Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains

Posted by: OregonMouse

Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 05/23/10 05:06 PM

I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed "Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming: Off-Trail Routes for the Advanced Backpacker," by Nancy Pallister (our very own Wandering_Daisy!). Spokane, WA: Gray Dog Press, 2010. I have no commercial interest whatsoever in this book but want to recommend it to those readers interested in that area.

The Wind River Mountains of west-central Wyoming contain an area of approximately 20 by 100 miles of mostly wilderness areas, totaling approximately 900,000 acres, lying along the Continental Divide at elevations ranging from 10,000 to 13,804 feet. While there is an extensive network of established trails, most of the wilderness is trailless. With the current greatly reduced Forest Service budgets, many former trails are no longer maintained.

This guidebook describes in detail 48 spectacular off-trail routes in Wyoming's Wind River Mountains. Ms. Pallister is a former NOLS instructor with many years' experience climbing and hiking in the Wind Rivers. The guide is designed to supplement, rather than replace, the 1990's guidebooks by Ray Adkison and Joe Kelsey. Most of the routes in this guide are designed for advanced backpackers with considerable off-trail experience. Many of the routes require mountaineering skills and experience for at least Class 3 terrain and for glacier travel. The hazards of each route are included in the description. The author, however, lists a number of routes that do not require extensive mountaineering skills and experience and are suitable for those (like this reviewer) who have extensive experience in off-trail navigation and in finding abandoned trails but are not up to considerable scrambling and have neither the skills or desire for glacier travel. The author lists in the Introduction these easier routes and others in which the difficult sections can be bypassed. It is important to read carefully both the sections of the Introduction in which the ratings are described and the details of each route, and to assess your own skills carefully and honestly when deciding which routes are suitable for your own skill and experience level.

This reviewer was easily able to construct well over a dozen itineraries using either all of the described routes or a combination of on-trail and the easier off-trail sections which would be suitable to her skills, even though not a mountaineer and not willing to subject her beloved dog to a lot of talus. For those advanced backpackers with mountaineering and glacier skills (and willing to leave the dog at home), there is almost a lifetime's worth of possible trips!

Unlike other Wind Rivers guidebooks, Ms. Pallister's book includes a number of trips on the Wind River Indian Reservation Roadless Area and describes the details of the permit system and regulations there. This is only one of the unique features of this book.

The route maps are printed in black and white at the end of the book. This reviewer, however, strongly recommends the optional CD that accompanies the book. The CD not only has much clearer maps to print out but also provides a visual feast of magnificent color photographs of each route which will leave you salivating! The photos alone are well worth the price of the book and CD! Some of these photographs include superimposed diagrams of the suggested routes, which clarify the descriptions and maps. Even for those not planning to go off-trail, the photos provide a preview of the entire range.

Some GPS enthusiasts may deplore the lack of GPS waypoints in this guidebook. As Ms. Pallister points out (p. 5), "GPS skills are no substitute for the canny ability of the experienced to efficiently get around small-scale obstacles. Trail sleuthing is not only the ability to see faint signs of travel, but also the ability to look at topography and see where an animal or human would most likely choose to travel." A GPS will certainly be an excellent navigational aid but will not substitute for these micro-route-finding skills.

In addition to the route descriptions, Ms. Pallister provides many important logistical details, including weather conditions, suggested gear, detailed directions to trailheads, descriptions of facilities available in nearby towns, shuttle services and many links to further information.

For anyone interested in backpacking in the Wind River Mountains, this book is, in this reviewer's opinion, a must-have!

For further information:

Posted by: Kent W

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 05/26/10 09:12 PM

I am waiting to see what happens with contract at work but have bookmarked to order. The Winds is on my Bucket List!
Posted by: billstephenson

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mount - 06/24/10 10:54 AM

Great review OM. I doubt I'll ever make it the Wind River Mountains, but I do admire W_D's hard work and I'll probably put the book on my list of gifts my kids can get me wink

Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mount - 06/24/10 09:07 PM

All thanks to wandering_daisy for a wonderful book!

In August, Lord willing, I'll be doing two of the easiest off-trail routes in her book. The acid test!

There are trip reports and other goodies on her website which will change monthly. There's been a bit of a hiccup on her website which has separated the pictures from the text, but still good reading/viewing.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mount - 09/16/10 04:08 PM

Sorry to report that I had to cancel my trip (I'm still in mourning over it!), so I couldn't test out those two routes.

Lord willing, next year!

Again, I highly recommend this book. You can do all sorts of variations on W_D's suggested itineraries to make them easier or harder, shorter or longer.
Posted by: skcreidc

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mount - 03/03/11 09:25 PM

I recently picked up a copy of W_D's book, Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. I took notes and was prepared to get serious about this review, then I thought I should re-read OM's review. I'm glad I did because most of my points are there in her review. But let me just make a few additional points. I love the field guide because it is just packed with information. The trips are summarized into tables and by using the tables you can basically customize your trip. In other words, you can connect up your own set of dots as it were. Also, in the body of a trip discussion you will often find little tidbits of information about that trip. The difficulty ratings for particular spots or areas are clear, well described, and very useful. Lastly, I would also recommend getting the disk with the book. Even though pictures hardly ever do an area justice, the virtual tour is a great way to see what areas you might be interested in visiting.

