The Winds at Our Backs - A ski crossing of the Wind River Range
In late April of 2015 a friend and I skied across the Wind River Range from the Torrey Lake entrance, up over Burro Pass, down into Dinwoody Creek, took in the summit of Gannett, then exited over Bonney Pass and out to Elkhart Park. It was true wilderness experience; we did not see another human for the entire trip.
The snow drought of 2015 was very evident, the lack of snow in spots on the east side required us to carry the skis almost to Burro Pass,then in quite a few intermittent spots as we worked our way up the Dinwoody. It took 4 days to hike or ski in, with Gannett Peak finally coming into view at the end of day 3; we intentionally set a camp that evening with a great view of the mountain. Day 4 we moved up into the basin directly below the Gooseneck Glacier, finding a perfect rocky alcove in which to set a partly protected camp.
We sat on the summit in warm sun. The peaks glowed with that ethereal inner light that happens when sun shines on snow-covered mountains. Surrounding us in the far distance were clouds and snowfall, but we had this hole of open blue sky just over our part of the range. Perfect.
The ski back to camp was, of course, a celebratory blast;near perfect snow and gravity doing all the work.
The next day the weather closed in; we skied up to Bonney Pass then cramponed over the top in low visibility. As we started down, we could not see the bottom of the slope through the blowing snow, this is always a tad intimidating to me. But last year we had skied into Titcomb Basin and looked up at the pass, so we had that memory to go on. Soon we were back on skis and flying downhill, making long looping back and forth swings across the canyon down toward the lakes.
Oddly, once the valley bottomed out, we hit some of the worst rotten snow either of us had ever experienced. Skis kept breaking through and dropping us a couple feet, stopping any forward glide. Nasty and exhausting.
The rotten snow made setting a camp that night difficult; anytime we stepped off our skis we sank to our hips or farther. We finally located a relatively flat rock large enough to set tents on. Luckily the night was quite cold so the snow froze for better skiing. Down at Island Lake we encountered our first signs of recent human visitation, ski tracks. Never saw the track makers though.
Adding to our incredible luck, the last day provided more good snow to allow effortless and fast gliding through the forest to Elkhart Park. We made it out in time for lunch at the Rock Rabbit in Pinedale. How great is that?
My co-conspirator on this trip put together a great slideshow with some of these images plus many more on vimeo. To view, click: