Northern Wind River Traverse (Bridger/Fitzpatrick Wilderness) - September 2021


"The mountains don't care."
Feb 15, 2020
This was a fantastic trip and finally got me up into a section of the Winds I'd been looking to visit for years. Originally planned as a loop from Green River Lakes TH, conditions/conditioning necessitated some adjustments that resulted in a one-way trip from Green River Lakes to the Glacier Trail. It was actually nice to get another walk down the Glacier Trail under nicer conditions than my earlier trip this year (link). Undoubtedly though the best parts of this trip were the Continental Divide and glacier crossings - absolutely stunning. Going later in the season was a bit of a risk weather-wise - we did end up w/ a decent bit of snow up high - but we had predominantly clear days and didn't see another human being from trailhead-to-trailhead. Additionally, we spotted three black bears on the route - a record for me in the Winds.

Day 1: Green River Lakes TH to Clear Creek (2.39mi)
We decided to get a short head start on the trip and hike in to Clear Creek where we would begin our climb to the Divide the next day. It was a beautiful afternoon and we found a nicely sheltered a little off the trail.

Day 2: Clear Creek to Daphne Lake (7.2mi)
Today was probably our "worst" weather day, but it was actually quite pleasant. It was overcast with occasional snow flurries and the lower sections - the route up to Clear Lake - really felt like autumn. I'd heard a lot of negative things about the Clear Creek ascent beyond the natural bridge, but I didn't find it too bad - between occasional use/game trails and the creek bed it was pretty reasonable. (There were a couple hundred-ish foot long stretches of pushing through young trees, but visibility wasn't bad.)
Shortly after passing the natural bridge, we would spot our first black bear of the trip. (Sorry, no pictures - none of the bears stuck around long.) He was foraging near Clear Creek and took off when we got nearby.
Looking down on Clear Lake on the way up to Faler Lake.
Looking up the approach to Bear Basin from Faler Lake.
Starting to see snow and ice as we got higher.
We would end up camping at a smaller lake in the vicinity of Daphne Lake. This would end up being our coldest night at around 18° F - compounded by a damaged sleeping pad made for not the best night's sleep. Thankfully I was able to patch the pad in the AM and it held up for the remainder of the trip.

Day 3: Daphne Lake to Iceberg Lake Pass (8.16mi)
We were blessed with some absolutely fantastic weather on this day, though the previous days' weather had dropped enough snow to make all of the boulder hopping a little trickier than usual. We would ascend the Continental Divide north of Hunters Hump, summit Downs Mountain, and then proceed along the Divide the remainder of the day.
By far the best smoke conditions since my Gros Ventre trip in June (link) - we were able to see the Tetons easily from our route most of the day.
Downs Mountain USGS marker.
Approaching Iceberg Lake.
Camp for the evening near Iceberg/Baker Lakes was spectacular - though I think we got pretty lucky. I've heard this pass can have some pretty wicked wind and there's not much good cover up there.

Day 4: Iceberg Lake Pass to Dinwoody Creek (7.25mi)
Today was a blast continuing along the Divide and dropping down to traverse a few glaciers - most notably Grasshopper and Gannett Glaciers. Again we had great weather - though the clear skies made the sun coming off the fresh snow/ice very intense.
My hiking partner setting off across Grasshopper Glacier.
Looking down Grasshopper Glacier.
Crevasses on the descent to the foot of Grasshopper Glacier w/ Gannett Peak and West Sentinel Pass in the distance.
Approaching Gannett Glacier for the climb up to West Sentinel Pass.

Day 5: Dinwoody Creek to Double Lake (12.28mi)
After my last trip down the Glacier Trail, it was really nice to take it a little easier and stop at Double Lake for the night. Again the weather was very pleasant and I got into camp nice and early for some downtime before hiking out the next day. I did have a small cinnamon black bear poking around my food bag while I stepped away to "take care of some business", but he scared off easily and never came back.
The Forest Service had done some serious work on this trail junction since my visit in July - at that time it was just a few bushes marked w/ blue tape, but now it's a nicely marked/cleared trail w/ brand new signage.

Day 6: Double Lake to Glacier Trail TH (10.01mi)
The final day was a pretty uneventful jaunt back to the trailhead, our shuttle, and a cheeseburger in Dubois. We did spot another (much larger) cinnamon black bear on the way out of Double Lake, but like the others it wanted nothing to do with us.

Another fantastic trip in the Winds and probably my last "big" trip for the year. Now to start figuring out next year's trips - and maybe some smaller cold-weather adventures.

Click here to view on CalTopo
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I always love seeing photos of the glaciers up there. Awesome trip! And is that the Dyneema Stratospire 2?
Nice trip.... My favorite in the winds...
I always love seeing photos of the glaciers up there. Awesome trip! And is that the Dyneema Stratospire 2?
Yeah, it's the first Stratospire 2 Li they released - not sure if the current one is any different. It's my go to inclement weather or shoulder season shelter - the floor is starting to show a little wear from all the time on rocks though.
Yeah, it's the first Stratospire 2 Li they released - not sure if the current one is any different. It's my go to inclement weather or shoulder season shelter - the floor is starting to show a little wear from all the time on rocks though.
Looks awesome. I've had an OG silnylon one for a bit over 5 seasons, and I've worn a small hole in its floor from rocky campsites. Haha. Patched it a few weeks ago.

I always carry a Tyvek footprint but rarely use it. Probably should use it more.

Dyneema would be a great upgrade over the silnylon that sags when it cools and/or gets wet.
Awesome trip! The dusting of snow higher up and the aspens really gives it a different look. And glad the smoke cleared up for you to do this one. Hope you enjoyed the camping up there as much as we did, especially at Iceberg Lake.

I don't know if I ever want to climb Gannett, but that section on the Gannet Glacier seems pretty cool. I saw there was a route to drop into Titcomb from that direction. Thinking the next big loop might include that from the west side.
I don't know if I ever want to climb Gannett, but that section on the Gannet Glacier seems pretty cool. I saw there was a route to drop into Titcomb from that direction. Thinking the next big loop might include that from the west side.
Do you mean over Bonney Pass? If so, that's a pretty fun route - lots of talus, but that's pretty standard for the Winds. :)
Great trip. Gotta get back up in that area someday. Rough and spectacular.
Gorgeous scenery! You've got so many spectacular photos - I especially love the alpenglow reflection one. So cool to see the Tetons off in the distance, and the snow/glacier scenes are really beautiful. Wow!
Thanks for taking that route up Clear Ck! Nice to know it "works". Started a few times many years back and got convinced crawling over/under the deadfall just up to the lake wasn't worth it.

You're right about it's reputation. Think even Pallister has called it one of the worst routes in the Winds. Last year hikinginthelight had this to say: "Clear Lake is just a pilgrimage for those who hate themselves...Sometimes when there's no trail, there's a reason for that."

Great shots too! What do you use for a camera?
Absolutely stunning! Love when everything is dusted with snow.
Awesome, thanks for sharing. I did a hike in the northern winds in August, from Glacier TH over the divide to Elkhart TH, and took the Clear Creek/Faler route myself... it was TERRIBLE bushwhacking between the natural bridge and Faler, you must have found a better line than we did!
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