I have had only my correspondence here with which to "gauge" W_D by; I have never met her. But finding out she was a former NOLS instructor put everything into perspective. She has extensive experience spent in these wild areas and it shows in the writing of this book. Excellent work!
Posted by: ALLEN

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 06/07/11 01:35 PM

I have had this book for about two weeks and have thoroughly enjoyed the off trail approach and the way it has been presented in this book. The Wind River area is on my 2012 to-do list. I have downloaded all the topo quads and will figure out some adventures this winter. If you get this book I'd recommend getting the CD with it, the photography is very good and it just helps to have a look at what to expect in the different areas you may want to explore.

An outstanding trailguide. Job well done Nancy "Wondering Daisy".
Posted by: Cesar

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 03/22/17 02:42 PM

is this book still available?
Posted by: aimless

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 03/22/17 03:05 PM

I found it on Amazon. Search for "Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains". $29.95.

If that doesn't work, the author is a member of this forum. You can use this site to send a PM to the poster called wandering_daisy and make your inquiry. She does show up here from time to time and is extremely helpful and informative.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 03/22/17 05:10 PM

I understand that Wandering_Daisy is working on a revised edition.
Posted by: Cesar

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 03/22/17 05:22 PM

I saw it on Amazon too but it didn't list if it had the CD and from reading above its well worth it. I was thinking of planning a trip up there and remembered reading the review on this forum years ago. When I go to the publisher's website and try and purchase from there the site times out which is why I asked. smile
Posted by: JustWalking

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 03/22/17 10:47 PM

Yeah, the publisher doesn't seem to sell books anymore. If they do, they don't make it easy.

I ordered the one from Amazon, and am assuming it includes the CD. I'll get it tomorrow and let you know.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 03/23/17 12:02 AM

Yes, the new edition is being printed as we speak! It should be for sale in a few weeks or less. The publisher and I have not been selling books the last few months because we knew the new edition was soon to be released.

I need to get my website revised and up and going again. Probably the publisher, Gray Dog Press, will be selling before I do.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 03/23/17 12:09 AM

Sorry about that. Amazon had been notified and should not sell the old books. Not that the old book is not still useful, but the new one has updated information and routes. See if you can return the book to Amazon. If not, send me a PM with your e-mail address.
Posted by: JustWalking

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 03/23/17 05:05 PM

As promised - the one I ordered from Amazon did come with a CD, FWIW. Of course, I'd recommend you wait until the updated version is released.
Posted by: Cesar

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 03/25/17 05:08 PM

Ah good to know. Also thanks for the responses. I would like to try and make it out next year so I could wait for the updated one. Thanks again everyone.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 03/25/17 10:15 PM

The second edition is in the same format as the first. Routes have been "tweaked", some deleted and some new ones. Some reversed direction. On-ground conditions updated. Biggest new thing - 3 thru-routes added. New maps, now on TOPO as the base-same format of basically USGS 7.5-minute quarters. No maps in the book itself - all on the CD, therefore, the CD and book come as one unit, cannot buy one or the other alone. Same price. About same number of pages. Many new photos.

As with any update, the old book is still useful. The 2012 Alpine Lake Fire did wipe out two of the original routes.

As a mountaineer, I always agonized about buying the new climbing guide edition or not. A second edition always presents this problem to those who own the first. I will put a notice here when my web site is up and running.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 03/31/17 06:10 PM

The web site is up and running, so you can buy a book now through Pay Pal. If you do not want to use Pay-Pal, send me a PM. It is faster to go through Pay-Pal. (I hold shipment until checks until they clear, which takes a week.)
Posted by: JustWalking

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 03/31/17 08:16 PM

Thanks for letting us know. Just ordered!
Posted by: skcreidc

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 04/11/17 08:48 AM

I bought the first edition and thought it was great. I'm curious tho Wandering_Daisy, did you ever put your North - South traverse together and is it in this guide edition? Inquiring minds want to know! wink
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 04/11/17 10:51 AM

Yes, the second edition has three "thru-routes". However, not being a "thru-route" style of backpacker, these are not traditional thru-routes. They are more "long tours" and require 1-2 resupplies. The three routes have a few common points, so you can actually "mix and match" sections.

For me it was amazingly difficult to develop thru-routes, because it just is not my style. I have never been one to set a daily milage goal and then just camp any old place at the end of the day. Being a photographer, I really want to camp at the most scenic spots. Getting good photographs for me is more important than making miles. Plus passing a good fishing lake and not stopping is agonizing! Nevertheless, I think the three routes are a compromise between standard thru-route style and more traditional backpacking.

