In July, I joined BSA Venturing Crew One on an eleven-day trek via a high route adjacent to the crest of Wyoming’s Wind River Range between Spider Lake (near Angel Peak) and Flagstone Lake (near Klondike Peak).

Our expedition goal was simple: to complete a high route through the Northern Wind Rivers involving cross-country and glacier travel, with opportunities to bag a few big peaks along the way.

This report includes a photo journal (Part 1) (refer to my trip journal for the full story, originally published live via satellite at my personal website) and a trip review (Part 2) that includes summary notes about training, travel style, trip logistics, and some of the group and individual equipment I used.

Part 1: Photo Journal

Route Description

  • Section 1 – 12 miles (trail): Elkhart Park to the lakes SW of Bald Mountain Basin via Pole Creek Trail, Highline Trail, and Fremont Trail;
  • Section 2 – 8 miles (off trail): Lakes SW of Bald Mountain Basin to Lake 10813 in Indian Lakes Basin via Spider Lake, Wall Lake, and the Elephant-Harrower Col;
  • Section 3 – 4 miles (trail): Lake 10813 to Upper Titcomb Basin via Indian Basin and Titcomb Basin Trails;
  • Section 4 – 15 miles (off trail): Upper Titcomb Basin to Green River Trail at Pixley Creek (Beaver Park) via Bonney Pass, Dinwoody Glacier, West Sentinel Pass, Gannett Glacier, Klondike Glacier, Flagstone Lake, Tourist Creek, and Green River;
  • Section 5 – 9 miles (trail): Green River Trail at Pixley Creek to Green River Lakes Trailhead via Green River Trail.

In summary, the total route length was approximately 48 miles, with about 10,300 feet of elevation gain. We spent 11 days on the route, which included two layover days for peak bagging, fishing, and rest. A link to our route can be found at

