First things first
As of August 1st, 2004 the West Ridge Route on Windy Peak falls into the “must do” category for the Lost Creek Wilderness. Having enough LCW experience to make such a bold statement, I place this route up there with the North Plateau Route “loop” Route on Bison Peak and a few different routes on McCurdy Mountain and McCurdy Park. This route is only available from middle May through October, because of a gate closure on RD 77 seven miles prior to the Lost Park TH.
Having completed two routes on Windy, the West Ridge is much better than the standard North Ridge Route. I believe that most whom summit Windy Peak, do it from the Rolling Creek TH, so expect total solitude.
The West Ridge Route on Windy Peak is close to 9 miles RT with only 2,500-ft of vertical gain. You will not have access to a trail for the entire route. A good topo map is essential, without one; expect to get lost in a place where it may take a while to be found. A GPS unit would be a good idea. Expect 5.5 miles of tree laden, nondescript terrain. Locating landmarks will be a challenge as well. The first 2 miles does 1,500-ft and the last 2.5 miles will only do 800-ft. Because of the gentle incline of the last 2.5 miles it can be tough to tell where to go while in the trees, for you can’t ever see the summit plateau until the trees finally give way to open tundra for the last 1.2 miles. Once you reach the expansive summit plateau, the fun really picks up plus the route finding becomes easier.
Starting at the Lost Park parking area (9,960-ft) hike immediately down to the North Fork Creek and find a place to jump across. Don’t confuse the North Fork Creek with the wider and deeper South Fork Creek, which runs west to east (refer to topo.) After crossing the creek, immediately locate a meadow to the east that ascends a slope. Hike .36 miles into this meadow.
From here, pick a spot to enter the trees and start to ascend the steeper slope .76 miles to 11,000-ft. From here, stick to the minor ridge and hike directly north for .33 mile and 200-ft. Continue another .89 miles with virtually no vertical gain to you come to a boulder field. This is one of the few landmarks you will have along the treed portion of the route. Hike north around the boulder field and continue another mile staying as north as possible. During this stretch you will encounter a few marshy areas. When in doubt, stay north on the gentle west ridge.
If you are too far north the ridge will begin to descend north, you do not want to descend north at all during this route (refer to topo.)
At 11,425-ft you will finally locate the remainder of your route. From here Windy Peak’s expansive summit plateau will be obvious and directly east of you. Ascend this grassy slope to 11,888-ft to a high point on the plateau. From here you can see the true summit .60 mile east. Attaining this summit from the east is an easy class 2 scramble up solid granite blocks.
Descend this route with caution, be careful not to descend south to early at many differnent stages of this hike.
Topo map or GPS.
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