CDT 18: Finishing the Winds on the High Route

Pole Creek to Hwy 26

The storms in the Winds have been dramatic, with the most amazing sounding thunder: loud, really loud and with a bit of a twang. And our first night back in the Winds was no exception.

Everyday in the Winds just got better. The mosquitoes were still frisky, but the granite ridges and peaks continued to fill me with awe. We had chosen not to take the alternate through Titcomb Basin, since we had been there before, so I was worried that perhaps the official route on the other side of Titcomb Basin might not be as interesting, but it turned out to be quite the opposite: it was extraordinary. Every ridge and peak was more beautiful than the last and I fell madly in love with Stroud Peak.

We climbed over Shannon Pass and Cube Rock Pass before setting up camp on Vista Pass. The next day we hiked out through the Green River Valley past Square Top Mountain, which is claimed to be the most photographed peak in Wyoming.

We took the hight route over Shale Mountain via Clear Creek Canyon. It was brutal. I’m probably exaggerating, but I’m pretty sure it took us twenty-four hours just to make three miles. Clear creek Canyon had it all, beautiful granite peaks, a raging river, and a massive natural bridge that had a creek running through it. But on top of that it was a boulder scramble with deadfall on a steep hillside, and one of the steepest ascents we’ve done yet. When we finally made it to the pass near the Roaring Fork Trail I collapsed with exhaustion and enjoyed a two hour nap.

That being said, it was so beautiful, especially after the body memory of climbing out of Clear Creek Canyon faded. The rest of the route was cross-country with stunning alpine meadows and a string of electric blue lakes and waterfalls. Nearing the end of the day we clambered to the top Shale Mountain and were down in time to set up camp with a beautiful view of the Tetons at sunset.

The next day we took the eastern route out to the highway. The change in landscape was almost shocking. We had just descended from a high alpine mountain and passing over the last ridge before Whiskey Mountain and out the Jakey Creek trail revealed a red, arid, desert. Wyoming really has it all.

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