Photo Journal

Stream Crossing Pole Creek Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 2: Our first wet stream crossing – Pole Creek in the vicinity of Pole Creek Lakes, at about 9,800′. This turned out to be our only substantial stream crossing, which is rare for most longer treks through the Wind Rivers. Early in the season during a normal snow year, this particular crossing can be a deep wade through swift and dangerous water, as can many high altitude streams in this range.
Camp Spider Lake Bald Mountain Basin HMG UltaMid 4's Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 2: Camp at Spider Lake in Bald Mountain Basin, elevation about 10,500′. Angel Peak (12,402′) and Angel Pass, a popular and easy crossing of the Wind River Crest (also the Continental Divide) in this area, are in the center background of the photo. Crew One uses Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 4’s (shown) as their primary expedition shelters.
Off-trail Tundra Traverse Between Bald Mountain Basin Wall Lake Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 3: Off trail on the spectacular tundra bench traverse between Bald Mountain Basin and Wall Lake, which stays between 10,600′ and 11,100′ the entire way. This photo was taken towards the end of the traverse, as we begin our descent into Wall Lake (shown).
Navigation Meeting Wall Lake Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 4: Navigation meeting at Wall Lake. Each trekking day began with a morning meeting going over the maps. Much of this particular route was planned on the fly, without predetermined camps or specific routes in mind, so this daily routine kept us thinking about our progress towards our goals, and exit strategy.
View Fremont Peak Indian Basin Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 4: Taking in the view of the Wind Rivers’ second highest summit, Fremont Peak (13,743′, left) and Jackson Peak (13,517′, right) from a vantage point just north of Col 11800+ separating Elephant Head and Harrower Peaks. This rarely-traveled route involves a little more elevation gain than the more popular route between Wall Lake and Indian Basin via Col 11220+ to the south, but with dramatic views of Fremont Peak’s south face, the route over Col 11800+ offers far more inspiration!
Harrower Ellingwood Peak Classic Climbing Location Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 4: Harrower (a.k.a. Ellingwood) Peak (13,052′) is one of the most sought after climbing objectives in the Wind Rivers because of the classic 1,400′ rock route up its northwest buttress (the left skyline in the photo). So to be able to pitch my little tent with its doors facing such an iconic objective was quite a treat! My camp was located on a tundra bench above Lake 10813 with this view of Harrower’s east face. Our route to get here from Col 11800+ descended the easy (Class 1/2) talus slope angling out to the right-hand side of this photo.
Climbing Class 3 Fremont Peak Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 5: Today the crew took a layover day at Lake 10813 for some day hiking, fishing, and climbing. A few of us climbed the Class 3 southwest ridge of Fremont Peak. From this view on the mountain’s upper slopes, we enjoyed the climber’s perspective of Mistake Lake (foreground), Upper Titcomb Lake (the big one), Lower Titcomb Basin, and Island Lake (in the far distance).
Fremont Peak Summit View of Gannett Peak Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 5: From Fremont’s summit, we spied our first view of the Winds’ highest summit, Gannett Peak (13,804′, and also the Wyoming High Point). We would also attempt this one later in the trip. Admittedly, on this blustery, snowy, windy, and dark day, Gannett’s black summit block capped with a gigantic snowfield looked imposing.
Titcomb Basin Trail Indian Basin Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 6: We had a few miles of trail on which to travel after reaching Indian Basin, so it was nice to be able to travel quickly on easy terrain through such a beautiful alpine environment. Throughout the day, however, the weather deteriorated dramatically. At dawn, we awoke to temperatures in the mid-50s F, and by noon, it was sleeting and 35 F. We had been hiking all morning in a cold rain and robust winds, and our attempt to cross a high pass that day would be thwarted. We were forced to stop and camp on tundra benches below Mount Helen, seeking refuge under our pyramid tarps. Our original plan was to cross high passes (including Knapsack Col) and attempt to climb Gannett from the west via Glacier Pass, but this delay required us to revise our route and plan for an approach to Gannett from the east (via Bonney Pass), so we could continue heading north and complete a traverse of the Dinwoody Glacier complex as well while still meeting our exit day goal.
Bonney Pass Early Morning Helen Peak Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 7: I peeked out my tent the next morning to find that the cloud cover had lifted and patches of blue sky revealing the potential for a successful crossing of Bonney Pass today. Bonney Pass is the steep-looking white stripe splitting the Continental Divide (low point of the ridge in the photo). Helen Peak is at the top of the massive buttress rising up from the tundra bench where my tent is pitched.
Climbing Bonney Pass Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 7: The climb over Bonney Pass is relatively steep (35 degrees or so) and a fall here with a heavy pack would be problematic, especially when traveling in a group. We used ice axes and crampons a number of times on this route, including here, and relied upon extensive training this spring back in Montana that gave everyone experience in self-arrest and solo travel on steep snow and alpine ice.
Bonney Pass View of South Aspect Gannet Peak Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 7: Bonney Pass provides one of the finest views of Gannett Peak’s south aspect. At 12,800+ feet in elevation, the pass is only a thousand feet or so lower than Gannett’s summit, but we’d lose a few thousand feet in elevation on our descent to a basecamp for Gannett before attempting the climb. Here, Backpacking Light editor and Crew One Adviser Eric Vann does his best to contain enthusiasm for being at nearly 13k on such a beautiful day.
DinwoodY Glacier Moraine Miserable Mile Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 7: After descending the Dinwoody Glacier, we enjoyed its infamous terminal moraine, affectionately known as the “Miserable Mile”. We’d traverse it three more times before heading north.
Gooseneck Couloir Gannett Peak Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 8: A “leisurely” alpine start (4:40 AM) combined with drive, ambition, and fitness, had us up to the top of the Gooseneck Couloir, the crux of the Gannett climb, not long after sunrise, softening the ice a bit, but not too much, thus making the 45-degree climbing secure enough to climb solo. The perfectly timed strategy had us on the summit, 3,000 vertical feet above our basecamp, after a four-and-a-half hour climb.
Descending Gooseneck Couloir 5.5 mm Dyneema Glacier Ropes Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 8: By the time we descended the couloir, the sun had turned the snow to a rotting, slippery mess, so we rigged a belay rope from a slung horn and belayed some of our party members and a few in another party down the steepest pitch with one of our 5.5 mm Dyneema glacier ropes.
Gannett Klondike Glacier Complexes Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 9: An early start the next morning took across the dazzling and heavy glaciated terrain of the Gannett and Klondike glacier complexes. This day turned out to be the gem of the trek – steep terrain, large crevasses, exposure, and a route that stayed as high as possible while still remaining in the realm of “semi-technical backpacking” rather than “technical mountaineering”.
Klondike Glacier Below Pedastal Peak Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 9: The highlight of the day was a traverse of the Klondike Glacier below the east face of Pedastal Peak. With rockfall tumbling down from the rotting cornices above, and the hundred-foot ice cliffs of the glacier falling away below us, we navigated through a maze of deep, hidden crevasses. Shortly after this photo was taken, we would rope up and continue in full-on glacier travel mode, gingerly testing the integrity of rapidly-melting snow bridges using our ice axe shafts.
Wind River Crest Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 9: We finished our traverse along the Wind River Crest, thinking that the hard part was over, so we flew the flag and relaxed a bit. Little did we know what the next two days had in store for us before reaching the Green River: the loose, steep scree, giant talus, and bushwhacking of the Tourist Creek drainage.
Rubble Upper Tourist Creek Camp Flagstone Lake Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 9: Chase exiting the rubble of upper Tourist Creek en route to our final “high” camp at Flagstone Lake.
Big Talus Above Green River Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 10: Where there’s a rock, there’s a way. Navigating big talus near 10,000 feet as we weave our way down to the Green River through this maze of complex terrain.
Nighttime Meal Along Green River Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 10: After sleeping in, taking for granted the route down lower Tourist Creek, and tucking into talus caves to hide from a rowdy lightning storm for awhile, we didn’t exit Tourist Creek until just before dusk. After putting in some nighttime trail miles along the Green River, we finally reached a campsite north of Squaretop Mountain and enjoyed a midnight meal.
Squaretop Mountain Green River Crew One Wind Rivers Summer 2015 Expedition
Day 11: Parting shot, Green River Lakes and Squaretop Mountain.