All three thru-routes are quite difficult. They are definitley for those with solid off-trail experience. They are similar to Ropers "High Route" in the Sierra. In the Wind Rivers, you do not have as much daily elevation gains, but you have to deal with more severe weather and more complicated resupply logistics. It is interesting that Roper just does not deal with resupply issues - he simply describes his route and leaves it to you to figure out how you are going to resupply. But the devil IS in the details, and resupply is so much more difficult in the Wind Rivers, so I do address this.

By the way, I chose to take 33 days to do Ropers High Route, added a few side-trips and really slowed down on one section to do more fishing. Most people do the route in about 20 days.

Resupply on Ropers route is not a big issue because you are within a few hours of a trailhead at several points on his route. In the Wind Rivers, if you are up along the divide, there is no quick way out -and the few close trailheads are located at the end of long dirt roads far from towns. So you either have 20+mile walk-outs or shorter walk out to trailheads where you have to park a car if you are going to go to town.

The two current "High Routes" in the Winds (Skurka's and Dixon's)are no-resupply routes that only partially cover the range.
Posted by: skcreidc

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 04/11/17 03:47 PM

Thanks for the response W_D, and yes, it also seems to me that the logistics of a Wind River resupply is the crux to pulling this off. Out of interest, where are your Northern and Southern terminus'?

Ropers High Route I thought was super easy to resupply when I did my version of it. However I did it in a totally different style than you, partly to keep my wife from divorcing me, and partly because there are times I like traveling fast and looking at changing scenery. I personally think this is neither here nor there, and that your attitude towards stewardship and conservation is way more important. You get full marks in this regard. Thanks again in passing on your knowledge of such a beautiful wild area.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 04/11/17 06:25 PM

Resupply in the Sierra is easy because an entire industry that resupplies PCT and JMT hikers has developed. Taking 33 days to do a route is one advantege of old age and being retired!

The three Wind River routes are:

1) West side route (all public): Green River Lakes to Block and Tackle Hill (Little Sandy TH, except that if you do not have a real 4wd you have to walk out the ORV road 4 miles to the FS gate near Block and Tackle Hill). Option also to exit to Big Sandy. Two variations - a mountaineering one (steep crevassed glacier) and "mellow" that detours the crevassed glacier. 18 days, 120-135 miles depending on how you do it. One comercial resupply (about $400-$500) or 22-mile roundtrip walk-out.

2) East side route (one third on the Wind River Indaian Reservartion, fee permit required): Christina Lake TH (near Fiddlers Lake) to Torrey Creek (near Dubois), 32 days, 206 miles, two resupplies, each a 1-day turnaround commercial packer). The walk-out options are really long - this route has the most complex resupply options. Also a shortened one-resupply alternate is described (based on commercial resupply from St. Lawrence which is an off-and-on thing, not available in 2016 but supposedly to become available soon).

3) A mixed East and West side route with 4 days on the Reservation, between the same trailheads as the East side route, except an odd "Detour" out to Island Lake and Titcomb Basin to facilitate an easier resupply from Elkhart Park. 197 miles and 31 days. I did not present a one-resupply option for this route, but there is enough information that you could figure out your own.

The last two are similar in length compared to Ropers High Route. The walk-out resupplies are minimum of about 20 miles total and up to 30 miles round trip.

Elkhart Park is about the only reasonable center-of-the-range resupply trailhead where you can quite easily hitch the 12-mile paved road into a town that has motels and grocery stores. Big Sandy is a busy trailhead with a lodge and pack station, but a long ways from Pinedale, many miles on dirt roads. There simply are no mid-range east side trailheads that are close to a town or easy to drive. But the east side starting and ending points are easy to get to, whereas, the west side starting and ending points are on long dirt roads.

I planned each route so that you start and end on the same side of the range, because transportation if ending on the opposite side can be really difficult. There are shuttle services on each side, but they are not inclined to offer rides to the other side. If you do not know locals who can help out with transportation it is really best to have two+ people and two cars.

Just like Ropers Route in the Sierra, I suspect that many people will "section hike" these routes, rather than resupply.

Each route has quite a few little loops and side-trips that can be eliminated for a faster and shorter trip, but, of course, I feel you will miss a lot doing this. It is less feasible in the Wind Rivers to lengthen days IF you get caught in the typical afternoon thunderstorm patterns. Some of the off-trail passes are really not safe to do in lightning. Some summers are very bad this way, others not.

By the way, they now have nearly 200% snowpack in the Wind Rivers. Unless there is an unusually quick melt, you may not want to start any trips this year until late July.
Posted by: skcreidc

Re: Review: Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains - 04/12/17 12:24 PM

Thanks for the reply! This year is definitely out for me. Patty says I'm all booked up smile But, I screen printed your response, printed it out, then stuck it in a good spot in the first Edition I have for a future reference/reminder. The idea of the North South Winds romp has been stuck in my head since that first time I visited.