[Cdt-l] Wind River Range Snow & Fords

Scott Piddington sp2mtns at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 25 01:29:10 CDT 2011

Hi Folks,
Having resumed the 2nds half of my 2010 NOBO hike at South Pass on 7/13, I made it to Togwotee Pass7/22/11. It was a tough adventure and took a couple of days longer than anticipated. The first few days I had to take it easy to avoid getting altitude sickness again. That is what stopped me last year. By day 3 I was good to go but oh the snow and melt water. There is lots of snow above 10,000 feet. Where there is no snow the trails are rivers surrounded by swamps. Many fords are challenging. Sometimes logs can be found upstream but some are reminiscent of the Suiattle crossing on the PCT in 2008. I am not trying to scare anyone off but hope to make sure folks are prepared.

I took the red route on Jonathan Ley's maps mostly, or so I tried. To gain Temple Pass I gladly used Micro-spikes and ice axe. There were a few other places where they came in handy too.

The ford of Pole Creek on map Ley wy16 turned me back. It was about to float me down stream into some nastyness and is was so long that my legs were losing feeling. In the morning I went upstream a half mile on a trail to the outlet of a lake (Cook perhaps) and managed to cross there and XC back down stream at the cost of an hour. A NOLS group I met later told me that the lower Pole Creek Ford (on the purple alternates) was doable.

The other particularly troubling spot was coming down to Peak Lake from, I believe it is Shannon Pass, on Lay map wy15. I have been here in good times. The descent is a series of short switchbacks on a very steep rocky slope. On 7/19 it was mostly all snow with a few rock outcroppings. Think double black diamond with rocks sticking out and you know there are rivers of water eroding the underside. Of course I was lucky enough to have thunder, lighting, rain, wind and hail to help motivate me to take the plunge. Really, I was frightened. I was desperate to get below 10k before dark and it was late.

Ice axe at the ready I began a slow micro-spiked boot glissade. Occasionally a 3 foot section of trail  would appear. My left food did punch through to my crotch at one point to the sound of water rushing below but my sprawled out body held the rest of me afloat atop the snow. About 3/4 of the way down the approach to Cube Rock Pass comes into view and the traverse to that pass can begin.

Half way between Cube Rock and Vista Pass the snow vanishes. From there on it is just a few fords to deal with and of course trying to stay found. 

Obviously by the time anyone reads this there will be more melt, less snow. Just be prepared. By the way I got snowed on in Togwotee Pass on the night of 7/22/11 with thunder and lightning. I'll also say that the Branding Iron Inn in Dubois is great!

There is some more detail in my journal at www.postholer.com/voyageur

Happy hiking all,

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