Part 2: Trip Review


Our Crew participated in a rigorous training program prior to this trek. We’d be carrying heavy packs (45 to 60 lbs) with glacier climbing gear and 11 days of food, and traveling over challenging terrain that would include talus, scree, snow, and glacier ice. Our training model was based on Scott Johnston’s and Steve House’s Training for the New Alpinism, started in November of 2014 (8+ months prior to the beginning of the trek), and involved a very high volume of aerobic base training combined with core and lower body strength training, and a muscular endurance program during the latter third of our training period.

I will be writing a far more comprehensive review of this program for Backpacking Light in the future, as I’ve been training directly under Scott’s coaching. However, for the purpose of this trek, following the general guidelines as prescribed by this program proved to be one of the most beneficial investments of time for our Crew. This year, we were in the best shape we’ve ever been in for a trek, and for the most part, the physical challenges posed by carrying heavy packs on a glaciated high route through this range proved to be the easy part.

In addition to physical training, we did a fair amount of technical training prior to the trip: rope management, self-belay, ice axe arrest, crevasse rescue, and perhaps most valuable: steep, solo snow climbing on slopes of 35 to 50 degrees up the couloirs and faces of our local mountains. This experience gave our Crew the security required to move quickly through this type of terrain without the hassle and risk that comes with traveling unbelayed on rope teams, or the impractical time requirements that come with traveling belayed on rope teams with large groups.

That a group of teenagers can be asked to invest a serious amount of time at great cost to the freedom in personal time afforded to most of today’s youth was one of the more inspiring outcomes of attempting this route.

Trip Planning & Preparation

We began planning this trip in October of 2014. We originally planned to attempt a glacier traverse in Washington’s Olympic Range, with an Olympus summit attempt part of the route. However, upon learning about Washington’s abysmal snowpack this year, and the risk that came with the probability of road and trail closures, chossy rock, and fire risk, we changed our route to the Wind Rivers a few months prior to the trek. This required some logistical adaptation (transportation, etc.), but little functional change in terms of trip planning, training, or preparation.

Generally, we operate as a group of subcommittees, and this model worked well for distributing the workload required to take on a group expedition of this caliber. A few members would take on food planning (meal planning, purchasing, and packaging), a few members would take on consumable supplies and group equipment, two of us took responsibility for assessing climbing gear needs including acquisition, someone took charge of arranging transportation and vehicle shuttles, and I took on the role of planning and executing the glacier travel and alpine climbing training curriculum.

Since one of the core functions of our youth team is to learn the art of expedition leadership, having every member involved in trip planning and preparation is critical for carrying out this aspect of our mission.

