August 03, 2020 5 min read
The Wind River Range in Wyoming is a climber’s paradise. Towering granite peaks, glistening lakes, and alpine valleys extend as far as the eye can see, or at least for its 100-mile length. Comprised of three large wilderness areas with no through roads, the range boasts a unique and rightfully earned remoteness any adventurer seeks.
My friend Bria; a veteran NOLS guide, was stoked to get back to her stomping grounds. I was excited to climb in the mountains again. I am a much less experienced climber than Bria, especially in the alpine, and was excited to learn a bit more and practice my own skills and knowledge.
With only a short week between Bria’s work shifts, this would be a quick and hardy trip. We left Duluth at 3:30 a.m. and miraculously arrived at our trailhead around 6:00 p.m. With eager hearts, minimal sleep, and no acclimatization, we took off running ... or walking as fast as we could with 50+lb packs.
By moonlight, we arrived at our destination and set up camp.
“I am SO tired...I just want to go to sleep. I definitely have a headache and feel a little nauseous”
“Yeah, same. I’m a little dizzy.”
“Maybe we should take a rest day tomorrow?”
“Yeah, probably. Let’s play it by ear”
After anokay night of rest, we awoke to a bright sun and chirping birds. With puffy eyes, we crawled out of our coffin size tent. Working on breakfast, we discovered our packs were filled with too much food and very little coffee- a dire planning mistake!
“How are you feeling?”
“Mmm a bit better. I definitely puked last night!”
“Dang! From altitude?”
“Yeah… or it could’ve been that gross burrito I had for dinner.”
“So, do you think you want to climb today?”
“Yeah, I think I’m up for it. But let’s do a short day and play it by ear. Maybe rest tomorrow?
“Yeah, let’s do it! But rest tomorrow.”
We geared up and headed off to climb. The sun was harsh but our spirits were high. We had worried about the weather in days leading up to our trip, but all looked perfect and clear! As we neared the climb, a search and rescue helicopter landed on a nearby mountain, reminding us of the seriousness of our sport and the power of the landscape.
That day, we started at a surprisingly good clip, beating other climbers to our route. Feeling good, we chose to continue on for a longer day than planned. The sun stayed strong as did the afternoon wind. After a hike to the base of our climb, 1,200 ft of technical climbing, and a long down scramble, we were back at camp.
Bria leading up the climb.
Bria halfway up the mountain fighting the wind in herWintergreen Hannah Hoodie.
“Oof. That was a great day!”
“Yeah! We got way more done than I was planning!”
“I think I’m sun and windburned. I feel exhausted!”
“Play it by ear tomorrow? Maybe have a rest day?”
The same conversation repeated again… for the next three days.
Each night, we planned that the next day would be for rest, but each day we awoke with tired eyes, swollen faces, and tired limbs (a minor mishap made by excited climbers who didn’t protect from the sun enough!) and chose to keep climbing.
Perhaps we were fueled by the coffee we exchanged other climbers for fruit snacks, or perhaps it was the knowledge of good weather and a short trip window, but either way, we pressed on!
Karina staying warm and hiding from the sun in herWintergreen Hannah Hoodie.
On the evening of day three, we relaxed and cleaned off in a stream. We’d climbed only 500-ish feet that day and did a short day hike. While climbing we’d felt tired and joked about the need for rest throughout each move. Soaking our feet, we mulled over how to use our remaining trip time. At 7:00 p.m. we determined that our half-day climb was rest enough and we could “rally” again. So we packed up camp and hiked to a neighboring valley closer to the next days climb. Again, we made camp near moonlight, cozied in, and set our alarms for 5:00 a.m.
On day 4 our alarms went off as the dawn set in. We hadn’t trained much for this trip, we are not professional climbers, and we do not live at altitude, so as we hiked into the climb early that morning WE WERE TIRED!
I joked that my body could barely finish a bagel let alone climb up another pitch!
Again, the weather was in our favor and the coffee kicked in. We chose the easiest route up and Bria led the way. It was fun and beautiful but we certainly looked tired and climbed with a little less confidence and a little less grace.
Finally, we made it to the top of our last climb. We sat tired and silent for a brief while, but the laughs came back after a quick lunch. At the top, we took some photos and cherished the views. Predictably, the afternoon wind started to gust which meant it was time to get off the mountain.
As we rappelled down the mountain, the winds picked up, and the clouds rolled in. We reached the ground safely. On the hike out, we again agreed that the next day was for rest, good coffee, and starting the journey home.
On day five, we finally acted in accordance with our previous nights agreement. We’d been fortunate that our bodies, good weather, and coffee allowed us to make the most of a short trip. As we hiked out, we chuckled at the pace and talked about the need for rest.
We were WINDED- in the lungs, by the wind, in The Winds.
Bria on the hike out in herWintergreen Windshirt.
Based out of Duluth, MN, Karina works as a psychotherapist and is an avid outdoorswoman in her free time. As a jack of all trades and master of none, she is often found outside climbing, running, biking, or dabbling in something new along the North Shore. When not at home, her passion for exploration and adventure takes her to the mountains out west, far off corners of the world, or visiting her family in Mexico. Drawing from a lifetime of travel, outdoor experiences, and a knack for some suffering, Karina writes content informed by the wisdom she has collected and her passion for adventure.
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