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WRHR, day 6, Bonneville Lakes to Shadow Lake: 13 miles 

It’s windy, cold and – praise the goddess – dry. My black bear bag is twirling in the air on a branch. No visitors. 

I burned my lower lip and it’s swollen. I wear lip balm all day but heavy breathing must leave it exposed. The hike will soon be over and I’m sad, but I am really beaten up. I can’t walk so well just yet. 

And all those bad dreams! Why does anxiety follow me here? We’re all a bit keyed up and start walking with little discussion, first losing the use path, then heading in exactly the wrong direction. I notice it when we stop for a break and see Dragonshead and Pronghorn Peaks from behind. 

And we were having such a great conversation too. 

Katlyn calls it a “three hour tour” and I suggest we stop talking altogether. The steep climb takes care of that, but at a bench, Kelly begins descending towards sage-covered flatlands. 

Wait! We need to be to the other side of Raider Peak

I guess we were all kind of ready to head down. I lead up practically vertical now on rock and into a bowl filled with talus and snow. Tired and cranky, we pop over without a word into another deep valley, a wall of impossibly angular peaks in a long line. An enormous jagged black dike intrudes through the slabs. 

It’s stunning and imposing but after our detour, I’m distracted and weary. And to get down, once again, is a talus slope if monstrous proportions. 

We begin on benches with a trail appearing now and again, then buried under an SUV of rock. I try to stay balanced, often sit and use my hands or slide. But just when I get going, obstacles appear that require negotiation – too steep, too pointy, too big a gap. 

It takes an hour at least to cross as I swear, cry, laugh, scream, cheer myself on and fall twice ripping off a some skin. But all my self talk and noisiness moves me along, albeit slowly, and my falls don’t shatter bones. 

The girls wait and tell me I’m doing great as I cry in frustration. I guess so. I don’t have as much bounce in the joints or balance, but I’m still standing. Shaken and tired, we meet grass just as two men cone up. 

Uh-oh, they’ve got immaculate, brand new white packs, clompy hiking boots and all smug striding along without trekking poles. Ugh. Just what I need right now – a coupla man-splaining types right after a breakdown

I say hi and the lead splainer gives us directions on the descent, as if we don’t have eyes. He then stares at our packs. “Ice axes? Wow!” 

“Yes, well we used them to cross a glacier,” I offer. 

“Where?” he asks as if he doesn’t believe us. I tell him Knifepoint, then change the subject to ask for beta on our next pass. 

“Oh, we didn’t do that pass. We’re walking the – high – route,” that last part emphasized as if talking to a very small – somewhat dense – child. 

“Ah-ha, we just finished walking the high – route,” I say with equal emphasis before turning to go. Man Splainer One gives us a look of shock and wonder.

That’s right, smarty pants! Good luck in those clodhopper boots and overstuffed packs without poles, fellas!

Aw, geez, I need a bitch session. Kelly wisely reminds us all that we’re tired and ready to get down so we need to stay focused or could get injured. Katlyn immediately trips over a rock as if on cue and takes a classy fall (on grass)

I find a large rock facing the impossibly giant slabs of rock, sunny and out of the wind and we eat and talk. I bitch about talus and getting old. Katlyn bitches about the men talking down to us about carrying axes like we’re idiots. Kelly has hit her limit with the wind. 

But after talking we all feel better walking a long way along a ridge with stupendous views before the long drop to Pyramid and Maes Lake under a triangular shaped mountain. The Towers are in the distance. 

I forgot to mention we meet trail – really good, eroded, braided, overused trail, but trail nonetheless which lets us move fast and fluidly. It’s always a whoop session when we come to anything resembling trail but after talus nightmare, this is smooth sailing. We meet backpackers at Skull Lake and one says Texas Pass is steep and loose, never mentioning talus. I think people generally choose to avoid talus. 

At Washakie Creek, more backpackers, many carrying fishing poles, seem to appear out of nowhere. We’re back out of high country or at least the remote country. At a creek, we meet more and take a sharp left towards the Pass and the famous towers. 

The air is delicious, dry, cool and less windy than the pass. In a few miles, we round a corner and we’re looking directly at the backside of the towers. The sun is setting and clouds move past creating glorious shadows at the aptly named Shadow Lake. It is one of the most stunning scenes I’ve seen in my life. 

But our goal is up and over the pass. If we hadn’t taken that three hour tour of a side trip going the wrong way (to lovely Surprise Lake, surprise!) we would be up and over by now. 

But hold on. It’s beautiful right here, right now. And the sun is angled just so as if flood lights on these towers. 5:00 may be early for stopping, but a campsite is open with the best seat in the house. 

We consider our timing and know we’ll still have Texas Pass plus Jackass Pass tomorrow. We have the time, and starting in the morning will offer up time to linger as we descend into the Cirque. 

Once the decision is made it’s as though our bodies give up and it takes extra long to set. I ensure a perfect view and watch the towers supine before venturing out as they turn magenta while the sun sets.  

And I then have the best sleep of the hike. 

4 Responses

  1. Wow. That’s all I can say. Wow. I wish I could meet the mansplainer and give him a piece of my mind! You are courageous and strong. And a little bit crazy!!! Xxoo

  2. In my backpacking days, I primarily traveled the Big Horns or the Bear Tooth. I once went into the Wind River, and it was so massive, I felt that one could drop all of the Big Horns in one of the valleys. The area is aptly named as the wind was constant. We thought it would stop at night, but it didn’t making sleep almost impossible. Once was enough. You might consider the Solitude Loop in the Big Horns which would be an easy stroll for you. I think I sent you our trail notes years ago. Stay safe, Ed

    1. That is SO true, Ed! It’s vast and wild – we did not get wind until a few days in and then it was pretty constant. Thank you again for the lovely trip report you shared with me The Big Horns is definitely on my list and I am bumping it higher now 🙂

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