Travel Style

We functioned autonomously in two organized groups: one group of six youth (split into two groups of three, each of which shared a cooking kit and shelter), and one group of five adults (who shared three shelters). In addition, two adults were assigned to each of the two youth cooking groups, while the remaining three adults formed their own cooking group. Generally, the adults function as “casual observers”, because we allow the youth to lead and make decisions while we enjoy the fruits of simply having to follow and/or advise them when asked, or needed for safety reasons.

We always travel together, as a single group. The only time we deviated from this plan was on our layover days when smaller teams formed to go day hiking, fishing, or try for a peak summit.

h3 Logistics (Transportation and Permits)

Because the Wind Rivers are within reasonable driving range of our hometown (the distance can be covered in about eight hours), we were able to hike at least five miles on each of our first and last days of the trip, without requiring overnight staging stays at motels or frontcountry campgrounds. This, of course, lessened the burden on supervising adults who would already be taking significant amounts of vacation time, and reduced the cost of the trip for the participants. We carpooled to and from the trailhead in two vehicles (one SUV and one truck).

Vehicles were shuttled from Elkhart Park to Green River Lakes by a licensed and bonded shuttle service out of Pinedale, Wyoming.

Permits are not normally required for hiking in the Wind River Range, but Scout groups are required to file them with the Pinedale Ranger District, which we did. Responding safely to unexpected weather hazards resulted in deviating from our permitted route, and in some cases, our permitted camps, but in the end, we finished at our intended final exit point on time. Our actual and planned routes were similar for the first five days and last two days, but significant deviations occurred during Days 6-9 because of the cold front that hit us on Day 6. We also learned later that we had been permitted for two nights in an area where “organized groups” were not to be permitted, indicating some communications disconnect within the land management agency governing the area in question. In addition, one of the camps on original permit application had been denied, forcing us to apply for an alternate route that in the weather conditions we faced, would have been quite dangerous. I outline some of these observations simply to state that in this case, the beuracracy of the permitting process became a burden for our group, rather than a particular benefit to the land management agency. While I understand the need to distribute use in crowded areas, we saw very few people on this trip, only two organized parties (both NOLS groups), and in the historically most crowded area on the west side of this part of the range (Titcomb Basin), we only encountered one other individual (a solo trekker from Germany attempting a high route traverse of the entire range). On the east side, staging for a Gannett summit below the Dinwoody Moraine, we encountered a few parties, but on our summit day, we were only one of three parties on the mountain.

Equipment Notes

Group Gear

Cooking Gear: As a group, we shared some meals (breakfasts and dinners, with the exception of the two layover days, for which we all packed our own no-cook breakfasts snacks), along with cook kits (one kit shared by 3-5 persons) which included the following items:

  • 4-Qt Open Country Aluminum Kettle: This is one of the lightest gallon-sized pots on the market. It’s uncoated and cheap ($15) which means we can use it for open fire cooking without feeling too badly about trashing it with soot or washing it out with abrasive glacial sands.
  • MSR WindPro II Stove: With large water volumes and cool mornings and nights, our cook groups operated these stoves in their liquid-feed, inverted canister mode, which decreases boil times. With the included stock windscreen and heat reflector (and operators that pay attention!) we usually count on using about 0.5 oz of fuel per person per day, which is enough for boiling three full pots of cold water (one for breakfast, two for dinner). Each 3-person cook group brought a net weight of fuel of 16 oz (e.g., one large sized MSR IsoPro fuel canister), which turned out to be just enough fuel for this trip (we did pack a few smaller canisters as insurance for the entire group but didn’t need them). Each stove kit included a Light My Fire Firesteel for lighting the stove, a minimal repair kit, a bottle of hand sanitizer for the cooks, and a tiny pot scrubbing pad.
  • Fry Bake: We shared two fry bake kits for our group, which included a 9-inch nonstick MSR Fry Pan (includes a handle), an aluminum plate converted to a pan lid with a wingnut and screw, a plastic spatula, and a tiny bottle of oil. We use the fry bakes for cooking fresh trout, as well as frying tortillas and pasta. We used them very little on this trip (we didn’t fish much for food, and planned mostly light-as-possible packaged meals requiring only boiling water) and could have left them home without missing them. On trips where we have more time to cook and are less concerned about saving weight, they prove to be a wonderful addition for group morale.

