Tag Archives: thru 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?

 

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.

Where art thou, Giardia?

wp_20150904_19_26_47_proWhen the Poop hits your pants! A.K.A. Giardia

So last year I hiked 2300miles of the CDT in the states. Before going on this trip a lot of things crossed my mind. It was my first time in bear country, and there are a lot of savage stories (and now films) that shed light on just how frail a person can be and how much damage a bear can do. I read about the daily lightning storms all along the Rockies that would strike like clockwork when your high on a 14,000 ridge line mid afternoon. I read about the river crossings, the wild cats, the moose, the hitch hiking murders, river crossings, being lost in the middle of nowhere, breaking legs (you get the picture)…. But the one thing that did not cross my mind was Giardia. To anyone that has experienced it the word alone puts the fear of god in you. I didn’t even know what it was till I hit the states.

Now, before setting off I made the first mistake- I went too light, I stripped my pack down to bare bones. Including my water filter. I brought with me a delightful in its own right; ‘Sawyer Mini’ which weighs a few grams, screws onto any bottle and gives you clean water from cow muck. ‘Brilliant!!’ I said to myself. And for the first couple of weeks hiking it was, never carrying more than a litre of water. It didn’t last, as the miles ticked on the already low flow of water slowed to barely a drip and back washing the filter barely worked. So, I went onto plan 2, the childhood lesson. In the lake district of Old England, you are taught the old idea that fell top water is pretty safe to drink if you can see the source and there are no dead animal in it, besides, all the cool hikers on trail were just walking up to dirty rivers and drinking straight out of them.

I applied my childhood drinking habit. And started bottling water from springs or high up streams. I felt EPIC!!!! Nothing could stop me from tearing along those trails, covering 30miles a day without problem. But it soon changed. The springs became less and less frequent, some of them were boxed springs revealing dead squirrels and birds, some were overrun by cattle. Sometime the only water was a dirty puddle. I regretted not buying a filter from one of the many outfitters along the way.

As I entered Colorado, I slowed, I started losing weight, and fast. I went from 13.5st down to nearly 11 in a couple of weeks. I dumbly blamed the altitude, and the fact I was going to around 14000 nearly daily. I was getting light headed during the day, and had the worst stomach cramps of my life every night.I also woke up with a rather bad breath but blamed that on the poor quality food I was eating. There was one day I told a friend I would meet him in a couple of miles ready to climb another peak. It took me most the afternoon to cover the distance. I had to sit down, I was near collapse.  By evening (we camped a mile further on) I couldn’t face my food, the smell of it repulsed me. The friends I was with were concerned and so was I.

We decided to have a Zero day off trail and hitch hiked to the town of Salida were Mumford and Sons were playing a big gig (we planned on sitting outside the gig on a hillside and having a few drinks). In the morning we were sat around our tents talking about my symptoms. The others concluded it was probably Giardia.  A trail Angel who had hiked the trail a few years previous happened to have half a course of 4 year old Metronizadole (one of the most effective antibiotics against Giardia). Being the cheap hiker I was I gladly took the out of date meds with the theory It can’t get much worse.

I gave myself till the next morning and woke up, I felt great , and started hiking again telling myself I would go slow. The next few days I felt fresh like I Hadn’t been for a month. I started hammering in the miles. I finished the 3 day; half course of old Antibiotics and thought it was over. My friends finished their trail and I kept hiking alone. I hiked into new Mexico and the feeling returned. 16miles south of a town called Cuba, I sat on the edge of a Messa, looking out. I was £2000 in debt, I had hiked further that I thought I could at a brilliant pace; and Giardia had returned. This time instead of hiking alone and getting into trouble, I cut across country to the highway, and called it quits quite content. It was time for a trip to the docs.

My experience of Giardia was very tame. For Most people it is a concern of carrying enough toilet paper and having explosive diarrhoea and vomiting with painful cramps. Hence Why it took so long for figure it out.

Giardia basics-

For hikers, you get it from contaminated water supplies both around livestock and in the wild from animals messing up the streams(especially beavers I’m told lol).

It is a water borne Parasite and once in you lives in your intestines and caused carnage.

Symptoms-

Diarrhoea, vomiting, light headedness, loss of appetite, going to the toilet a lot, losing weight, bad breath like sulphur (im told the smell is the lining of your intestines eroding away, which can become serious if left unchecked)

lesson- Always filter your water kids, and don’t cheap out on the filter. Look after it, don’t let it freeze, If it breaks while your out in the wild, boil your water, carry a few iodine tablets for emergency use.

The end