As I had not sorted any accommodation I went a few yards down the hill from the layby, rolled out my camping pad and sleeping bag and slept, despite the noise from traffic heading home I was out like a lamp. In the morning the breakfast of champions- Mcdonalds.

 

The statue on the ridge line is known as ‘Our Lady Of The Rockies’.  In 79′ Bob O’Bill’s wife had cancer, he said if she recovered, he would build a life size statue of Mary in his yard. When she did recover, he kept to his word. He started building the statue with the help of fellow workers, but what happened was it caught the imagination and support of all the locals in the town. Pretty soon the staute had grown from the planned 5ft, up to 90ft, with a presiding view on the ridge line over the town. Many volunteered to help, from locals blasting the rock platform, a local concrete company sorting the base, an engineer from anaconda designing it, donations from the public, right up to the national guard 137th aviation company airlifting it. The staute was lifted piece by piece, a dangerous job to an exposed rocky ridge with high winds. In 1985 it was finished standing tall over the community whose will and generosity put it there. At night it is illuminated and can be seen for miles.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness

Three and half days, around 120miles, Swollen Rivers, Downed Trees, Postholing in Snow and Blisters

The Bob Sounds Sweet and innocent, like and old friends coming to greet you, thats kind of what I expected, as I have been through before. But 2 years ago when I passed through it was a low snow year. This time it was heavy.

It starts with a pleasant easy trail through forest to lure you in. Then comes a river which is the start of it. Wading across the fun begins. There are about 14 crossings in the next 8 or so miles, spaced out with short walks on trail that has not received yearly maintenance yet. Because of the heavy winter snow the trail teams haven’t been clearing the fall trees yet. But as the day goes on and the crossings vary, some shallow and fast, some deeper and slow, all of them dumping copious amounts of stones in our shoes, and the legs beginning to numb up from the cold the excitement of another crossing fades quickly, we laugh though. Im hiking with Josh again, His supreme fitness pulling me though and my vague memory of the route making for easier navigation. Its not terribly hard in ‘The Bob’ but its nice not to consult maps. Towards the end of the day I begin to flag (around mile 32) but Keep pushing, As the light begins to fade we pitch out tarps at around 38 miles in. I cook up some noodles and stare down the game trail I have just pitched next too. Would any bears use this at night? Im too tired to care too much, finish tea, and climb into my bag.

The next day I wake feeling brilliant like the trail has brought me back to life, the blisters I have don’t seem to cause any hinderance in walking, I recall the route from last time and we do a short bit of cross country through forest to find the trail a bit higher, over a small pass and into Strawberry Creek, the last time I was here the trails had been cleared, this time it was clambering over one tree after another. At the bottom of the creek, a trail team has just entered the valley, I can’t help but feel if I set off 2 weeks later, it would have been an easier walk. The team warns us about the river level and that they wouldn’t do the crossing lower down. But we have come so far and not wanting to be deterred push on. The crossing was at an island, at the far end a cluster of blown down trees and branches washed together and holding under pressure from the water provide access to the island, Crossing this I could hear the water rushing below. On the island we go through some bushes and reach the second crossing, its high, fast flowing, and plenty of downed trees with branches pointing down to create traps and nasty endings if you were swept off your feet. Slightly higher seemed the best bet. Its the only crossing I did not photo due to the more real danger. Over this river and the Bob goes wilder.

We meander our way up the next valley, sometimes walking up the waist deep stream where the path has been washed away. Its snow melt water and very cold. Climbing higher we enter the snow line. I had planned on having lunch at Davis Lake but after slipping, sliding, potholing the way there, along with the wind beginning to howl, and arriving to a half frozen lake, we quickly eat some snacks, put on extra layers and push on to Switchback Pass. I am glad I kept my ice axe now as this required a steep traverse of a few hundred meters followed by a short enjoyable ascent up a slope to gain the pass.  We are aiming for a ranger station in the next valley. Its cold, my feet hurt with blisters, and as we descend it begins to rain on and off. 7 miles, doesn’t seem far. By the last mile and a half I’m slowing, Josh is ahead. The downed trees here are humbling, the physical effort required at the end of a long day really push me. As I clamber over and through the only way I can see possible my pack snags and pulls. 1 Mile to go I tell myself, as around every corner even the smaller trees seem bigger hurdles,  half a mile, and the kind of agitation hearing a dentist drill causes sets in. As the station comes into sight I see Josh gathering fire wood. Im relieved, I join him. We camp with out sleeping bags lay out on the porch saving the effort of pitching tarps for another night.

In the morning I wake, turn on my stove for hot coffee and drain my blisters with a pin as I wait, the drop in pressure instantly relieves the dull pain. This morning starts with a river crossing within seconds, followed by a long gentle ascent up a valley, at one point we can’t see the trail for downed trees, so we scramble down the hillside, clamber along the valley floor and climb back up further along. We head for Chinese Wall, an impressive cliff we will follow for 5 miles. When we gain sight all we can see is the snow we will have to get over. Its been a sunny morning and this makes the going hard, potholing at 1mph for around 3 miles. But the snow clears and progress speeds. Along the footpath I can see big bear prints and wildcat prints. I wonder how recent they all are. After 3 full days of hard work and battered feet I’m tired. We descend the final time towards the Augusta Hitch, I have already said I’m getting off here to rest. Josh is ahead but I see no sense in tiring myself to catch up. I sit down by a river eating trail mix, pitch my tarp and sleep. The next morning I have 10 easy miles of good trail to the trailhead. Im kinda glad ‘The Bob’ is over, pretty as it is.