For individual eating, each person brought one 3+-cup capacity eating container (most commonly, the Antigravity Gear 4-Cup Screw Lid Container with Cozy). Dry food is rationed into each person’s eating bowl, and boiled water from the group cook pot is distributed accordingly. Each person then becomes resposible for their own cleanup.

Some meals require cooking pasta (in particular, we favor a whole-grain penne for our homemade meals that is not available in freeze-dried form), which we do in the group cooking pot. Once the pasta is cooked, some of the pasta water is temporarily discarded into someone’s (clean) eating bowl, with the remainder being used for the sauce base. Once the sauce ingredients are added, we simmer the meal further for a few minutes, then add back some of the extra pasta water discarded previously to bring the sauce to a delectable consistency. Cleanup is typically easy: teenagers have an uncanny ability to remove all traces of food from a pot, and glacial silt takes care of the rest.

Food Packaging and Storage: Group meals were packaged in 2 mil poly bags, purchased from the bulk section of our local bulk foods grocer. Individual meals (lunch snacks) and other individual rations (e.g., hot drinks) were packaged in quart-sized zip closure bags. All of these bags were then packaged into odor-proof Loksak 12.5″ x 20″ O.P. Saks, protected by Ursack S29 bear-resistant food storage bags (two per person were required for a trip of this duration). We secured our Ursacks by bear-bagging them with our glacier ropes below timberline, tying them to trunks of scrub trees at timberline, or tying them to chockstones lodged in cracks or under glacier remnants sitting atop granite slabs when above the timberline.

Water Treatment: In the past, we’ve shared water treatment supplies (usually Aqua Mira kits) as a group, assigning one or two members of our expedition team to be responsible for meeting each person’s need for clean water. For this trip, we issued individual Aqua Mira kits to each person and placed responsibility on the individual to maintain their own hydration needs. This was a positive change, and worked well, as long as each person took the responsibility to fill their water bottles and start their Aqua Mira premix batches early enough at rest stops or prior to leaving camp so as not to hold up the rest of the group.

Shelters: Our group shelter of choice is the Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid 4, which we use to house 3 or 4 youth members. Each shelter is rigged with a full set of 2mm Dyneema-core guylines and includes a stake kit of 16 MSR Groundhog stakes. We use an adjustable pole leftover from the GoLite era (the adjustable aluminum GoLite Shelter Pole) to keep setup fast and simple, and allow us to use trekking poles if needed for day hiking

Each camper brings their own ground cloth (the Gossamer Gear Polycro is a popular choice) or simple bivy sack (e.g., Adventure Medical Kits Escape Bivy). Headnets provide us with mosquito protection. We all use down quilts or summer-weight sleeping bags, mostly in the 25-to-40-degree temperature rating range, supplemented of course with down jackets and hoods or hats on chilly nights.

Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue Gear: Roped glacier travel is not often practiced in the Wind Rivers. Most of its glaciers are small with minimal crevasse risk. The Dinwoody Glacier complex, however, is a notable exception. The Dinwoody, Gannett, Gooseneck, Klondike, and Grasshopper glaciers are heavily crevassed and early in the season, snow cover hides some gaping holes (crevasses) in these icefields. I’ve often traveled solo through this area, and on nearly every early season (May through July) trip here, I’ve managed to plunge at least to my thighs through a rotten snowbridge at least once. The odds of a crevasse fall increase with group size, inexperience, pack weight, and afternoon travel, so we elected to hedge our bets by being prepared for roped glacier travel.
That said, the risk wasn’t terribly high, owing to a thin seasonal snowpack and relatively cold temperatures on our trek. However, the day we traversed the bulk of the Dinwoody complex (Day 9) proved to be our warmest and sunniest day, and we hit the worst of the crevasse risk (the Klondike Glacier below Pedastal Peak) in the late afternoon after several hours of warming. As we traversed above the ice cliffs, we began to punch through several rotting snow bridges, and found hidden holes large enough to swallow a bus, so we roped up – the only time we roped up on the trip except during our descent of Gannett Peak’s Gooseneck Couloir.
Since we knew our rope systems would be used “just in case” rather than as a matter of course, and we didn’t know going into the trip exactly how much glacier travel we’d actually be doing, we kept our kits extremely minimal with an eye on weight:

  • Glacier Travel Rope: Blue Water Titan 5.5mm x 50m (one rope per 4 to 5 persons). I love this rope. It weighs 2.2 lbs and represents the state of the art and safety in ultralight glacier travel. The rope is classified as a static rope, but falling into a crevasse on it, or taking a follower fall while belayed, you’d never know it. I wouldn’t want to take a leader fall on it, but there’s enough stretch so as not to separate you from your intestines in a low-angle or short fall. There is an uprising in the mountain guide community that static ropes may actually be safer for low angle glacier travel (it is easier to arrest falls in low-stretch systems). For many of my alpine treks, I’ll carry a 25m length that is used to belay followers up or down short sections of Class 4+ rock or snow terrain, or use it as a pack haul line for mountaineering and canyoneering. I’ve rappelled on one frequently, and while it takes a little cajones to first rap down lines that seem more like dental floss, I’ve done it enough that my confidence on Titan for short raps and belayed follower climbing is high. WARNING: This isn’t a recommendation. Use of this rope for glacier travel, crevasse rescue, belayed climbing, or rappelling is well outside the conventional recommendations of the mountaineering community.
  • Crevasse Rescue Gear: Through the years, I’ve spent a lot of time, money, and equipment failure testing crevasse rescue equipment that is “reasonably” compatible with ropes like the Titan rope described above. Most traction devices and pulleys are designed for ropes with a minimum diameter of 8mm, and kernmantle sheath density and materials consistent with those ropes. I have to admit that I have yet to find a “perfect” system that preserves 100% of the strength of the rope, but I’ve found enough devices to work well enough in a basic heavy crevasse haul using a Z-pulley system to keep the weight down, setup and operation simple, and load to failure high. Consider this an experimental setup for informational purposes, and use at your own risk. Our Crew spent several hours training with this kit and testing it in scenarios with full body and pack weight hauls out of vertical drops, but not enough is yet understood about ultralight systems like this to ensure that they are adequate in all crevasse rescue scenarios. Of course, no system is 100% foolproof, so the system you decide to bring, more than anything, should be compatible with your own risk tolerance.
    • Harnesses: Camp XLH 95 or Camp Alp Racing (carried by each climber);
    • Carabiners: Four wiregate + two locking (carried by each climber);
    • Traction Pulley Systems: Petzl Micro Traxion Pulley + Petzl Tibloc (each mated to a locking carabiner; carried by the uphill lead/caboose on each rope; downhill lead/caboose would carry a lighter two-Tibloc system);
    • Anchor Slings: 7mm width sewn Dyneema slings (2x60cm + 1x120cm carried by each climber);
    • Prussik Loops: 7mm width sewn Dyneema slings mated to wiregate carabiners for Kleimheist knot rigging, carried by each climber, also used in concert with Z-pulley systems and self-belay during crevasse rescue);
    • 5mm Perlon Accessory Cord: 30 ft carried by each climber to use as climber-to-Prussik loop material and miscellaneous alpine anchor building);
    • Snow Pickets: Yates Expedition Pickets, one per rope team, carried by the uphill climber.

In addition to the above, each climber carried an ice axe (most commonly, the Camp Corsa) and wore crampons (most commonly, the Camp XLC 490 Universal, Camp Tour Nanotech Universal, or Kahtoola KTS). All climbers wore a lightweight mountaineering boot for glacier travel (Scarpa Marmolada, La Sportiva Trango S, or Salewa Rapace).

My Individual Gear

I won’t discuss in detail all of the gear that I used, but I do feel the need to highlight my packing, shelter/sleep system, and footwear.

Packing: My pack for the past three years has been a prototype of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Full Dyneema Porter 4400. Mine is a slightly customized model with a longer extension collar, and the weight is a little less than four pounds with an external rear pocket attached. Gear is stowed in Hyperlite Mountain Gear CF8 or CF11 stow bags for waterprotection and organization. The bag is large enough to creatively pack (inside and outside…) enough personal gear and food for a two-week multi-sport expedition. This might include enough gear for belayed Class 4+ alpine scrambling and steep snow and glacier travel, a whitewater packrafting kit, and if necessary, an expedition bear canister (e.g., Bearikade Expedition) plus a full Ursack S29 for overflow.

Since most of my week-or-longer expeditions involve copious amounts of alpine climbing, scrambling, or bushwhacking, along with the seam stress incurred carrying 40 to 60 pounds of packrafting and/or alpine climbing gear, I became weary a few years ago of having to buy a new pack every year or otherwise having to constantly repair light fabrics that had been trashed by alpine scrambling. My Dyneema Porter has one tiny hole in it (suffered in a fall down a steep scree slope on this trip), but otherwise, has held up well and promises to do so for many more expeditions.

Shelter and Sleeping: For this trip, I brought my own solo shelter system – a Locus Gear Khufu CT3 with a mesh insert for insect protection. Mosquitoes were rather thick on warmer nights below 11,000 feet, and the added protection of the inner was welcome. However, my preference on this trip would have been to pair this shelter with a half-inner to provide more vestibule space for stowing gear and managing wet items more efficiently with the shelter doors buttoned up.

I used a Katabatic Gear Chisos down quilt (14 oz), NeoAir X-Lite size regular pad (12 oz), Exped Schnozzel inflation bag (2 oz, also used to stow gear inside the pack), Exped UL Down Pillow (2 oz), Goosefeet down pillow cover (1 oz), and a Goosefeet down parka (9 oz) for in-camp warmth and sleep comfort – a system I’ve been using regularly for the past several years for all of my long trips between July 4th and Labor Day in the Northern Rockies of MT, ID, WY, and UT, and the High Sierra in CA. I cannot recall one night where I ever wanted a different system – until the night of the cold, wet storm that hit us on Day 6 on this trip. The only change I would have wanted would have been a quilt and a parka with a more water-resistant outside fabric, and perhaps a little bit of down overfill, to cope with the cold, wet conditions that would have degraded loft had the weather not improved and the storm lasted longer.

Footwear: In April 2015 I suffered a Grade 2 sprain of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint of my left big toe while on a long training trek in Montana’s Bridger Range. Since the toe had not completely healed prior to this trip, I was unable to carry a heavy pack with soft-soled (e.g., trail running) shoes. We all had to bring mountaineering boots, anyways, so rather than bring an extra pair of shoes, I opted to bring only my boots and do all of my trekking and climbing in them. My boots of choice were the Scarpa Marmolada, a model available outside the U.S. that I have been climbing in for the past year. They provide enough rocker to be comfortable trekking long days in them (I find them more comfortable even than my Scarpa Zen approach shoes, which are recognized as some of the most comfortable approach shoes on the market), they have soles that are stiff enough for steep cramponing (I’ve frontpointed up to 70 degree alpine ice in them without problems), have a flexible upper for effective French crampon techniques (e.g., pied-a-plat), and what is perhaps the best alpine climbing outsole available – the very well-designed Vibram Mulaz S. The combination of stiff midsole, edgy outsole, and flexible upper means that I’m able to easily climb mid-5th class rock in these boots. Having an ultralight moutaineering boot like this (21 ounces per boot, in Size 42!) certainly blurs the lines between trekking and mountaineering, and opens up a vast opportunity for mountain travel for the backpacker who is unwilling to give up all-day comfort in their footwear. On this trip, I suffered little discomfort – certainly no blisters – even while carrying a heavy pack for long days. My feet were most fatigued on our long glacier travel day (Day 9) from Dinwoody Creek to Flagstone Lake, but this day offered its share of footwear challenge from steep sidehilling and frontpointing in crampons on icy glaciers, talus, and loose scree. Admittedly, I was eager to take my boots off when arriving at camp that evening, and my forefeet were sore from the lack of midsole cushionining. That said, I was very surprised how comfortable these boots were, and I appreciated their stiffness for glacier travel, rock scrambling, and loose scree gullies. Look for a more comprehensive, long-term review of this boot from me after a few more mountaineering trips.


My hope with this report is that it has given you enough information (photographic inspiration, trip objective and summary, route information, and equipment information and rationale) about this adventure to provide an overview of our experience in the Wind Rivers on a glaciated high route. In addition, perhaps you’ll find some practical or inspirational value in this report that you can use to help you in planning your own expeditions to the Wind Rivers or elsewhere at some point in the future!

Above all, I hope that it will stimulate some discussion in the comments below. I’m always eager to learn about what other folks are doing to save weight and maintain safety on treks that bridge the gap between technical hiking and mountaineering.